March 9, 2023

KEMPFF | We’re Not Ivy League Material

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Collapsing pools. Broken and molding locker rooms. A legacy team being pushed from central campus. 

These are just some of the milder complaints raised by Cornell student athletes when asked about their facilities. To many people in athletics, it’s become sort of a sick joke — Cornell continually underfunds its athletic facilities. 

As Cornell announces new ambitious academic buildings, like the multimillion dollar Bowers CIS building, years of pent up frustration builds. Decades of inadequate maintenance and investment has put Cornell years behind its competitors — especially its Ivy League peers. 

The joke has been going on for long enough. It’s time that Cornell invests more seriously in its athletics program. 

Varsity swimmer Jack Casey ‘23 can speak firsthand to Cornell’s athletic crisis at the pool. “Both pools, Teagle and Helen Newman, are completely aged. Teagle was built in the 1940’s and the foundation is going to collapse. They’re putting bandaids on a super big problem.

Helen Newman is a pool with zero blocks and no temperature control. When you look at our pool, not even compared to the rest of the Ivy League but Ithaca College, it’s ridiculous. We’ve Had to host Ivy League meets at Ithaca College.” 

Cornell’s dismal pool situation has been covered multiple times in The Sun, including my own column. But the problem is not isolated to swimming. 

Take women’s soccer: Ashley Durik ‘23 spoke to their locker room issues, “Our locker room was the size of a storage closet. Half the lockers were broken and the carpet had mold growing on it. Cornell refused to have it redone, until we finally raised enough money through parent and alumni donations.”

But locker rooms weren’t the only place that the team ran into problems. The girls were often required to take a shuttle bus to their practice facility due to its distance. Their game field is surrounded by a track, which often causes complications for both runners and soccer players. Errant balls are a common risk. 

This story is not isolated to those two sports. Walk into Bartels Hall and you might feel that you walked into the 1980’s (which may be the last time the facility received a face lift). 

It often feels like the University is trying to get rid of student athletes. A visual reminder of this can be seen with the removal of Hoy Field. The new Bowers building is intended to go right where Hoy Field once stood, and the baseball field is being “relocated.” 

Hoy Field is a historic and important beauty. And although I’m sure the new baseball field will be more than adequate, nothing can quite replace a field like that. 

The story doesn’t stop with varsity athletics. The student gyms at Cornell lack many of the amenities found at other schools. 

Before joining a varsity team, I would occasionally visit one of the student gyms. Overcrowded was one word I could use to describe them. It’s clear that Cornell knows this, and recently completed the construction of Toni Morrision gym. But its isolated location from most students makes it relatively difficult to visit. 

Virtually all of my friends who are seniors with cars forgo the student gyms altogether, opting to head to places such as Planet Fitness and Island. Part of this is the relatively expensive gym fees imposed to access these student facilities. Compared to the gleaming athletic palaces at other schools, many of which are accessible at no cost to the student body, something does not add up. 

One serious implication for Cornell due to its lack of investment in facilities is the potential to lose recruits. Casey mentioned how Cornell’s facilities “are not going to bring in better recruits. Especially when compared to the other Ivies with much new and better buildings.” 

Cornell has some world class athletic teams, including nationally ranked men’s lacrosse and hockey teams. But the future of Cornell’s athletic department depends on its ability to continue to recruit top tier talent. As Cornell’s athletic facilities falter, it raises the question of whether they will be able to continue to recruit at the same caliber.

Don’t get me wrong — I fully support Cornell’s investments in new academic buildings. Cornell should use its resources to improve the academic standing of the school. 

Athletics, however, should not be an afterthought. They’re an important part of student life, and Cornell has been neglecting them. It’s time that an institution with such an impressive amount of resources invests a greater portion into its athletic programs. 

Investing more in these facilities will not only look nice, but will likewise help the school attract more top tier talent and show that it is serious about protecting its longstanding legacy of outstanding athletics. 

Brendan Kempff is a senior in the Hotel School. He can be reached at [email protected]. Slope Side runs every other Thursday this semester.