Monday, October 22, 2007

Head of the Charles Regatta

The annual running of the Head of the Charles Regatta happened this past weekend with 8000 rowers racing a 3 mile course on the Charles River. My long-time doubles partner, Cindy Matthes, and I raced in the Master's Women's 2x, placing a respectable 5th place. Cindy and I were doubles partners in the Olympic Games back in 1992 and the days of setting course records and winning gold medals are long past - - but we have continued to row together, three times a week, our lycra sagging and our efforts not so pretty.

That being said, during the last part of the race, we passed Cambridge Boat Club coming into Eliot Bridge, hearing a deafening huge groundswell of cheers - - and my new favorite high school team, St. Ursula's from Ohio, they all hung over Eliot Bridge screaming my name and urging us to crank up the volume.

After my race, heartrate still full on, they put me behind the mike, announcing the remainder of the races for the day - heckling them was more like it. As my friend, Eddie Hewitt, the consigliere of row2k said, "at least you didn't go over the line too much."

To top the weekend, which was unusually sunny and calm, I was en route to the gym today for an executive workout (that would be a jacuzzi and a shower) - and was stopped by several people who remarked that we had received an extraordinary amount of coverage. When I opened The Boston Globe, there we were, in our full glory. But it was not because of our speed.

It was because Cindy and I teamed up with the irrepressible David Fialkow (a wild man venture capitalist) and the exuberant Wyc Grousbeck (owner of the Celtics and former Princeton rowing champion) in the 4x race, with Wyc and David having raised nearly $250,000 for the Perkins School for the Blind. David, a complete novice, had rowed only 2 months prior to the race - and Wyc, a strong athlete in his own right, had not rowed a race in 25 years. They set about raising money by challenging their friends to sponsor their training miles, joining us for workouts, without, remarkably, a single whine, whimper, or complaint.

Anyone wishing to donate funds to the Perkins School for Wyc and David's efforts can send checks payable to the Perkins School to Wyc Grousbeck, Owner- Boston Celtics Management, 226 Causeway Street, 4th Floor, Boston, MA 02114.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Rutgers in the News Again - Its Controversial Decision to axe six Olympic sports - and a new book by a long time critic.

The controversial decision by Rutgers athletic director, Robert Mulcahy, to cut six teams in order to trim the athletic budget by approximately $2 million dollars, continues to reverberate throughout the Rutgers community. Rutgers, in the wake of a projected $80 million dollar deficit, asked all departments, university-wide, to closely examine their budgets this past year.

Robert Mulcahy, stating that Title IX required him to cut mostly men's sports, made the decision to phase out men's heavyweight crew, lightweight crew, fencing, swimming and diving, tennis, and women's fencing - - all Olympic sports, and sports which developed Rutgers athletes in Olympians and national team members. According to the Wall Street Journal, Rutgers has produced 19 Olympic rowers alone.

Although Mulcahy claimed that Title IX required him to cut the men's teams, he simultaneously increased the budget for men's football, with a pay raise to the men's football coach, Greg Schiano, of $1.5 million dollars. ""Football is a separate issue -- I look at it differently from the rest of the sports. It raises far more money, and ultimately the success of football can carry the rest of our programs," Mulcahy said, according to the Wall Street Journal.

However, Rutgers Football does not make money - and according to the NCAA, 80% of all football programs nationwide lose money. A blogger just sent me an email that the Rutgers stadium required $80 million in funding - and that the men's tennis scholarship budget was a mere $29,500. Although I can understand a desire to restore a football team to prominence, feeding steak to 150 guys on the football team is excessive when other parts of the university are hemorrhaging, and other athletes and programs are sacrificed in the process.

Rutgers Football is doing well, however. And with that success, comes challenges. After defeating Navy last month, Rutgers football fans shouted profanities and "you suck" to Navy - which in my mind, constitutes the usual heckling at the end of a football game, especially with Jersey fans having imbibed one too many. Rutgers President, Richard McCormick, however, sent a letter of apology to Jeffrey Fowler, the Naval Academy's Vice Admiral, clearly embarrassed that Rutgers fans would harrass athletes headed off to Iraq.

The money spent on football and basketball has made William Dowling, a tenured English professor at Rutgers, irate. Dowling, a long-time critic of Rutgers athletics and its push into big time football and basketball, just penned a diatribe, "Confessions of a Spoilsport" which chronicles his 10 year effort to fight against the expansion of Division I sports at Rutgers which has, he claims, degraded the caliber of students and community at Rutgers. The New York Times last week published an interview with Dowling, in which Dowling says "We tried to take on the monster of commercialized sports, even if it swallowed us up and passed us out the other end. Someone should know that we fought the good fight." However, Dowling's response to a question as to whether Rutgers athletics provided minority students with greater opportunities, has created more controversy. "If you were giving the scholarship to an intellectually brilliant kid who happens to play a sport, that’s fine,” Dowling said. “But they give it to a functional illiterate who can’t read a cereal box, and then make him spend 50 hours a week on physical skills. That’s not opportunity. If you want to give financial help to minorities, go find the ones who are at the library after school.”

Robert Mulcahy immediate decried Dowling's remark as racist, as did University President Richard McCormick. Dowling later said, according to ESPN, "none of these kids would have been able to get into Rutgers if they hadn't been able to throw something or kick something or slam dunk something." However, Rutgers officials claim that the 2.7 grade point average of the football team is on par with the rest of the university.

Clearly, Dowling's remark was was not well thought out... and was inflammatory in many respects. However, Rutgers would do well to remember that its fundamental responsibility is to create opportunities for all of its students to become leaders and productive citizens... and not to produce NFL players or NBA players or Olympic athletes, for that matter.

And that a 2.7 grade point average is cause for concern and might warrant the addition of a few more tutors rather than another increase in the compensation for Coach Schiano or his staff.