Ivy League Associate Director Chuck Yrigoyen knows more about the League's championship trophies than anyone. Because of that, he was asked to write about the trophies and the trophy program.
"When will you have to get a real job?!"
I get this all the time when people find out that I work in athletics. Then there's this one -- "So, you get paid to go to games!" Guilty as charged on count two. Still, if you characterize a job as rewarding, challenging, unpredictable and sometimes exhausting then I have myself a REAL one.
And whatever the highs and lows of that job, there are few occasions that humble those of us who work in the league office like presenting a championship trophy to an Ivy team. It's not just a "photo-op." It's standing among -- or being dwarfed beneath -- a group of Ivy men or women who have accomplished something they will never forget; something their schools will honor for all-time. It is a (insert your own adjective here, and it still won't cover it) goal reached.
Hoisting an Ivy trophy is even more special because the trophies themselves are special. League sports, with just a few exceptions, have ONE trophy for each sport, not a new presentation piece every year. It rotates with the champion and, therefore, logs a lot of miles and files a bunch of change of address forms. You get to keep it for only one reason -- you were the best in the league that year.
"What's really neat about it," said Cynthia Crowley, Penn '51 and co-donor of the Farquhar-Baker women's basketball trophy, "is that all the women's administrators came up to me [at last year's three-way Ivy playoff] and said what a beautiful trophy it is. Everyone wants to win it."
Crowley and her daughter, Cindy, Princeton '82, stepped forward when the league began a program in the mid-1990s to establish new trophies for sports that did not have them or to upgrade existing trophies, mostly in women's sports. "The great thing for me was that we were honoring the newest athletes of the Ivy League, the women," Cindy Crowley added. "To have created something for those athletes to strive for was really special."
The Crowleys have donated the funds for two upgrades -- the first being the Johnson-Crowley softball piece in 1995. "We also loved the fact that it was Penn and Princeton," said Cynthia Crowley. "The two archrivals getting together to do something great!"
The softball trophy was the second for the current Ivy trophy program, which has in production its 18th award -- a men's lightweight rowing trophy to be dedicated this coming spring.
The first was the Lajos Csiszar women's fencing trophy, the brainchild of longtime Penn fencing coach Dave Micahnik. Micahnik wanted to honor "The Maestro," as Csiszar was known during his Penn coaching career from 1947-74, but he also wanted to honor the sport. "The Ivy League," Micahnik said, "has always tried to promote the ideal of 'Whatever you do, do it excellently.' The women's fencing tradition in the Ivy League is very prideful. We commissioned an original piece that has the dignity that the sport deserves."
The actual work on the fencing piece -- and the 16 thereafter -- was done by the talented hands of Timothy Maslyn, a sculptor from Belle Mead, N.J., who was selected by the Ivy League office. The artist has sculpted athletic figures for each project, and some of those figures are modeled on former Ivy League athletes.
Maslyn is the protégé of the well-known sculptor Joseph Brown, a Princeton professor and, interestingly, a boxing instructor at the university for four decades (1939-77). Here is where Ivy trophies begin a beautiful weave. Joe Brown's pieces were used for the current Ivy League trophies in men's fencing, men's soccer and wrestling. Brown, in turn, was a student of the legendary R. Tait McKenzie, whose piece "The Onslaught" sits atop the Ivy League Football Trophy. McKenzie, whose biographical sketch proclaims him a physician and physical therapist, was Penn's first-ever Professor of Physical Education, serving the university in that capacity from 1904-29.
Maslyn continues to run Joe Brown's foundation, which is called The Monument to Freedom of Expression Foundation. "Joe believed that before I could work on his sculptures I had to be able to model a sculpture," Maslyn said. "Because I had ability and I could model, I was able to see what was in the clay and could see it in the bronze." Maslyn went on to say that he is honored and thrilled to have been involved with the Ivy League for the last 13 years.
Another person touched by the Maslyn's work and the league's trophy program generally is Yale alumna Melanie Ginter '78. After attending the league's 25th Anniversary of Women's Athletics Symposium in April, 1999 -- an event that also showed off the six trophies that had been produced up until then -- Ginter, a swimmer at Yale, went into action.
"It was so wonderful to see all these women athletes [at the league's Symposium]," Ginter said. "It was empowering to have everyone together. I only wrote two letters to former Yale captains about doing a new women's swimming and diving trophy. We probably had 15-18 donors, which was great because it created a broad base of support for the trophy."
Ginter and her fellow donors made current Yale head coach Frank Keefe the honoree for the piece. On February 22, 2002, just prior to the second night of competition in the Ivy League Women's Swimming and Diving Championships, Ginter presented the trophy to Keefe and to the League.
Trophies truly have been a LEAGUE effort. Every Ivy school has connections to at least two team championship trophies. The Maslyn-Brown-McKenzie connection is not there for all of them, but the pieces in other sports are displayed proudly at Ivy schools every year. And I suppose that is another humbling aspect of the presentations we're so lucky to do. To know that the Nicky Bawlf trophy in men's lacrosse was touched probably more than once by an Eamon McEneaney or that the Bessie Rudd Trophy in women's soccer was held more than once by an Emily Stauffer gives you a sense of the great history of the League.
The current trophy program has renewed our ways to honor Ivy athletes. William Clarence Matthews, for whom the baseball trophy is named, and John Baxter Taylor, whose name graces the men's outdoor track and field trophy, were pioneer African-American athletes some 100 years ago. Lynn Jennings, who was honored with the women's outdoor track and field award, was a world cross country champion and an Olympic medalist.
Getting paid to go to games? Not a bad proposition at all. Handing an Ivy trophy to a championship team? That's an experience that the credit card company's commercials say best -- Priceless.
— Chuck Yrigoyen