Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Long Live The Ivy League

If Gevvie Stone has rowed her last Olympic race, then she went out in a way befitting one of the most accomplished Princeton athletes of all time.

Stone and her partner Kristi Wagner finished fifth in the double sculls A final in Tokyo yesterday, or technically today, as the race was on Wednesday midday local time. Stone and Wagner were fifth in the race at every split.

It's been quite a run for Stone, who had hoped to compete in the 2008 Games, made it for the first time in 2012 and won the B final in singles, came back in 2016 and won silver in singles and then made it all the way for a third Olympic Games this year. 

She did all this while also somehow attending medical school and completing her residency. It's a remarkable story (and one that you'll be able to read in the TigerBlog's upcoming book on women's athletics). 

If Stone has three more years of world class rowing in her, she can match the achievement of Princeton's only four-time Olympian, Anne Marden, who won silvers in rowing in 1984 and 1988 after making the team for the first time in 1980, when the U.S. would boycott the Games in Moscow, and then again for the final time in 1992 in Barcelona, where she'd finish fourth.

Stone wasn't the only Princetonian to row yesterday in Tokyo. Among the others, Hannah Scott (Great Britain) and Claire Collins (United States) rowed on boats that won their B finals to finish seventh overall and Fred Vystavel rowed for Denmark in the semifinal of the lightweight men's double sculls. 

Of course, there is more going on in the world of sports than just the Olympic Games. There is, for instance, the current upheaval in the world of college athletics. 

If you've taken some time away from the Olympics, you know that Texas and Oklahoma have applied to leave the Big 12 and instead enter the SEC. The reason for this, of course, is money.

Right now, there's a Power 5 in college athletics. The Big 12 minus Texas and Oklahoma figures to be in major trouble, which would lead to a Power 4, with the rest of the Big 12 schools in search of the best possible landing spot.

There is also the possibility that the Big Ten would absorb much of the Pac 12, forming another super league. It's crazy times in the world of college realignment.

When TB was a kid, there was a great league called the Southwest Conference. There probably was nobody back then who could have imagined that the league would fall apart, but that's exactly what happened. The league was formed in 1914 and made it all the way to 1996 before it disintegrated, largely because Texas, Texas A&M, Baylor and Texas Tech moved to the Big 12, which used to be the Big Eight. 

Since then, nothing in college athletics has really been all that shocking. The Big Ten, which had always been a Midwestern league, added schools from Maryland, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. The ACC added Syracuse, Boston College, Pitt and Louisville. It got to the point where it was really hard to remember who was where.

And every time this happens, TB only has one thought: "Long Live The Ivy League."

The Ivy League is the only league that has remained unchanged since the day it was formed. There were eight schools then, back in 1956, and those same eight schools are still there today. Come back in another 100 years, and those eight schools will still make up the Ivy League.

When TB saw the news about Texas and Oklahoma, he immediately felt badly for all of the people who work at the Big 12 whose jobs suddenly were in danger, through no fault of their own. Besides that, the biggest downside of all of the movement is that way it all destroys traditional rivalries.

And that's one of the things that makes the Ivy League so special. Its rivalries, which go back in some cases nearly 100 years before the league was formalized, are not going anywhere.

It makes TB glad to be a part of a league like that. 

The Ivy League is like no other league in so many ways, and pretty much all of them are for the good.

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