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Date Posted: 13:08:10 03/14/17 Tue
It's either a healthy increase in institutional commitment to excellence in a new field; or it's stretching or breaking outright Ivy principles regarding academic standards in athletics; or it's something in between.
In all the discussion about Harvard basketball on this message board, we have not yet covered a very interesting angle. Why did Bob Scalise decide to fire Frank Sullivan in 2007 and completely remake Harvard's century-old relationship with varsity basketball?
I had always assumed that Scalise was simply waiting for Lawrence Summers to retire or get promoted to Treasury Secretary or world dictator, because Scalise knew that Summers would never support what he wanted to do in basketball. When Summers resigned in 2006, Scalise seized the moment, gambling that Drew Gilpin Faust would not care and/or have the personal capital to stop him.
Memphis Bill advances a completely different take. Maybe Harvard had an institutional change of heart driven by growing concern over Stanford's amazing ascent in American higher education.
This is an interesting question because, in this regard, Harvard's "problem with Stanford" is to an extent a problem for all of us. Stanford has reshuffled a pecking order which had been stable for centuries.
To me, there is little question that within, say, two or three decades, Stanford will be the brightest name in higher education, if it is not already. Harvard can read that writing on the wall as well as we can. Further, within the past decade or so, there is not a single undergraduate ranking which ranks Harvard above Princeton. That can't feel good in Massachusetts Hall.
Was the new commitment to basketball an institution decision made at a level above Scalise? It's hard to believe that Faust would have initiated this within months of moving the president's office, but perhaps she signed off on Scalise's plan with this in mind.
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