To the Editor:
Monday’s editorial on Brown sports underscores Bruno’s plight since beginning intercollegiate athletic competition in 1859 with a crew race against Harvard and Yale. In case you hadn’t guessed, we were dead last in the race. Historically, Brown has been cast as the underdog, especially against the so-called Big Three — Harvard, Yale and Princeton. University President Henry Wriston was not in favor of joining the Ivy League because of the enrollment and financial disparities enjoyed by the four titans — Harvard, Yale, Princeton and Penn — and our lack of consistent success against them in football. Brown’s dilemma was that we were “too small to be big, and too big to be small” in terms of finding the correct level of athletic competition. The alumni wanted to be part of the exclusive Ivy Group, and Brown was eventually admitted to membership.
As The Herald points out, the scenario today reveals Brown’s downward trend in Ivy championship success, despite some bright spots. The idealistic original premise of the Ivy League as a level playing field with teams of non-recruited athletes is now long gone. The current balkanization of the Ivy League by Harvard, Yale and Princeton — which routinely pluck Ivy titles like low-hanging fruit — results from a multitude of factors, not the least of which is financial. From recruiting budgets to coaches’ salaries and financial aid packages, Brown continues to be Sisyphus, fighting an uphill battle.
Institutional size is fortunately no longer a determining factor in athletic success or failure; athletic slots are. Selective recruiting, support from admissions and financial aid are as well.
No one works harder than our coaches and athletic administrators in the face of the daunting challenges Brown faces. If Brown is to become a serious across-the-board player in the increasingly competitive Ivy League, it will require increased outlays of financial support from alumni and the University, including improved facilities. Successful teams create campus interest, cultivate Brown pride and develop happy future alumni. Brown simply cannot afford to languish in the wake of our Ivy counterparts.
Peter Mackie ’59
Sports Archivist, Edward North Robinson Collection of Brown Athletics