For all the talk about the commercialization and professionalizing of college sports, the one happy constant with athletics in academia is that players willingly perform in the same uniform for four whole seasons. Such loyalty among professional athletes, meanwhile, seems to be going the way of the granny shot.
Of course, the downside of this convention is that college players stick around for only four years. For coaching staffs and Crimson fans accustomed to watching Harvard’s career rushing leader Clifton Dawson ’06 will his way to the end zone, for example, this deal stinks.
The benefit of this arrangement, however, is the uninterrupted flow of new blood, which annually infuses a sense of purity and passion into college programs — qualities long absent from pro sports, some argue.
Meanwhile, an inspection of the rosters of Harvard’s fall programs reveals 2007 to truly be the beginning of a new era, with many teams sporting a majority of underclassmen. So, in this inaugural issue of the 2007-08 academic year, the Gazette eagerly welcomes all the fresh runners, footballers (of both sorts), hockey players (grass and ice), and ballers of every kind. We hope you enjoy your time in your white and crimson battledress as much as we enjoy rooting you on.
What follows is a brief, partial breakdown of what’s ahead.
Basketball: First-year head coach Tommy Amaker will look to jumpstart a team that finished 12-16 a season ago. Look for league foes to be frustrated by hardworking guard Drew Housman ’09, an All-Ivy honorable mention last year.
Meanwhile, loose play propelled the women’s squad to the Ivy championship and the NCAA tournament in 2006-07. With a core of nine upperclassmen, including brilliant playmaker Emily Tay ’09, the Crimson are eminently capable of repeating last season’s success.
Cross country: Six seniors will set out to mentor a group of newcomers. So far, so good: freshmen Thea Lee and Eliza Ives finished ninth and 10th, respectively, to pace the Crimson at their season opener Sept. 7. Meanwhile in men’s action, the underclassmen duo of Robert Kenney ’10 and Matt Dewey ’11 crossed the finish at 27:18 and 27:19 to lead their team.
Football: With offensive phenom Dawson gone to graduation (and currently enjoying NFL life with Cincinnati), look for the Harvard football team to turn to its oft-overlooked defense — ranked first nationally in 2006 in sacks and tackles — to win games. Slated to finish third in a pre-season Ivy poll, the team will return 15 starters from last season to help bolster a cast of 35 freshmen.
Hockey: Just how the men and women respond to the departure of some truly special seniors, including All-Ivy first team selection Dylan Reese and Patty Kazmaier Award winner Julie Chu, will define Harvard hockey in 2007-08 and beyond.
Soccer: With just a pair of seniors on its roster, the recent success of the men’s soccer team defies expectations. Led by Andre Akpan, last season’s Ivy League rookie of the year and a U.S. team member at this summer’s FIFA under-20 World Cup, Harvard is off to a 4-0 start and ranked No. 11 in the country.
Likewise, the women’s program has just two seniors on board while boasting last year’s Ivy rookie of the year winner in goalkeeper Lauren Mann ’10. The team, among the youngest in all of Division 1 with a total of 18 freshmen and sophomores, is 1-2-1.