On Sept. 16, 2017, the Yale football team lined up against Lehigh. Within minutes, Yale was up 14. At the end of the hour of play, the Elis had trounced the Mountain Hawks, 56–28. That year, Yale was a single point in a single game away from a perfect record. Lehigh would go on to have a losing record of 5–6. Yale also played in a tougher conference, according to the Massey Ratings. Yale finished the season ranked 24th; 24 teams participate in the playoffs. In November, one of these two teams competed for a national championship: that team, however, was Lehigh.
As good as Yale was, the Ivies are ineligible for the Football Championship Series Playoffs. This begs the question, why? Why is the Ivy the only league in Division I football that does not allow its teams to compete for a national championship?
Maybe 2017 was a mere fluke. Maybe, in years past, the Ivy and its teams have been so mediocre that it didn’t bother tossing its best team into a playoff — much like how the league demoted itself from the Football Bowl Subdivision to the FCS.
Yet, this is not the case. Two years ago, Harvard and Dartmouth were both nationally ranked. This year, Princeton is ranked No. 23 in the Coaches Poll. Moreover, the Ivies seem to be growing in strength. This year, the Tigers had the highest-touted recruiting class in the FCS. We ranked second, Harvard sixth, Columbia 14th and Penn 22nd. The Ancient Eight is currently rated as the third best conference in the country. Two players were drafted into the NFL this past year — one of whom, our own Foye Oluokun ’18, has played in every game for the Atlanta Falcons. And, when one thinks about the fact that the Ivies are able to recruit like this in spite of not participating in a playoff, the league’s strength becomes all the more remarkable.
To put it all in perspective, Ivy League teams have repeatedly been ranked high enough to qualify for the playoffs in recent seasons; six teams have nationally-touted recruiting classes; the league has produced NFL players, and yet the Ivies are ineligible for the national championship.
The conference’s excuse for this is that the schedule would impinge on academics if it extended into December — that is, the postseason would coincide with finals.
This sounds nice, but I don’t believe it.
Let’s first look at our baseball team. The Yale baseball team played 52 games in 2017. They play over entire weekends, leaving on Friday and returning late Sunday. A baseball game has no time limit, and they play doubleheaders; on the weekend of April 14, the Bulldogs played nine hours and 42 minutes of baseball. The football team, however, has games that have a dwindling clock, once a weekend and only 10 times a year.
Additionally, the baseball team’s season extended into June — which is to say, a month after finals. This year, half the guys on the men’s lacrosse team took their May finals in hotels. The other half took them this September.
So I’m not buying the academics argument.
I honestly have no idea what the logic is behind the Ivy Leagues’ decision. The cynic in me has run through the possible options. Money? Can’t possibly be, we’d make more if we played. Publicity? That can’t be the case either; we have absolutely milked everything out of the lacrosse championship. Do the players or coaches not want it? Not according to their quotes.
In 2015, Penn, Harvard and Dartmouth shared a slender sliver of the Ivy title. The lack of playoffs means that an outright victor is not guaranteed. Maybe we should be advocating for an Ivy playoff, rather than participation in the FCS’s playoff bracket. In such a case, the season would remain shorter — as only a few teams would qualify, and therefore only a few games would be played. We would avoid the exams conundrum and would have the action and certain glory of an undisputed champion.
Kevin Bendesky | email@example.com