04 Mar 2008

Fight Fiercely, Harvard

,

advises a football song often sung at the little school in Cambridge.

Sunday’s New York Times suggests that Harvard’s desire to become competitive in Ivy League basketball recently may have been fierce enough to have produced violations of NCAA rules.

Harvard has never won an Ivy League title in men’s basketball and has not reached the N.C.A.A. tournament since 1946. This season, the team won only 8 of its first 28 games. Like all the universities in the Ivy League, Harvard does not award athletic scholarships.

Yet the group of six recruits expected to join the team next season is rated among the nation’s 25 best. This is partly because Harvard Coach Tommy Amaker, who starred at Duke and coached in the Big East and Big Ten conferences, has set his sights on top-flight recruits. It is also because Harvard is willing to consider players with a lower academic standing than previous staff members said they were allowed to. Harvard has also adopted aggressive recruiting tactics that skirt or, in some cases, may even violate National Collegiate Athletic Association rules.

Harvard’s efforts in basketball underscore the increasingly important role that success in high-profile sports plays at even the most elite universities. In the race to become competitive in basketball, Harvard’s new approach could tarnish the university’s sterling reputation.

Two athletes who said they had received letters from Harvard’s admissions office saying they would most likely be accepted have described tactics that may violate N.C.A.A. rules, including visits from a man who worked out with them shortly before he was hired by Harvard to be an assistant coach.

Read the whole thing.

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