Looking in from the outside

Sunday July 22, 2012

This week in college athletics, Pitt and Syracuse paid their ransom to the Big East and will join the ACC next year. It saved the two schools from protracted legal battles with the Big East.

From his perch as the athletic director at Division I Dartmouth, Harry Sheehy can only sit and shake his head.

"Those guys are doing the job they were all hired to do," he said. "Those folks are revenue driven, and they need to be positioned as well as they can. It would be a dereliction of duty for an athletic director or a president at those levels [who] didn’t try to work out all of those machinations to their best advantage.

"I’m thankful to not be a part of it, quite honestly."

Sheehy, who spent 10 years as the athletic director at Williams College and another 17 as the head men’s basketball coach, will begin his third season as the A.D. for the Ivy League school this fall.

Dartmouth is as much of a Division I program as Pitt or Syracuse, as the Ivy League schools can play for NCAA Division I titles. One thing Sheehy won’t have to worry about is Dartmouth jumping to the Atlantic 10, or Harvard moving into the Patriot League.

"There was one day when all this malarkey with folks jumping around league, and I pulled in behind the gym," Sheehy said. "It had just struck me as I was listening to it on ESPN Radio driving in, and how little we really have to worry about that."

Sheehy and his staff do, however, have things to worry about. Teams in the Ivy League need to at worst, be competitive with their cousins around Division I.

"There are some sports ... that are competitive at a national level. Ice hockey, lacrosse, some of those sports where we actually can have an impact in the NCAA Tournament and as a point of fact, some of the clubs in our league have won a national championship in some of those sports," Sheehy said. "Whenever the NCAA rachets up the activities around a specific sport ... if they rachet up out of season recruiting or things like that, then we have the moral dilemma of we’ve been successful in this landscape in the past and we’d sure like to remain successful. If that’s the case, are we going to do the other things the NCAA is doing?"

Unless the move makes sense for a student-athlete at Dartmouth, Sheehy said that his school -- and the other Ivies -- wouldn’t accelerate the so-called arms race.

"More often than not, the answer for us is no," he said. "Philosophically, many of us in the league would prefer to, at that cost, to possibly even lose a little bit of stature unless the move makes sense."

Part of the problem, when it comes to conference shifting and building up programs, is that it is difficult for schools to come in and think about disarming while trying to compete.

"Nobody ever comes to the table and says ‘I want less,’ " said Sheehy. "Nobody ever comes to the table and says I want to recruit less or spend less, I want to play fewer games. You don’t just get those requests. It takes extreme common sense and courage to actually do a little less when it’s appropriate."

Common sense and courage -- sentiment you don’t often hear when it comes to college athletics.

If there were more of it, maybe most of the controversies we have in college sports wouldn’t happen. Or, is that just a dream?

To reach Howard Herman:
(413) 496-6253.
On Twitter: @howardherman


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