February 2, 2010

Reforming The Ivy League Standards

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Welcome back everyone; I hope Cornell doesn’t have you too down on yourself. Remember, it’s only the second week of classes. Yes, your ass is probably being kicked already, but hey at least you haven’t had a prelim to fail yet.

While the rest of us were burrowed away somewhere, either on a sandy beach, enjoying some much-needed warmth after the beginnings of the Ithaca winter, or sadly buried under mountains of snow somewhere in the northeast, Cornell Basketball was making waves.

On Monday the team even made its way into the ESPN Top 25, and this was after the Red began its Ivy League schedule. Harvard proved pitiful, and every game from here on out is likely to be a blowout. We might actually win our first-round matchup in March. Accordingly I have stocked up on supplies, preparing for the end of the world. I advise that you should, too. Smart people are not supposed to be good at basketball. More so, college students who don’t get athletic scholarships really shouldn’t be good at basketball. How this all happened … maybe it’s Cornell Dairy?

The stereotype of the student-athlete is seemingly proven false at Cornell. Yes, jocks know how to party, but maybe they know how to study, too; they might even be able to help me with my Linear Algebra homework, and they probably will get a better score than me on my Econ prelim. Student-athlete takes on new meaning when you throw in the phrase, “No athletic scholarships.”

Sure, a lot of Cornell sports will never be able to compete against legitimate Division I schools. Worse, for the few sports that Cornell has been traditionally good at, we’re mocked as elitists. Lacrosse –– a sport that I firmly associate with places like Andover, Exeter and other schools with “academy” or “hall” in the name –– is one of Cornell’s top sports. I, for one, didn’t go to a “hall” –– I went to high school.

But what is striking about this whole system is that all these student-athletes do it because they love it. There’s no point in coming to Cornell if you’re an athlete. If you’re smart, well hey you’re going to get your ass kicked by professors who live on the broken spirits of the trampled masses of Cornellians who simply couldn’t take it. Not to mention, you’ll have to balance a tough Division I practice schedule and season with your academic commitments.

If you’re here just to play a sport, the fact is Cornellians could care less about sports. We have Newman Nation and the Lynah Faithful, but our lacrosse team –– a squad that made it to the NCAA championship game –– has trouble filling the stands consistently.

The question then becomes: why doesn’t the Ivy League choose to be an athletic conference rather than just an academic one? Why doesn’t the Ancient Eight just drop all this crap about not giving athletic scholarships and bring some of Cornell’s sports back into the higher echelons of the sporting world? (Football, I’m looking at you).

Some believe that the student-athletes we do get are the crème of the crop in their own way, excelling in both academics and athletics. Though they may not be wrong, they definitely aren’t right. Take it from the source, a student who is forced (at times) to cover the multitude of irrelevant Cornell sports: a little more athletic prowess would be greatly appreciated.

If we look at other academically classy schools, both Stanford and Northwestern find a place for being Division I programs while balancing their academic quality. There is no reason that the Ivy League can’t have more AP Top 25 teams, and there is no reason that we need to rely on automatic berths into the NCAA championships every year.

Awarding people for their athletic prowess is not only moral, but right. The fact is, many of these kids have put in more time perfecting their layups, slap shots and serves, than a lot of us spent studying for the SAT. Or at least, I can guarantee that all of them spent more time on that than I spent studying for my SAT. Who are we, the 2400 SAT masses to deny an athlete with a .435 batting average or 46 kills?

The last point that many people make when it comes to Ivy League athletics is that the Ivy League has to maintain its “high in the sky” appearance to prospective students; that’s what makes the cache, that’s what makes it worth it for those who make it. I can’t disagree; I love making fun of mediocrity as much as the rest of us. But maybe it’s time the Ivy League starts acknowledging athletic elitism as much as it does academic elitism. Why can’t we be a Top 10 football school, and among the Top 10 schools in the world for academics. Why can’t we pride a lacrosse national championship as highly as our academic accolades? I’ll leave that to the bureaucracy.

Elitism is elitism; we might as well embrace it wherever we can find it, right? Just one more way we can hold control over the proletariat, with riding saddles and polo mallets in tow.

Original Author: Rahul Kishore