Monday, May 15, 2006

Robbing the Cradle

A recent article in the Harvard Crimson noted the rise of freshmen on Radcliffe varsity crews and sees this as reflective of a national trend. This trend fits in well with my reader’s suggestion (discussed in an earlier post) for how to increase participation in women’s lightweight rowing. Moving recruits into the varsity as freshmen forces programs to rely on walk-ons for their novice boats, giving more women a chance to row and experience good racing. There is more than this going on in the heavyweight ranks, however, because the NCAA discourages novice events by not including them in its championship. As a result, although heavy crews still race novice boats, the results have no bearing on NCAA bids or championships so they dismantle them for NCAAs. It’s easy to see a time when you’ll be as likely to see a heavyweight women’s novice race as you would be to see a freshmen college football game. Whether you think this is good or bad, it’s more evidence of the NCAA’s effect on women’s rowing.

As a reader pointed out, the freshmen in the varsity trend has hit the top lightweight teams as well - every V8 at sprints had at least one freshman in it, with freshman strokes in the top two boats.

It’s obvious that currently the NCAA is lightweight women’s rowing’s Darth Vader, but the more I see of its influence, the more I wonder if it isn’t simply the source of all rowing evil. On the plus side, it has clearly increased the number of heavyweight women, but that often has embarrassing results and it tends to leave wreckage from the other categories in its single-minded wake.

By the way, did you catch the shot at the Princeton frosh near the end of the Crimson article?


Whew, it’s getting rough out there!


Anonymous said...

It is true that much evil can be attributed to the NCAA. We must also recognize, however, that the Ivy League does not help matters.

JW Burk said...

Hmmm... I'd like to hear more. Do you mean rowing in general or lightweights in particular? You may be right, but what specifically are you thinking of?

Anonymous said...

how about the 40 day rule? that puts the ivy league at a big disadvantage.

Anonymous said...

The Ivy League keeps Sprints to a one-day format, which is ridiculous for a championship. A two-day regatta would provide better racing (boats wouldn't paddle the heat to save up for a final the same day), and could have men and women together (saving transportation costs and fostering gender cooperation).

They also have no interest in promoting separate national championships for DII and DIII men. The timing and format of the IRA leaves much to be desired.

Rule changes are passed or defeated at the whim of the Ivies, regardless of what would be best for most.

The best thing to come from the Ivy League is at least tacit support for lightweight women's rowing (Radcliffe & Princeton).

Anonymous said...

except for healthy weigh in policies...

JW Burk said...

Yes, I agree, the 7 week rule does put the Ivies at a disadvantage.

As for Sprints, the Ivy League doesn't run Sprints, the EAWRC and the EARC, both affiliates of the ECAC, do. Those associations contain more schools than the eight Ivies. Maybe you're saying that the Ivies have undue influence in the association? The Pac-10 heavyweight men, in pushing their NCAA proposal, complained a lot about the ECAC's influence in rowing.

I agree with you that holding a combined Sprints for men and women would be better than the NCAA style "separate but equal" versions we now have. I'm sure the ECAC could give us a million reasons why they don't want that, but I suspect they would be relatively unconvincing. As it is the EAWRC races run on 10 and 15 minute centers.

I don't have as much of a problem with the lack of DII and DIII championships. This division is a NCAA invention (I think) which rowing took care of long ago through its system of regattas. Regattas like the Midwest Sprints, MACRAs, and the Dad Vail existed to provide championships for smaller (including large school club teams) crews. The NCAA would view Ohio State's men's club program as equivalent to Cal's varsity men's program. They're both DI schools and the NCAA has no way to distinguish between the two. In effect, rowing is a self policing organization when it comes to matching like programs. As much as I regret the ECAC Regatta's attempt to damage the Dad Vail, the rebelling men's crews did have a point about Temple - it was a varsity program with scholarship money and was racing, and beating, club crews.

Again, you may be right about the Ivy influence in ECAC governence - I'm not privy to the inner workings. If they really do have that much influence, I do think the Ivy League could do more to support women's lightweights. Imagine the effect if the lightweight eight became a point race at Sprints. There would be a lot of whining and complaining and then all those schools would start lightweight programs. Give a 3 to 5 year warning and do it. It would really be pretty simple. I'd like to hear Yale tell Radcliffe and Princeton that they can't find the money.