Oddly enough, when most people hear “Yale,” they don’t immediately think “sports.” Distracted by a variety of Yale’s other prominent features (world class faculty, unparalleled tradition and, of course, GHeav) most casual observers overlook one of the world-class components of this world-class institution: athletics.
World-class athletics at Yale, you ask? Certainly when it comes to traditional Yale powers like crew, squash and sailing. But overall?
Absolutely. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that Yale is as much a hotbed for top-notch sports as Saturday night Toad’s is for hygiene-related disease.
Crazy, right? No WAY Yale’s athletic scene can compare to Toad’s infection-breeding one. But consider this: Yale has one of the largest Division I athletic programs in the country with 35 teams. Yale is home to the nation’s top collegiate golf course (as voted by golfdigest.com), the nation’s best designed hockey rink (as named by the Wall Street Journal), a professional tennis tournament, a football stadium that used to host the New York Giants, a baseball field that used to house its own minor league team, the nation’s top squash facility, and the best, most enduring scaffolding anywhere in the world, as featured on Payne Whitney Gym.
Still don’t believe me? Yale produces stars in the big sports, too. Did you know that Yale has two former baseball players in the Major Leagues as we speak? Or that four former Bulldogs earned spots on NFL Training Camp rosters this season? Did you know that former Yale hockey player Sean Backman ‘10 just signed with the NHL’s New York Islanders, or that current Bulldog Kenny Agostino ’14 led all scorers at the 2011 USA Hockey National Evaluation Camp this summer? What about the fact that Greg Mangano ’12 represented the United States as a member of the World University Games team in China this summer, and was entered in the NBA Draft at one point last season before removing his name from consideration to play his senior season? Even our athletic director, Tom Beckett, was a baseball player in the San Francisco Giants system.
Nothing? Alright, let’s look at last year. Ivy League Championships in men’s hockey, men’s squash, men’s golf, women’s golf, women’s squash, women’s tennis and volleyball. Ivy League Player of the Years in baseball (Trey Rallis ’11) and women’s golf (Seo Hee Moon ’14). Ivy League Rookie of the Years in men’s golf (Sam Bernstein ’14), women’s golf (Moon), volleyball (Kendall Polan ’14), field hockey (Georgia Holland ’14) and women’s squash (Millie Tomlinson ’14).
That’s not even to mention Yale’s highly-competitive club sports scene, which includes teams such as club basketball, C1 and C2 club soccer, (Y)ale (W)omen’s (C)lub (S)occer, and a national champion club volleyball squad to name a few.
PLUS, thanks to the Tyng Cup and a Yale tour guide’s pride and joy – the residential college system – Yale features one of the best intramural scenes anywhere. At what other sporting venue can you hear cheers like “J.E. SUX” or find teams called the “PIMPs”? Add that to that pinnacle of athletic competition that is “Choops,” and you have the best intra-college competition this side of the Hogwarts’ Quidditch pitch.
So while our faculty may just be the greatest assembly of academic minds anywhere, our location — one of the finest southern Connecticut has to offer — and our Flower Lady — the most dogged authorized vendor anywhere — athletics may just be one of the finest assets Yale has to offer. So next time you accidentally let slip that you happen to attend Yale University, remember, you’re not just bragging that you go to one of the best academic schools in the country. You’re representing what is one of the nation’s most active collegiate sports scenes and — if Yalies’ ability to navigate the endless perils of Toad’s with heroic agility is any indication — one of America’s most athletic as well.
Chelsea Janes is a senior in Pierson College.