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Jeffrey H. Orleans, the executive director of the Ivy League, will retire as the leader of the 54-year-old athletic conference effective June 2009, University of Pennsylvania President Amy Gutmann ’71 announced last week.
Orleans, who took over as the league’s first full-time executive director in September of 1984, was renowned for his philosophy which emphasized the “student” in “student athlete.”
He was also a principal author of Title IX, the 1972 legislation that requires schools to give equal funding to women’s and men’s sports.
University President Drew G. Faust, Dartmouth President James E. Wright, and Gutmann—who is the chair of the Council of Ivy Group Presidents, the governing body of the Ivy League athletic conference—will oversee the committee that will choose Orleans’ replacement. The search will begin this fall.
Orleans gained notoriety across the Football Championship Subdivision (formerly Division I-AA) for his resistance to Ivy League participation in postseason play.
Crimson football coach Tim Murphy, who arrived at Harvard less than a decade into Orleans’ tenure, said that it is the League’s presidents, not its director, who represent the biggest roadblock to playoff football in the Ivy League.
“I don’t know if Jeff was personally and philosophically against the Ivy League being in the playoffs,” Murphy said yesterday. “I just know that he felt it was a moot point based on how the Ivy League was formed originally and the wishes of the presidents, which are the people he answers to.”
In a statement last week, Orleans praised the Ivy League for its continued emphasis on academics.
“Ivy League sports provide the country’s most ambitious combination of the challenge and thrill of athletic competition and the pursuit of academic and personal growth and accomplishment,” Orleans said in the statement.
That focus, however, often comes at the price of being able to compete with some of Division I’s athletic powerhouses.
Murphy said that for Harvard, participating in playoffs might actually mitigate some of the excitement of The Game, the Crimson’s perennial season-ending match against arch-rival Yale. “I think in some respects, it might be anti-climatic,” Murphy said.
Still, Murphy admitted that it is hard to justify the lack of a postseason for what is arguably Harvard’s most popular sport, when the rest of the University’s 41 Division I sports teams have the chance to continue playing once the regular season ends.
“On principle, when you have one that doesn’t participate and 40 sports that do, that’s pretty hard to defend,” Murphy said.
Though Orleans will soon relinquish the reigns of the Ivy League, he said that he plans to stay involved in athletics in some capacity after he steps down next year.
“I then will look forward both to remaining active in new ways in athletics and in higher education, and to approaching new challenges,” he said in the statement.
—Staff writer Malcom A. Glenn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
—Staff writer Chelsea L. Shover can be reached at email@example.com.
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