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Throwback Thursday: De-emphasized Athletics

This week in 1954, the Ivy League presidents signed an agreement that ranked athletics, especially football, as an activity behind academics in college life. This was referred to as “de-emphasized athletics” and officially downgraded sports, placing a priority on education. Football was called out specifically because it was common to have been a financial supporter of athletic programs at most schools. Therefore, extensive recruiting took place on behalf of the Big Red in order to compensate and receive wider financial gains.

The Ancient Eight presidents felt the purpose of athletics became distorted with a new financial emphasis within the NCAA. In addition, this transition of focus was thought to provide athletes with a chance to develop skills and no longer view sports as purely recreation.

Although the de-emphasis had a lesser effect on sports other than football or basketball, Ivy League schools managed to produce outstanding athletes in almost every athletic field without scholarships and money driving collegiate scouting. For example, in the 1960 Olympics, 29 undergraduates or recent graduates of Ivy League institutions were contenders in these games. This instance proves that, despite the de-emphasis, it didn’t affect the quality of the sports being played.

Cornell alone dominated crew, track, and wrestling in the 1960 Olympics. Ultimately, even though the conference moved away from athletic scholarships and using sports for funding, the teams still remain strong competitors in every varsity sport to this day.


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