To the Editor:
Brendan Kempff’s article, “Antiquated Ivy League Rules Rob Student Athletes of University Careers” in The Dec. 6 Sun was right on, and I applaud his sentiments, as do all of us interested in the well-being of our student-athletes. And I put in bold face and caps: both student and athlete.
Why does the Ivy League want to penalize athletes who have done a fine job in the classroom? If athletes could use up their eligibility while attending graduate school, we would have more individuals receiving education at a higher level while increasing the number of Cornellians achieving Master’s degrees.
This dilemma started right here at Cornell in 1978. Joe Holland B.A ’77, M.A ’79, a student athlete I had the pleasure of knowing personally under my tenure as Sports Information Director at Cornell, played football for the Big Red as a graduate student in the fall of 1978. Joe, the son of the late Brud Holland, who was an All-American at Cornell back in the late 1930s and later went on to be the United States Ambassador to Sweden and President of Delaware State and Hampton Institute, originally enrolled at the University of Michigan as an undergraduate. He transferred to Cornell after his freshman year and didn’t play football during his one year in Ann Arbor. NCAA mandates dictated he couldn’t play at Cornell as a sophomore and injuries forced him to sit out his junior year, though he played for Cornell’s team as a senior.
Holland graduated from Cornell in three years, but still had a year of football eligibility. Thus, he played in 1978 as a grad student. And play he did. He rushed for 1,396 yards and 16 touchdowns in 10 games. At the time, the rushing yardage and TDs ranked second all-time at Cornell behind a guy named Marinaro. His average was 5.1 yards per carry. As a graduate student in the game at Harvard, he rushed 55 times for 244 yards.
In 1978, when there weren’t any divisions, Joe was named to the All-America third team behind Billy Sims of Oklahoma. In the classroom, he was a two-time Academic All-America selection. In 1991, he was named to the College Sports Information Directors Academic All-America Hall of Fame. He had a 3.67 GPA, majoring in History and English at Cornell.
After receiving his advanced degree at Cornell, Holland journeyed north to attend Harvard Law School. He currently lives in New York City, and is an ordained minister, Harlem-based attorney and civic leader working in prominent organizations in law, business and government.
In my opinion, it was this distinguished academic and athletic career that prompted the Ivy League higher-ups to institute what I call the Joe Holland Rule. You must finish up your athletic eligibility before receiving your undergraduate degree, forcing students to go through thousands of gyrations to make it work.
Now, not next year, would be an ideal time for the Ivy League to change this rule. How great that decision would be viewed around the country during these troubling times. Please, Ivy League presidents, reconsider and help your student-athletes achieve their respective goals.
Sports Information Director at Cornell, 1977-1978