Ivy 50
Ivy@50 A New Article every Weekday
An Introduction
The daily profiles on 'Ivy@50' celebrate the unique model of Ivy League athletics. In the following Introduction, Ivy League Executive Director Jeff Orleans describes that model and the goals for Ivy-League student-athletes that it represents.

Dear "Ivy@50" Readers,

I hope you have enjoyed the first month of Ivy50.com athlete alumni profiles in the Ivy League's 50th Anniversary On-Line Celebration -- and that you'll tell Editor Brett Hoover what you think of the Celebration by writing him at brett@ivyleaguesports.com. (Please tell your friends also -- you can email "Ivy@50" postcards from the "Ivy50 Postcards" button at the bottom of this page.)

As Brett wrote in his introduction to the Anniversary last month, we hope our alumni's own words will tell you not only about their athletic accomplishments, but also about how their involvement in Ivy sports and their Ivy student experiences shaped their later lives and careers. We believe the Ivy model continues to develop the country's most successful student-athlete leaders. In this short article I want to describe that model for you briefly.

A brief history

The 50th Anniversary celebrates the first year of formal Ivy League competition, in 1956-57, but of course there is a long earlier history of athletics at Ivy schools: the first intercollegiate contest was a crew race between Harvard and Yale in 1852, and Ivy coaches and alumni shaped the development of national college sports long into the 20th century. The term "Ivy League" first was used in the press in 1935, and Ivy schools began a scheduling agreement in football in 1945.

The presidents of the eight Ivy schools thus were very familiar with college athletics when they signed the formal Ivy Presidents Agreement in April 1954, with a two-year transition period to league-based, round-robin competition in all sports. As college sports had begun to expand across the country after World War II, the founding Ivy presidents knew -- as is true today -- that conferences would have many different ways of combining competitive expectations, athletic visibility, and athletes' overall college experiences.

They wanted that combination to remain a very positive one at Ivy schools. And they anticipated that as college athletics continued to grow and change, conferences would need clear principles to assure that the values and lessons of competitive athletics would be positive influences on athletes' day-to-day undergraduate lives, as students and as members of their campus communities.

Ivy Principles

To reach that goal, the 1954 Ivy Agreement set out the four complementary principles on which Ivy athletics still rests:

  • The admissions process should assure that Ivy athletes are "representative" of their non-athlete classmates;

  • Ivy athletes should have full access to need-based financial aid up their full cost of actual attendance, but Ivy schools will not use athletic grants-in-aid;

  • Ivy athletes should have and meet the same high academic expectations as their non-athlete classmates, and should have the opportunity to participate in the full range of campus activities;

  • The Ivy athletic experience should be structured so that Ivy student-athletes can meet these expectations and take advantage of these opportunities.

    Much has changed in the ensuing half-century. America has many more colleges, and their undergraduate curricula are much broader and more demanding; barriers to participation by women and students of color have fallen resoundingly, in higher education generally and in athletics specifically; and many more colleges sponsor athletics at a high level, with much greater public attention and often with very high financial stakes.

    Ivy institutions have both reflected and, often, led these changes: They are among the most sophisticated and diverse colleges and universities in the world, and at the same they have the broadest intercollegiate athletic programs in the country, with more teams and athletes, for both men and women, than any other conference. And in recent years schools and conferences in every NCAA Division have returned to a focus on admissions and academic standards, and on the demands of practice and competitive expectations, that are the core concerns of the original Ivy League Agreement.

    We certainly agree that the Ivy League model seems to others to offer a good perspective, because we think it has produced for five decades -- and is continuing to produce -- student-athletes and graduates who have a remarkable combination of athletic and academic achievements.

    Athletic and Academic Success

    The Ivy League sponsors conference championships in 33 men's and women's sports, with an average of 35 varsity teams at each school. As a conference, the Ivy League finishes among the top conferences in Division I in the Sears/NACDA Directors' Cup rankings every year, and Ivy teams and athletes regularly win and contend for national championships and attain All-American status in many sports. Ivy athletes regularly excel in the Summer and Winter Olympic Games, representing the U.S. and many other countries, and nearly 50 Ivy athletes currently are competing in the six major professional sport leagues.

    Student-athletes at all eight Ivy schools also have the best academic records in college sports, as measured by the NCAA's Division I Academic Percentage Rate, and they regularly win CoSIDA Academic All-American awards (74 in the last five years), NCAA Post-Graduate Scholarships (195 overall), and Rhodes Scholarship (109 for Ivy athletes since 1956). Twenty-eight Ivy athletes have received one of the NCAA's four major annual awards. (Comprehensive information on Ivy athletics, within the league and nationally, can be found in the Online Ivy League Record Book.

    Academic Expectations

    The Ivy Agreement expects that student-athletes will consider themselves, and will be considered on their campuses, as fully part of the student body -- meeting high admissions standards, fulfilling high academic expectations once enrolled, being active in other activities, and not living separately as athletes. Because Ivy athletes are awarded need-based financial aid on the same basis as all other students, any student-athlete in the country can afford to attend Ivy institutions.

    Athletics in the Student-Athlete's Overall Life

    Ivy rules limit non-traditional and off-season practices in ways that permit time to focus on academic obligations and to participate in non-athletic campus activities. Ivy scheduling is built on round-robin league competition and on the goal of winning the Ivy League championship, while also encouraging national and regional team and individual excellence. Ivy schools avoid "revenue-producing" pressures on students' schedules by providing athletics with extensive institutional financial support, as part of each school's overall academic budgeting processes.

    The future

    We believe that the current pressures of college athletics make it all the more important for Ivy principles to remain consistent. Fortunately, we also believe that the coaches and administrators who are responsible for the past success of Ivy athletics -- and whom Ivy athletes cite so often in the "profiles" as significant influences upon their lives -- will continue to provide for similar success in the next 50 years. We hope that the 50th Anniversary Celebration will illustrate why we have that confidence, by recounting how a sample of the thousands of former Ivy League student-athletes have built life-long successes -- athletic, academic, and in a wide range of careers and life experiences -- upon their Ivy athletic experiences and values.

    We hope you like what you read, and we look forward to hearing from you.

    Jeff Orleans
    Executive Director, Council of Ivy Group Presidents

    (P.S.: A short historical bibliography about Ivy League and institutional athletics can be found here, and we welcome suggestions for additions. The authoritative history of the "Ivy League" name is in Football: The Ivy League Origins of An American Obsession, by Mark Bernstein, at pages xi-xiii.)

    — Jeff Orleans

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