April 23, 2002

Parity? Not A Chance

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Two years ago, a former Sun Sports Editor boasted that he had witnessed the best year in Cornell Athletics. It was the 1996-97 season when Seth Payne got drafted, and the men’s hockey team won the ECAC title, and Chad Levitt ’97 made a run at Ed Marinaro’s all-time rushing record at Cornell. Yes, it was a great year — was it the best in recent memory, though? I’ll leave that up to debate.

Certainly, this year could give it competition — the women’s track teams and men’s hockey team won Ivy titles, junior Doug Murray was a Hobey Baker finalist (the first time someone from Cornell was so honored since a guy named Nieuwendyk), and the men’s and women’s lacrosse teams are having dream seasons, as both programs have been ranked as high as No. 5 in the polls. Some highlights slipped under the radar such as the gymnastics team’s first-place finish at the Ivy tournament, and some were broadcast in the national media, like the hockey team’s run in the NCAA tournament.

The Sun has been busy keeping up with all these team and individual victories, records, and honors. And it has kept us busier than usual — whether it was traveling to Princeton last weekend to watch the men’s lacrosse team, or skipping a Saturday night shindig to go to a women’s basketball game.

This year has provided more excitement, more publicity, and more passion for Cornell sports than I’ve seen in my brief three-year stay on the Hill. But would you expect anything less than one of the top-20 athletic programs in the country according to U.S. News and World Report?

However, those who don’t study history are doomed to repeat it.

Does this mean that next year will provide another let down. The ’96-’97 season was followed by a few years where the highlight reels were a little short. Following Cornell sports is a love-hate relationship. Some years the sky’s the limit, but other years it seems nothing goes right.

There is no doubt that teams can win at Cornell, but whether they can win with consistency is another question. Of course, every coach points to the parity provided by the Ivy League. Sure, the elimination of athletic scholarships assures some equality among teams, and every coach will say that “any Ivy League school can beat any other school on a given day.” After watching the Cornell basketball team upset Princeton last year, and Yale beating the Tigers in lacrosse this season, you start to think that anything can happen. And it can.

The problem within the Ivy league cannot be evaluated on a game-by-game basis. An overview of athlete departments shows the rift developing among the eight schools.

Two schools, namely Princeton and Harvard, have asserted dominance over the Ivy League athletic sphere. Sure, there have been convincing victories over both universities during seasons, but no other school fields teams as competitive in as many events as the Tigers or the Crimson.

Princeton had 13 league titles last year. Thirteen! There were only 36 handed out. But the Tigers weren’t that satisfied. After all, they had 14 titles in the 1999-2000 season.

Cornell had two titles last year, sharing first place in softball with Harvard and wrestling with Harvard and Penn. The Red has not led the league in Ivy championships since 1977-78. In that wonderful season five years ago, Cornell still only took two titles.

Since the founding of the Ivy League in 1956 through the 2001 spring season, Princeton has taken 290 titles, Harvard follows close behind with 281. Cornell lies in fifth (131) behind Penn (149) and Yale (143). Harvard and Princeton have only 115 fewer titles than the six other teams combined.

Yet the Red can still take solace that Columbia, which has never won more than four titles in a year, has a mere 63 championships.

As Princeton and Harvard decrease work-study for scholarship recipients, they are furthering their control over the athletic landscape, and schools like Cornell, Columbia, Brown and Yale find niches in specific sports.

Everyone from Penn to Dartmouth, New Haven to Ithaca brags about this parity. But as much as we Cornellians hate the Crimson or Tigers, they are both over twice as successful as we have been.


I’m not complaining though. At this time last year, I thought that I was a jinx on Cornell athletics, as evidenced by my abominable 25-46 cumulative record for teams I covered. As I mentioned before, this year has provided its share of memorable events. In that vein, I would like to thank all the coaches and players who created those great memories, those people with whom I shared them, and everyone who consoled me after the losses, listened to me recount the wins and supported me through these trying two semesters. See you next year.

Archived article by Amanda Angel