Joel: Ivies are athletic model
By Blaze Joel, The Dartmouth Staff
Published on Tuesday, July 31, 2012
In the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal, many colleges and universities are looking inward, wondering and questioning the role that sports plays in their institutions. According to the Freeh Report, the failures at Pennsylvania State University ultimately came down to a desire to shield the football program from scandal and protect the reputations of the program and the school.
NCAA President Mark Emmert handed down heavy sanctions --which included a $60 million fine, a four-year postseason ban and the loss of numerous scholarships--to the Nittany Lions.
“One of the grave dangers stemming from our love of sports is that the sports themselves can become too big to fail, too big to even challenge,” he said. “The result can be an erosion of academic values that are replaced by the value of hero worship and winning at all costs. All involved in intercollegiate athletics must be watchful that programs and individuals do not overwhelm the values of higher education.”
The value of academics in Ivy League schools is the reason why a scandal like this could never take place at an Ivy League school, especially at Dartmouth.
Dartmouth has a proud athletic tradition that dates back to even before the Ivy League was founded in the 1950s. Dartmouth made the Rose Bowl in 1937 and was the national runner-up in men’s college basketball in 1942 and 1944. Over the years, Dartmouth has competed for Ivy League and ECAC titles in many sports, sometimes qualifying for national championship tournaments.
Dartmouth has 34 varsity athletic teams, many more than the standard Division I school. Almost 25 percent of the student body competes on one of these 34 teams, and nearly 75 percent of all Dartmouth students are involved in athletics in some way.
Despite these levels of athletic involvement at Dartmouth, there is nowhere near the type of “religious fervor” that surrounds Penn State football. Dartmouth and our Ivy League colleagues see athletics as something that supplements a student’s education rather than a defining aspect of the College or that student’s college experience.
Joe Paterno’s Penn State program was dubbed the “Great Experiment” because it focused on graduating players who would be future community leaders. Paterno, a football star at Brown University, may have set these lofty goals for his players because of the values that were instilled in him by Ivy League athletics. Penn State football may have been the “Great Experiment,” but Ivy League athletics are the greatest experiment.
Unlike most Division I athletic programs, Ivy League schools cannot give athletic scholarships. Therefore, all Dartmouth athletes must have the academic credentials to be accepted to Dartmouth and cannot gain acceptance simply on athletic talent. Dartmouth athletes choose the school because of its balance between athletics and academics. They do not just come to play football or to play hockey--they come to Hanover to be Dartmouth students who also happen to play on a varsity team.
Dartmouth would also never experience such an egregious cover-up because the Big Green’s athletic budget is not dependent on its teams’ revenue generation. At Penn State, the football program not only funds every other sports program at the university, but also turns a $60 million profit each year. At Dartmouth, the athletics budget for all 34 teams is $18 million, or approximately 1 percent of the College’s budget. Athletic finances do not impact Dartmouth the way that Penn State football affects the school’s entire athletic program.
I am a huge sports fanatic, especially of NCAA sports. Rarely a Saturday in the fall goes by when I am not tuned in to ESPN to watch the day’s football games. I fill out a bracket every year for March Madness and try to watch as many games as possible. I’ve been in the crowd to see three NCAA hockey champions crowned. I went to every home Big Green football and hockey game, both men’s and women’s, this year.
Despite my ardent enthusiasm for college athletics, I am happy that I go to a school where athletics is not the main focus, or so large a focus that it detracts from the true purpose of the College. Dartmouth offers the perfect balance between academics and athletics for both the athlete and the fan. Although our game days may not compare to those of major D-I schools, the games are more personal, with players and fans being not only being classmates but friends.
As Mark Emmert said about the scandal and cover-up, “If you find yourself in a situation where the athletic culture is taking precedence over the academic culture, then a variety of bad things can occur.”
I’m glad to say that I go to a college that has its iorities in order. Athletics do not dictate or define Dartmouth, but complement and strengthen it. Dartmouth has mastered the greatest experiment, getting its students to succeed both on and off the field— and that is something to be truly proud of.