Harvard announced yesterday that it will cancel the remainder of the men’s soccer season after discovering that the team was producing sexually explicit descriptions of the Harvard women’s soccer recruits.
On Thursday, Harvard’s Office of the General Counsel confirmed many of the allegations reported by The Crimson, which originally published a story on Oct. 25 revealing a “scouting report” written by the 2012 men’s soccer team. The document included internet photographs, paragraph-long descriptions, nicknames and a numerical score for each of the women. According to The Crimson, the authors of the report also assigned a sexual position that best fit each of the recruits alongside their actual positions on the soccer field.
“As a direct result of what Harvard Athletics has learned, we have decided to cancel the remainder of the 2016 men’s soccer season,” Director of Athletics Bob Scalise wrote in an email to Harvard student-athletes obtained by the News. “The team will forfeit its remaining games and will decline any opportunity to achieve an Ivy League championship or to participate in the NCAA Tournament this year.”
A Harvard player sent the report through the team’s email list after an older player demanded that someone issue “a proper scouting report,” according to The Crimson. Several recipients of the document replied to the email, approving of the author’s work.
Other emails indicated that these reports were a yearly tradition for the team, something confirmed by the Office of the General Counsel. Scalise said in his email that the tradition extended beyond 2012 and that the current team issued a similar report, a fact Dean of Harvard College Rakesh Khurana echoed in a statement.
“I was saddened and disappointed to learn that the extremely offensive ‘scouting report’ produced by the 2012 men’s soccer team continued through the current season,” Khurana said in his statement. “It is clear that as individuals, as members of groups and as a community, we need to do more to ensure that relationships on this campus are built on respect and dignity in all contexts.”
Harvard officials also said that the team did not cooperate fully with the investigation. Scalise wrote in his letter that “current students who participated were not immediately forthcoming about their involvement.”
Yale goalkeeper Ryan Simpson ’17 called Harvard’s move a “game changer” for the rest of the Ivy League teams. He added that he saw the incident as a reminder of how important it is for student-athletes to conduct themselves off the field in a way that does not detract from their team’s play on the field.
Teammate and midfielder Lucas Kirby ’19 expressed concerns about the repercussions for student-athletes and the conference.
“The actions of the Harvard men’s soccer team provide insight into a team’s culture that in no way aligns with the ideals of their university, the Ivy League and human decency in general,” Kirby said.
The “scouting report” drew wide condemnation from both the Ivy League and the broader athletics community, particularly after the six women in the Harvard women’s soccer class of 2016 — the recruits the 2012 report discussed — published a response in The Crimson Saturday.
“As women of Harvard Soccer and of the world, we want to take this experience as an opportunity to encourage our fellow women to band together in combatting this type of behavior, because we are a team and we are stronger when we are united,” they wrote. “[T]o the men of Harvard Soccer and any future men who may lay claim to our bodies and choose to objectify us as sexual objects, in the words of one of us, we say together: ‘I can offer you my forgiveness, which is — and forever will be — the only part of me that you can ever claim as yours.’”
Harvard’s decision to cancel the remainder of the season comes during one of the program’s best seasons in recent memory. The Crimson is currently undefeated in conference play, winning four games and tying one, and had only Columbia and Penn remaining on its schedule.
Had the team beaten Columbia this weekend, Harvard would likely have clinched the Ivy League title and, more importantly, a trip to the NCAA Tournament. With the forfeit victory, the Columbia Lions will just have to beat Cornell, the worst team in the Ivy League, to secure their first Ancient Eight crown since 1993.
Several collegiate athletic programs, most notably Baylor’s football team, have recently faced criticism for overlooking sexual misbehavior by their athletes in the pursuit of victory. Harvard’s cancellation of the season stands in sharp contrast to some other universities, which have prioritized winning over integrity.
“The decision to cancel a season is serious and consequential, and reflects Harvard’s view that both the team’s behavior and the failure to be forthcoming when initially questioned are completely unacceptable, have no place at Harvard and run counter to the mutual respect that is a core value of our community,” Harvard University President Drew Faust said in a statement.
Harvard soccer tied Yale 3–3 in its match in Cambridge on Oct. 1.