Wednesday, March 24, 2010

And The Ban Played On

TigerBlog isn't afraid of Shirley Tilghman. She's a very nice person, and she oversees a campus where dissenting thought and opposing viewpoints are encouraged.

So, with that in mind, TB decided to take up the issue posted by someone yesterday:
"You know, it may be too sensitive to address if President Tilghman has voted against Ivy participation in football playoffs, but...Could you address the, how to put it, anomaly of so many Ivy athletes participating in the post season when the League resolutely denies the football players the same opportunity?"

It's a legitimate issue. Currently, there are two Ivy League men's basketball teams who are still playing in the postseason, and there are two men's hockey teams about to start. In a few months, there could be as many as four Ivy men's lacrosse teams, and between the men and the women, there will be at least five or six lacrosse teams in the NCAAs.

Back in the fall, four Ivy men's soccer teams played in the NCAA tournament. The champion in almost every Ivy sport advances automatically to the NCAA tournament for that particular sport.

Except football, of course.

TigerBlog always chuckles when he hears people say things like "the NCAA should do this or that," because the NCAA has no actual power. All decisions originate within the member schools; the NCAA exists to enforce the rules. Think of the schools as lawmakers and the NCAA as the police.

It's the same with the Ivy League, where it's the eight school presidents who have the final say in all major athletic decisions. Most rules changes originate from coaches' groups to the directors of athletics, and most minor changes to league policies go unnoticed by people outside of those sports themselves.

For something like sending the Ivy League champion to the FCS playoffs, of course, the publicity would be much greater. And, to date, obviously, it's not something the Ivy presidents have wanted to do.

The argument that it's hypocritical for teams in every other sport to play in the NCAA tournament while football sits at home doesn't work for TB, because it's obvious that that's the case. It's not something that anyone looking at the situation couldn't help but notice, because it's completely apparent.

Clearly, decades have gone by with complete turnover on the presidential level within the league, and the situation hasn't changed. It's not because none of those presidents, past and present, is unaware that football is the only sport that doesn't get to go.

TigerBlog has always thought that the league can be progressive in any area it wants except for two - not offering athletic scholarships and no postseason for football - because those two points were what the entire league was founded on.

At the time that formal Ivy League competition began in 1956, Princeton had already played in two NCAA men's basketball tournaments. The first appearance by a Princeton team in the NCAA baseball tournament was in 1951. Its first NCAA golf championship was in 1914.

Basically, the precedent was already in place - football cannot play in the postseason, while other sports can.

Also, back in the mid-50s, there were no women's sports and no NCAA tournaments yet in sports like soccer (not until 1959) and men's lacrosse (not until 1971). TigerBlog has never read or seen any comments about whether or not there was discussion about whether or not Ivy League teams should be able to participate or if it was never even an issue.

Football competed at the Division I level until 1978, when I-AA was formed. That same year, there was a four-team tournament to determine the first champion of what is now the Football Championship Subdivision. For the first 22 years of formal Ivy football, then, the ban on postseason meant a ban on competing in a bowl game.

Patriot League participation in the I-AA playoffs dates back 17 years. It is really during that time that the "how can everyone else go and football can't" argument in the Ivy League really began to heat up.

It's also not like there's universal agreement below the presidential level that the Ivy champ should advance. TB would say that there's more "go" than "not-go" sentiment out there, but there is also strong opinions against it.

Much of that comes from the Harvard-Yale faithful, who like that their game is always the last for the teams in the year. And there are some who love the rhythm of an Ivy League football season - 10 weeks, 10 games, no off weeks, all building to the championship.

TigerBlog's position on these matters has no continuity, he admits. For instance, he is pro-Ivy League lacrosse tournament but anti-Ivy League basketball tournament.

And TB acknowledges that every Ivy League football player and coach knew when he signed up that there was a ban on participating in the postseason. And, to be honest, TB would rather see eight teams play an 11th game than one team play in the NCAA tournament.

But then TB comes back to how many Ivy League athletes in so many different sports he's seen have great NCAA tournament experiences.

So, for that reason, if push came to shove and the eight Ivy presidents called on TigerBlog to cast the deciding vote, he'd probably lean in the direction of sending the Ivy champion to the playoffs.


Anonymous said...

If you find flawed the argument that a ban on the FCS Tournament is hypocritical, than I would have to say your argument that there was already "precedent" for the current policy when the League was formed is equally, if not more, flawed.

Harvard, Penn, and Brown all played in the Rose Bowl in the teens and '20s. Princeton declined at least one Rose Bowl invitation during that time on grounds that are still used by the Ivy League to this day -- that they didn't want to take away from the student-athletes' class time. Of note, Harvard's participation in the Rose Bowl during the heyday of Ivy League football also throws a huge wrench in the argument that "The Game" should be the season finale.

Also, the Ivy League did not move down to I-AA/FCS until 1982. I've read that the 15K attendance rule was invented that year exclusively to preclude Dartmouth, Brown, Columbia, and Cornell from I-A eligibility, and thus forcing the entire conference down a level with them, but of course that is impossible to prove.

Anonymous said...

"...probably lean in the direction of sending the Ivy champion to the playoffs"....geez TB, way to go out on a limb and take a position on this issue!!! There is no rhyme or reason to the Ivy Presidents' position on banning post-season football-it's indefensible. Almost all other Ivy sports play in the post-season. Why not football? Makes no sense at all. What reason, silly or otherwise, do the Ivy Presidents give?