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Take Harvard Skiing. PLEASE!

The following is a guest column submitted by alumnus Murphey Harmon ’71 in response to a recent Bloomberg article.

I’m sure I’m not the only one to notice the factual inaccuracies in the Bloomberg article. Since they come at Princeton’s (and others’) expense, I feel they should be addressed lest they be repeated as fact by the unknowing.

It was stated that Harvard has 42 Division I sports teams, “more than any other college.” Not true.

Harvard doesn’t have 42 Division I sports teams, and neither does anyone else. That’s because there aren’t 42 Division I sports.

Harvard doesn’t have more Division I sports teams than any other college. There are 25 Division I sports. Many schools, including Harvard and Princeton, compete in all 25 of them.

[Editor's note: lists 39 NCAA sports, 33 sports with NCAA Championships and 25 sports with a Division I.]

Harvard doesn’t even have 42 sports teams. Its own website lists only 40. Princeton’s lists 36.

Harvard’s only claim to fame is simply that it has designated more teams, 40, as “varsity” than any other school. So what? Harvard may choose to designate a sports team as “varsity” for the same reason George Clooney may choose to date a 25-year-old Brazilian model: because he can.

Gary Walters ’67 could snatch Harvard’s crown away tomorrow if he decided to designate rugby, sailing and skiing as varsity sports, as Harvard does, but he won’t, because he knows that Harvard’s “varsity” total is meaningless. He cares more about numbers that are meaningful, such as last year’s four national championships, 13 Ivy League titles and 26 of 33 teams finishing in the top three of the League. Harvard can’t touch these numbers.

In the end, Harvard’s number doesn’t even tell you whether Harvard’s “varsity” sports teams are any good, or whether they are better than, or even as good as, Princeton’s “club” teams.

Take Harvard skiing. PLEASE!

Harvard may call its ski team “varsity,” but most people would call them awful. In last year’s NCAA skiing championships, Harvard finished 17th out of 21, but they’re not nearly as good as that might lead you to believe. Only one Harvard skier qualified for the championships.

Harvard’s skiers are not only not going to the Olympics, they’re also not going to class. Both the men and women are among several Harvard teams (basketball, to no one’s surprise, is another) that perform below the academic norm for athletes in their sport.

Harvard sailing might be even worse, especially when you consider that Harvard considers itself a sailing school. Harvard lists men’s sailing and women’s sailing as separate varsity sports, even though college sailing is co-ed.

Last year, Sailing World magazine ranked the top 20 sailing schools, because only 20 had the wherewithal (Harvard has plenty of that) to attend enough national and major regional regattas (they can be very expensive) to be worthy of a meaningful ranking. Once you go outside 20, the results are not meaningful, due to insufficient results.

Harvard finished DFL. In case you’re not familiar with sailboat racing jargon, DNS means “did not start,” DNF means “did not finish” and DFL means “dead fucking last.”

Harvard isn’t the best sailing school among sailing schools (Old Dominion and Charleston are better); or in the Ivy League (Brown and Dartmouth are better, and Yale is way better); or in Boston (Tufts and MIT are better); or even among schools that begin with the letter H (Hobart is better).

I’d like to see a challenge between Harvard’s four best “varsity” sailors and skiers and Princeton’s four best “club” sailors and skiers. As long as Harvard promised not to bring anyone on academic or disciplinary probation, I’d bet on Princeton. If I lost, I’d promise to contribute $50 to the Harvard athletic department’s favorite charity: The Tommy Amaker Foundation for the Furtherance of Ethics in Coaching.




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