Your independent source for Harvard news since 1898

Your independent source for Harvard news since 1898

Features | Harvard @375

Faster, Higher, Stronger

Athletic accomplishments, highlighted

September-October 2011

March 27, 1999—The Harvard women's ice-hockey team win the national championship.

March 27, 1999—The Harvard women's ice-hockey team win the national championship.

Photograph by Bill Alkofer Photo/St. Paul Pioneer Press

November 21,1987—Harvard beats Yale in a 14-10 cliffhanger to take the Ivy League title.

November 21,1987—Harvard beats Yale in a 14-10 cliffhanger to take the Ivy League title.

Photograph by Joe Wrinn

April 1, 1989—The men's hockey team captures an NCAA championship.

April 1, 1989—The men's hockey team captures an NCAA championship.

Photograph by Bruch Kluckhohn

May 20, 1990—The women's lacrosse team comes from behind to win the NCAA championship.

May 20, 1990—The women's lacrosse team comes from behind to win the NCAA championship.

Photograph by Jerry Millevoi

Sidebars:

25 high moments in Harvard athletics, 1986-2011

In 1986 Charlotte “Char” Joslin ’90, M.B.A. ’95, was a freshman at Radcliffe College. Joslin is still around, but Radcliffe College is not, nor is an athletic archetype that Joslin represented: the three-letter woman. She played varsity in three sports at Harvard, lettering all four years in field hockey, ice hockey, and lacrosse. Joslin was in all likelihood the last of the three-sport Mohicans. College teams now recruit specialists, athletes who find not only their sport but their role within it—say, soccer forward—at earlier and earlier ages.

Specialization was under way even in 1986 (see “The Professionalization of Ivy League Sports,” September-October 1997, page 36), but it is only one of the many changes that have rippled through athletics. With specialization comes the opportunity to spend all 12 months training for one sport, in-season and off-season both. Intense, high-level competition, much of it on club teams, has filtered down to ever-younger cohorts; adult training and coaching also kicks in earlier. The result is better-conditioned, more skillful, and less versatile college athletes than in years past (See “25 high moments in Harvard athletics”). Those players are more heavily recruited than ever, and come from all over the world, especially in international sports like soccer, tennis, basketball, squash, and rowing.

Approximately 20 percent of undergraduates now play on the teams that Harvard fields in 41 varsity sports—the most of any college. Add to this the participants in intramural athletics and club sports, of which there are 51, plus those who exercise for recreational and fitness reasons—the Malkin, Hemenway, and Murr gyms buzz constantly—and by some estimates nearly 80 percent of the College leads the vigorous life.

Several sports where Harvard has had a long record of success have stayed at or near the top of collegiate rankings—men’s heavyweight and lightweight crew, women’s basketball and squash, tennis, football, and swimming and diving. Other once-dominant programs have become part of the pack, including men’s squash and ice hockey. In still other instances, Crimson squads have risen from humble records to great ones, as with men’s and women’s fencing, which won a national title in 2006; wrestling, which has produced national champions Jesse Jantzen ’04 and J.P. O’Connor ’10; and men’s basketball, where coach Tommy Amaker’s team last year shared the Crimson’s first Ivy title (with Princeton). Four Harvard teams have won NCAA championships, and all four have come since 1986: men’s ice hockey in 1989, women’s lacrosse in 1990, women’s rowing in 2003, and the coed fencing title of 2006. Harvard has also won many national championships in non-NCAA sports like men’s rowing; women’s squash was the most recent one, in 2010. 

These athletes deploy their skills in a changed physical plant.  The department of athletics and its coaches moved to the newly opened Murr Center in 1998; in retrospect, it is hard to believe that the department once operated out of a square brick building at 60 JFK Street, or that the three Palmer-Dixon courts were the only indoor tennis venues at Harvard, which now has six courts at Murr, along with a bank of new, international-size squash courts. The Stadium’s playing field has been changed to artificial turf, making it possible to inflate a bubble enclosure there each winter and get far more sportive use from that space. New lights atop the Stadium also enable nighttime football games, as well as after-dark contests in other sports. The illuminated, artificial-turf Soldiers Field Soccer Stadium welcomes nighttime practice sessions and games as well, an accommodation prompted by the nocturnal habits of current undergraduates. If Char Joslin were a freshman today, she would still, no doubt, become a star athlete, but her star would shine in a different sky, with some new constellations.

Sidebars:

25 high moments in Harvard athletics, 1986-2011

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Last lunge: With senior right guard Larry Allen Jr. (73) keeping Penn defenders at bay, Harvard senior back Charlie Booker nudges the ball over the goal line for the Crimson's first score.

Photograph by Tim O'Meara/The Harvard Crimson

Crimson Football 2018: Harvard 29, Penn 7

Happy hookup: Having beaten Columbia’s Will Allen, Harvard junior wide receiver Jack Cook waits for the pass from senior quarterback Tom Stewart. Cook made the grab and then dashed to the end zone for the longest touchdown pass in Crimson history—92 yards.
Photograph by Tim O'Meara/The Harvard Crimson

Crimson Football 2018: Harvard 52, Columbia 18

Harvard junior defensive lineman Kelvin Apari pressures Dartmouth’s designated passing quarterback, Derek Kyler. The Big Green tried only 11 passes, completing four for 49 yards. 
Photograph by Tim O’Meara/The Harvard Crimson

Crimson Football 2018: Dartmouth 24, Harvard 17

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Last lunge: With senior right guard Larry Allen Jr. (73) keeping Penn defenders at bay, Harvard senior back Charlie Booker nudges the ball over the goal line for the Crimson's first score.

Photograph by Tim O'Meara/The Harvard Crimson

Crimson Football 2018: Harvard 29, Penn 7

Happy hookup: Having beaten Columbia’s Will Allen, Harvard junior wide receiver Jack Cook waits for the pass from senior quarterback Tom Stewart. Cook made the grab and then dashed to the end zone for the longest touchdown pass in Crimson history—92 yards.
Photograph by Tim O'Meara/The Harvard Crimson

Crimson Football 2018: Harvard 52, Columbia 18

Harvard junior defensive lineman Kelvin Apari pressures Dartmouth’s designated passing quarterback, Derek Kyler. The Big Green tried only 11 passes, completing four for 49 yards. 
Photograph by Tim O’Meara/The Harvard Crimson

Crimson Football 2018: Dartmouth 24, Harvard 17