It is one of the biggest weekends in several years for Yale athletics. In a two-day stretch, the men’s basketball team will be playing for its first Ivy League title in 38 years, and men’s hockey will face off at Harvard and Brown, hoping to earn home-ice advantage for the first round of the ECAC playoffs. A hockey victory over the Cantabs would also give Yale its first season sweep over the Crimson in football, men’s basketball and men’s hockey since 1939-40.
Students often feel that Yale has a second-rate athletics program, fielding teams that do not compete at an elite level. Apathetic fans point to a lack of competitiveness in big-time sports like basketball.
But this weekend, these finger-pointers may be proven wrong. The men’s hoops team finds itself in the thick of March Madness with games against traditional Ivy League powers Princeton and Pennsylvania.
Should the Elis win their final three matchups — the aforementioned home doubleheader and a contest at Brown next Wednesday — Yale will clinch a share of the Ivy League title.
The conference winner also receives an automatic bid to the NCAA national tournament. That Yale still grasps realistic hopes of heading to the Big Dance is testament to an athletic program that has lived up to its potential to play with the best.
In the hunt for an Ancient Eight championship, the men’s hockey team is in the midst of an up-and-down season. A late-winter rally has left the Bulldogs in position to win the Ivy League, which would give the senior class its third title in four seasons. Before the arrival of this class in 1997, the men’s hockey program had only won two league crowns. It has been a remarkable ride for the class of ’01, freshmen during Yale’s first ECAC championship campaign.
Unlike the hockey team, men’s basketball will play their season-ending, nail-biting games in New Haven. Raucous crowds give the home squad an obvious advantage during critical moments of the games and can be the difference between victory and heart-breaking defeat.
The stands at the John J. Lee Amphitheater have been sparsely filled during most of the season; now is the time for Yale students to show their pride, thrilled to see their team only three wins away from ESPN and glory.
It is the University’s 300th year and what better way for the Bulldogs to celebrate than to catapult Yale onto the national stage with athletic success. After all, it is Yale’s turn-of-the-century involvement in sports such as crew and football that has given the NCAA some of its most heralded traditions.
Harvard and Princeton took the spotlight away from Yale during its tercentennial year with their bold financial aid announcements. With national successes, our athletic teams might just take it back.