Ben Harding still getting his football education at Harvard despite cancellation of season

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Lee's Ben Harding had been looking forward to starting his college and college football career at Harvard this fall.

Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, Harding may get to start classes, but his Division I football career will have to wait.

"We had been talking about it, the coaches were super involved throughout the whole thing. We had a pretty good idea of what was going on, and the way things were leaning," said the former Lee Wildcat multi-sport athlete. "We had already received the fact that only 40 percent of campus was going to be there in the fall. It wasn't too much of a surprise when we officially heard that there was no season.

"But, still to hear it for a fact, was disappointing for all of us, definitely."

The Ivy League made the announcement on July 8, that its fall sports season would not take place.

According to a written statement from the Ivy League's presidents: "With the information available to us today regarding the continued spread of the virus, we simply do not believe we can create and maintain an environment for intercollegiate athletic competition that meets our requirements for safety and acceptable levels of risk, consistent with the policies that each of our schools is adopting as part of its reopening plans this fall."

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Harding, who graduated from Lee High School in 2019 and spent the 2019-20 school year as a post-graduate student at Phillips Exeter in New Hampshire, is one of 32 players Harvard coach Tim Murphy and his staff have recruited to the Ivy League school. The class consists of players from 22 different states. Harding is one of six recruited linebacker candidates and one of four players coming to the Crimson from New England prep schools.

Harvard players would have arrived on campus later this summer to begin preparation for what was supposed to be the Sept. 19 opener at Harvard Stadium against Georgetown.

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"I have been ready" to get started, Harding said, "especially after the year. I'm just so prepared to be out on my own and be part of another team for four years, and find a new home."

Harding said that he and the other members of the linebackers room have been getting familiar with what defensive coordinator Scott Larkee wants to do.

"We actually don't have a whole lot of the playbook," Harding said. "I have been, linebackers have been specifically, been having position meetings twice a week over Zoom. We've been watching film and getting some of the plays, and taking our own notes."

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In a way, the newest Harvard linebacker said this could help he and his teammates when and if they get onto the turf. It's the first time Harvard has used Zoom conferences to spread information about the team, and what they hope to do.

"They've been really valuable," Harding said. "Just to get to know some of the guys, even if it's over a computer screen, hearing the way Coach Larkee coaches and talks to the players. And also the football stuff and the X's and O's — that's great to see as well."

Harvard went 4-6 and 2-5 in the Ivy League. It's the Crimson's first losing season since going 4-6 and 3-4 back in 1998.

Harvard did start 2019 with a 4-1 record, beating Brown, Howard, Cornell and Holy Cross after losing the season opener at San Diego. From there, Harvard lost five straight. Two of those five losses — including a 50-43, double-overtime decision at Yale — were in overtime. All five of those losses were by an average of 5.4 points.

Howard Herman can be reached at hherman@berkshireeagle.com, at @howardherman on Twitter, or 413-496-6253.


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