August 29, 2003

Presidents' Council Changes Seven-Week Rule

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It began as an attempt over a year ago to give Ivy League athletes an opportunity to pursue opportunities outside of the playing field, then quickly became one of the least popular Ancient Eight rule changes in memory. Now, it has been modified once more. This time, however, the attention given to the so-called “seven-week rule” is much more positive in nature.

On June 17, the Council of Ivy Presidents voted to change the structure of the legislation. Ivy teams will still be required to take off 49 days per year from team-related activity. However, the days may now be divided in any fashion. Previously, breaks had to be in blocks of at least seven consecutive days.

“I think it was a big mistake to start with and I’m really, really happy. We always take 49 days off. I think most teams do anyway,” said gymnastics coach Paul Beckwith on the policy change. “It won’t affect us at all now, which is fine with me. It’s like the rule is gone.”

“I think the change to the format that exists now is really great,” concurred football coach Tim Pendergast.

In making the decision to revise the legislation, the Council conceded to some rather forceful demands made during the past year by the Ivy Committee, which is comprised of the eight schools’ athletic directors and by the Student-Athlete Advisory Committees (SAACs).

In a statement released in June on behalf of the Council, President Emeritus Hunter R. Rawlings III and Dartmouth President James Wright said, “we have taken another step in assuring that Ivy athletes have adequate time not merely for their academic pursuits and for sports, but for other co-curricular and personal activities as well.”

Pendergast is supportive of the change, as well as the initial intent of the legislation.

“The Presidents have made good sense in that these student-athletes need to have more discretionary time,” he said.

Men’s basketball head coach Steve Donahue also expressed his contentment with the new changes.

“If for seven weeks we can’t see [the players], we can’t talk to them, we can’t be involved with their life, it just doesn’t make sense,” he said. “I saw the Presidents’ reason why they wanted to do that, but the way they did it made it very difficult for basketball.”

During the summer of 2002, the Ivy Council of Presidents enacted the original seven week moratorium, which required all varsity athletes to have seven weeks during the academic year free of obligations to their team. This ruling was met with much opposition from coaches and athletes alike.

Senior gymnast Rachel Goldberg, who is the president of Cornell’s SAAC, spearheaded the campaign on the Hill against the seven week rule.

“People at Ivy League schools who are in athletics do their sport because they want to compete,” she told The Sun in an interview in October 2002. “It’s very difficult for them when they can’t practice.”

With the current changes in place, Ivy League teams enter the season much more confident in their chances on the national level than was the case last year, while still maintaining the league’s desired focus on academics.

“It was a very good compromise for everybody involved,” said Donahue.

Archived article by Owen Bochner