On the eve of a big game, the New York Times profiles the changing level of the Yale and Harvard basketball programs.
Before Amaker’s arrival, in 2007, Harvard never won an Ivy League championship. Now, the Crimson have won or shared the last three titles. This season, for the first time since official Ivy League play began, in 1956-57, Harvard swept the season series with Penn and Princeton, something Yale accomplished last season, also for the first time.
The article, by Seth Berkman, focuses on the changing style of play—no longer is Ivy League basketball a bunch of white guys passing the ball around until someone “chucks up” a three. (Hello, Chris Dudley! Which is slightly unfair, as Chris Dudley really couldn’t shoot threes, or free throws, but still…)
I wish it had looked a bit more about why the Ivy League schools—Harvard was first, and Yale appears to have followed suit—have ramped up their basketball programs to such a degree.
Is it just a coincidence that, a year or so after Tommy Amaker arrives and starts recruiting players Harvard would never previously have gone after, the university experiences its biggest academic scandal in decades, if not ever—in a class heavily stocked with athletes?
Was it inevitable that Ivy League schools would start getting serious about athletics, or was there a conscious choice at Harvard, which started an athletic arms race? And how are these newly big-time programs changing the identity and the priorities of these universities?
You know, given the focus on entrepreneurship, extracurriculars and athletics promoted at Ivy League universities these days….does anyone really give a damn about what happens in class?
I know I sound like a curmudgeon for saying so, and some people might argue that this is a reasonable response to external circumstances, but it does seem that university priorities are changing, and while much may be gained, something seems to be lost in the hustle.