This past week, I met with the Harvard’s men’s basketball team, along with CBS sports basketball analyst Clark Kellogg, to share our experiences as former student-athletes. While these college athletes obviously have exceptional athletic abilities, I was also very impressed with the overall intellectual curiosity of the team, and their desire to pursue opportunities beyond sports.
Ironically, as we celebrate the 150th anniversary of college football, it was “Ivy League” schools that engaged in America’s first college sporting events. Now more than a century later, it is encouraging to see the idea of the “scholar-athlete” still on full display. In fact, Harvard fields 42 varsity teams, which is the most among NCAA Division I schools. Moreover, given that fewer than two percent of student-athletes become professional athletes, for most, the importance of pursuing other careers is very critical.
My biggest impression after meeting with the Harvard team, is that the model combining education and athletics is still an important foundational principle for college sports. The Olympic ideal balancing mind and body is still very relevant at Harvard and our 130 member schools. It is this critical distinction that distinguishes college sports from professional sports.
So kudos to Harvard’s men’s basketball coach, Tommy Amaker, athletics director, Bob Scalise, and the rest of the Harvard athletics department for building such a great program.