November 17, 2000

The Professor

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If you want to understand who men’s and women’s head polo coach David Eldredge ’81 is, come to a contest at the Oxley Equestrian center.

During intermission, his personality is best represented. In the fifteen-minute span, he finds time to give his squad instruction, groom the arena, talk with fans and visit with his wife and two daughters.

A unique breed, he makes time to coach a nationally-ranked program, take care of his own arena, interact with his fans and above all to be a loving father. That’s what polo is all about to Eldredge — family.

His admitted obsession with the game came from his own father, who played for Cornell in the 1940’s when the squad was still administered by the cavalry. Eldredge rode his first horse at the tender age of three and just three years latter, barely able to hold a mallet, he began to play polo.

He took such a liking, more aptly a love affair, with the game, he would make the nearly four-hour trip once a week from his home town of Sharon Springs to East Hill to play in a midweek evening club. Later that night, after the four chukkers had elapsed, he would get back in the car with his father, return home and attend school the next morning.

Now coaching, he brings this type of contagious fever and unrelenting desire to his students. But, before you can fully understand Eldredge’s coaching career, you have to turn back the clock a bit.

Eldredge had played the sport throughout high school, picking up games whenever he could, in the absence of an established school program. Polo was so ingrained in him by the time graduation came around he had no choice but to pursue the activity at a collegiate level.

“Riding horses is a disease. It’s in your blood. It’s hard to get it out. For some of us it never gets out,” he explained.

In his first year at Cornell, he played as an alternate. It didn’t take him long to gain the respect of his teammates and for the rest of his three years in the carnellian and white, he was captain of the team.

In 1981, when he entered the job market, he found himself surrounded by uncertainty. Armed with a degree in Agricultural Engineering, he was struck by the economy of the time–farm machine companies were in the doldrums, frightening even the bold Eldredge.

Seemingly with little alternate option available, he joined the Cornell coaching ranks, under his own teacher Danny Scheraga. When the elder vacated his spot, his prot