January 28, 2004

Addressed to the President

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There are two words that embody all that is wrong with Ivy League football, two words that many Cornell fans and alumni have heard countless times over the recent years.

It’s not coaching search.

It’s not post season.

It’s Kevin Rooney.

While the media frenzy and skeptic Cornellians have focused long and hard on the school’s football coaching search, another issue has gone largely un-noticed. Kevin Rooney, a Fall ’03 grad, has asked for his final year of eligibility only to find his plea fall on deaf ears.

Rooney redshirted his freshman year after an injury. An incredibly gifted mind, he finished his degree in three-and-a-half-years. Now, instead of being rewarded for challenging himself, he’s being punished.

Ivy League regulations state that athletes can only be undergrads, something Rooney understands well. Still, these regulations are antiquated and stifling, left over from an era long forgotten.

There are plenty of universities that allow athletes to compete at the DI level while those same players work toward graduate degrees. The University of Minnesota, one of the Big Ten’s top universities, had seven players who did just that in 2003. Some of these players were even allowed to stay on scholarship, despite finishing their undergraduate studies.

With Rooney, it’s not about the money. We all know that the Ivies don’t allow athletic scholarships. It also shouldn’t be about the workload. In Kevin’s case — he’s an athlete who competed on the highest level possible, chaired countless university committees, and volunteered hundreds of hours in the community.

So what’s stopping Kevin from taking his final season on Scheollkopf field?

An old fashioned rule.

“They keep telling me the Ivy League won’t be bullied,” said Rooney. “I’m not trying to do that. I just want to know why I can’t play.”

In a recent address to Cornell’s Association of Class Officers, President Lehman noted the fact that Cornell was the original template for all modern universities. He urged alumni, students, faculty, and staff for feedback on how we can keep Cornell on the cutting edge, and an innovator in America’s educational system.

Here’s my suggestion: let Kevin play.

It’s not just about one man, and Rooney knows that. It’s about others who will do the same thing; finish in four or fewer years, redshirt, and not be able to play their final season.

Next year several seniors will be allowed to play their fourth and final season, because they took fewer credits and even time off after redshirting. Kevin Rooney, however, will have to sit in the stands because he wanted to finish early and start his graduate studies; his only crime being his own intelligence and motivation.

While Rooney’s first appeal to the rule fell through, he’ll get a second chance in June. The best part for Kevin is that you can help.

What can you, the reader, do? Take a stand. Next to this article, you’ll find a card already addressed to President Lehman — one of the eight Ivy Presidents who will rule on Kevin’s case. Take a moment and cut it out, even photo copy it and pass it around to your friends on campus. All you have to do is sign it and drop it in any campus mailbox, and it should reach President Lehman’s office.

Kevin will tell you that “people make rules, people are reasonable, and people have common sense.”

In this case, I certainly hope so.

Matthew Janiga is an assistant sports editor, and may be contacted at Thesportsguy@cornell.edu. The No. 12 Bus can be read every other Wednesday this semester.

Archived article by Matt Janiga