Rarely are students embarrassed to say they go to Yale. But last week, after a disastrous loss in The Game, thousands of blue-clad fans poured from the Bowl with their heads hung low.
The problem was not losing to the Crimson. Harvard went undefeated in the Ivy League and a close Yale loss would have surprised no one. The real problem — and one that administrators must prevent in the future — was that the team, the Athletic Department and the University as a whole appeared completely unprepared.
As nearly 60,000 pairs of eyes scrutinized Yale, it became clear that changes will be necessary to maintain the Athletic Department’s credibility. The day’s shortcomings — inept coaching, a confused parking system, broken PA speakers, a halftime presentation in poor taste — left fans wondering what the University had been doing for the last 24 months to prepare for Harvard’s visit. All the problems that easily could have been fixed beforehand were not.
It all begins with Jack Siedlecki, the head coach. Although the Elis went 17-3 over the past two seasons, those wins came despite a lack of creativity that has plagued Siedlecki for years. Last Saturday’s loss marked the sixth time in seven seasons that Tim Murphy, Siedlecki’s Harvard counterpart, defeated him. That’s a pattern of failure.
The problems on the field were only compounded by those surrounding it. Although the tailgate was a huge success for students, thousands of frustrated alumni waited for hours to file into a single parking entrance in spite of the plethora of other entrance options that were apparently unexplored by those who planned The Game. The chaos was both predictable and preventable: similar parking issues two years ago, coupled with construction near the fields, should have been considered beforehand.
Inside the Bowl, the alums were met by the screeching din of an unintelligible PA system. The sound system has been awful for years, and the Athletic Department should have upgraded it for its biggest contest in decades.
The last straw came when the University paraded a group of major donors onto the field at halftime (their announced introductions, of course, were impossible to understand), thus cutting short the YPMB’s traditional performance and angering the fans already filing out of the stadium.
No one expects a string of undefeated seasons or annual routs of Harvard. The Game’s success is measured in terms of how enjoyable it is for the fans and how it reflects on the University as a whole, win or loss. This year, after a series of significant administrative mistakes soured an already difficult day of football, Yale found itself with egg on its face.
The University, in short, must increase accountability within the Athletic Department. Planning for The Game should become more transparent, with a committee including student liaisons. Yale should actively solicit and incorporate feedback in its preparation for 2009. Most importantly, the administration should promote dialogue to ensure that alumni and students can leave The Game each year, regardless of outcome, proud to be wearing blue and white.