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Ivy League Football: A Regulated Competition

Ball Four

By Zachary T. Ball

If squash can do it, why can't we?

My apologies to Harvard's most dominant sports team aside, that was the product of my musings this Saturday when I was stuck in the Harvard football press box for the final two minutes of a game whose outcome was already decided.

My thoughts, though somewhat disturbing, fit with discussions I've since had with players and coach Tim Murphy: no one really cares that Harvard lost.

"It doesn't affect our goals for the season," was the gist of the Harvard response. Indeed, as a non-Ivy game, it means nothing for the Ivy title, and it isn't the Yale game, so who cares?

I want to care.

A 3-0 start should mean something big. It should give a team, indeed everyone associated with the University, even the faintest hopes of ascending all the way.

I'm not going to sit here and tell anyone that Harvard should start giving scholarships and join commercial college athletics as participant in the Sunkist Orange Bowl.

Harvard, along with the rest of the Ivy League, are members of NCAA division 1-AA football, and as such, are entitled to compete with teams such as this year's opponents Lehigh and Bucknell for a berth in the 1-AA playoffs. The winner of the Patriot League, against whom Harvard is 1-1 this season, receives an automatic bid to the 16-team playoff.

Going into Saturday's game, Harvard was ranked ninth nationally in 1-AA.

Clearly, this is an arena in which Harvard can compete, yet Ivy regulations prohibit all Ivy teams from competing.


The Ivy League would claim that 10 (not 11 like every other team on the planet) games are enough for a season, and that the focus of student athletes would be unnecessarily ripped from academics by an additional two weeks of practice and games every decade or so when a team actually made the playoffs.

Besides the obvious argument that football is unfairly singled out as the only varsity athletic team unable to compete in postseason play, there is a more forceful argument.

In no other area does Harvard dictate for its students what level of extracurricular involvement is "OK," and what level is detrimental to studies.

Students at Harvard work almost full time in addition to studies, or run student groups that take up incredible amounts of time. Yet the administration calls this part of a broad, full education that occurs at Harvard.

Football, by contrast, seems a barrier to a true education that the administration tolerates only because the team put on a big show and bring in significant alumni donations over Harvard-Yale weekend.

Let football players who want to take advantage of all NCAA athletics has to offer do so. Why choose this one instance to intervene in extracurriculars?

Like all the other examples of excellence on this campus, the football team should be able to achieve whatever its talents and dedication allow.

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