For those current Brown University fencers, wrestlers, and women’s skiers (as well as prospective applicants to the university who want to compete in those sports and other Ivy League athletic recruits / current student athletes), we’d like to remind you of a little story in the hope that it will inspire you. Maybe it will even inspire you to want to fight back the Brown University administration to try and convince the university not to cut these athletic teams. This is a story that had its beginnnings in the quaint little town of Hanover, New Hampshire at Dartmouth College when then-president James Wright, former dean James Larimore, and former athletic director Josie Harper decided to eliminate the men’s and women’s swim teams on the eve of Thanksgiving break.
Their decision to cut the teams did not sit well with the swimmers or the swimmers applying to Dartmouth. That came as no surprise to the administrators. But what Dartmouth College didn’t anticipate was the entire college coming together in support of the team. They didn’t anticipate the student body marching to James Wright’s and James Larimore’s homes in the middle of the night on a cold New Hampshire night chanting, “Jim, let us swim!” They didn’t anticipate crowds of angry students protesting in Parkhurst Hall. They didn’t anticipate the prevalance of “I Am a Dartmouth Budget Cut” t-shirts. They didn’t anticipate Rick Telander of the Chicago Sun-Times, a noted sports columnist (particularly for the Chicago Bulls of the 1990s), writing a piece that would implore Dartmouth to do the right think by reversing its decision to cut the teams.
They didn’t anticipate the national media attention that would ensue when the boyfriend of a female swimmer put the team for sale on eBay. They didn’t anticipate “Pardon The Interruption” (PTI) doing a segment on the story or ESPN running the story on the bottom ticker. They didn’t anticipate swimmers from Harvard University and Princeton University and all of the other Ivy League colleges swimming with a “D” on their arms in support of Dartmouth College Swimming & Diving. Apparently you can’t sell a Division I college team on eBay (or anywhere else) but it didn’t matter. The gimmick attracted so much attention that Dartmouth was able to endow the team and reinstate it for the foreseeable future. A $2 million endowment,named the John C. Glover Fund, poured in from Dartmouth students, parents, alumni and friends, and has since supported the swimming and diving programs. The endowment will cover operating expenses for the next 10 years (until 2012) when other funding options are to be identified.
Over nine years later, the teams remain competing. They typically finish last in the Ivy League each and every year with zero wins but this year, the Dartmouth men’s swim team actually recorded a win and the women’s team finished ahead of Cornell University in the final Ivy League standings! It goes to show you what can be accomplished with creativity and whole lot of passion. Brown University students, parents, alumni, and fellow Ivy League students and Ivy League athletic recruits, it’s your turn.