Why It's OK for Ivy League Schools to Do Well in Sports
Cornell will look to cap off perhaps its greatest sports year ever this weekend, starting with the semifinals of the Men’s NCAA Lacrosse Tournament tomorrow. That being said, Cornell’s success in sports ranging from lacrosse to basketball, to men’s and women’s hockey, to wrestling, raises the question: Should Ivy League schools be good at sports? After all, the reason the Ivy League exists is to ensure that academics come before athletics among its member schools. A school like, say, LSU needs good athletics to give its students and alumni, as well as locals, a reason to feel pride in the school. Those who go to Ivy League institutions should already have pride in their school because of the school’s academics. Isn’t there something hypocritical about Ivy League schools excelling in sports?
Well, actually, there’s room for top-notch athletics in the Ivy League. One reason the nation became enthralled by Cornell basketball in the days leading up to the Red’s clash with Kentucky was because Cornell’s players managed to put academics first and still excel on the hardwood. Besides, while in theory Ivy Leaguers ought to feel good about their schools because of academics, athletic success makes alumni more excited about the school than they otherwise would have been. Bars up and down the eastern seaboard were packed with Cornellians cheering for their school last March on the night of the Cornell-Kentucky game. If an Ivy League alum gets excited about his or her school because of sports and donates money to the school, furthering its ability to provide a world-class education, that’s not a bad thing.
Insiders feel that the Ivy League will be better in basketball this coming year than in any year in recent memory. Even lowly teams like Columbia and Dartmouth, at their recent press conferences introducing new coaches, spoke of how they wanted to be the next Cornell. Yale and Princeton have seen vastly improved hockey programs over the past few years, and the Ivy League has been one of the better conferences in lacrosse. Despite being academic schools first, Ivy League schools are arguably trying harder than ever to excel in sports. That’s good.