Skewed Priorities

Harvard is an Ivy League School. Ivy League schools don't give sports scholarships. Harvard has been ranked in the NCAA's top ten in more sports than hockey this season. How did this happen? Even without scholarships for athletes, the University spends far too much money on the personnel and seasons of its sports teams.

Let's get something straight, Students should come to Harvard primarity to learn and, perhaps, squeeze in a good time. Sure, they should play intercollegiate sports, write for a newspaper, and nail down a posh internship some-where as well. But education is first--any other priority would invalidate this institution's founding purpose.

Yet some students are brought here to play football, receiving the country's best education on the side. If someone's primary reason for coming to Harvard is to play a sport, whether it is his or her decision or that of the athletic office, that student should step aside and make room for someone who wants to learn.

If a student hopes to use his or her athletic talents in order to come to Harvard, then the athletics office need not specially recruit that student. Admissions officials can take care of the decision, with counsel from athletics officials.

Officials in the Athletics Department spend thousands of dollars each year on recruiting trips for hockey, football, soccer, and other teams. They regularly take time away from their jobs to show students Harvard's excellent facilities for living, learning, and especially for playing.


Years of budgeting have shown that athletics is a losing proposition unless you can pull in 1,00,000 fans like Michigan or get a television contract. Why make the wound larger with recruiting costs that don't pay off? Supporting a wide variety of sports programs is important, and the University cannot afford to recruit equally for all of them. The problem of discrimination could be solved by removing recruiting completely.

Some might argue that the sports complex at Harvard is too large now to be broken up without disastrous financial consequences. They fear that, without a top ten hockey team, fewer people will come to the games. One need only to look around the league at lesser teams to see that loyal alumni and students come to games anyway.

In sports where Harvard is not nationally ranked, like football and basketball, recruiting is a complete and unmitigated waste of money. Only the egos of the coach and the admiring fans are helped. Sure, it's nice to have a great hockey team here, but would your life at Harvard be worse without one?

A coach should come to Harvard to share in traditional rivalries and accept the challenge of a willing and intelligent--if not particularly talented--team. A coach who dreams of being involved in big-time college athletics can go where the prestige and salaries are larger.

The athletics department's undue influence on college life extends to acadernics. Hundreds of athletes cannot take afternoon classes because of daily practice. Athletes often begrudge the trade-off and who can blame them? Many seminars, tutorials, and sections--the cream of the Harvard crop--take place in the afternoon.

Athletes also suffer during exams. The sports season neither stops nor slows down for midterms. Ask winter athletes how much time they had for studying during reading period. Perhaps these sacrifices can help explain a disturbing trend: while involvement in most campus organizations increases over the years, enrollment in athletics decreases. Even once dedicated recruits drop sports to explore other aspects of campus life.

Harvard spending so much money on athletics makes about as much sense as Japan spending a major portion of its federal budget on defense. Both expenditures are contrary to age-old ideologies. If Harvard wants to stay true to the Ivy League concept, it should cut out recruiting and coaching patterns that are reminiscent of places like Nebraska and Florida State. The money saved could be much better spent on financial aid programs, faculty salaries, and deficit reduction.

An end to Harvard's recruiting would not have a diastrous effect on sports if all the Ivy League schools took parallel action. With the elimination of Big Ten tactics from Harvard sports, athletes could practice, win, and enjoy themselves while fulfilling a balanced academic and social curriculum. The University should throw ego aside and investigate this financially friendly proposition.

Athletics occupy far too much of Harvard's time, energy and money.