Weekend Honors Student AthletesBy Ann Ames
The stands of Steinbrenner Stadium were filled Saturday as 1,200 fans cheered MIT to a 43-7 win against Nichols College of Dudley, Mass. in its first formal homecoming football game.
Homecoming, however, went beyond the game to celebrate the theme "Mind and Muscle . . . MIT Salutes Scholar Athletes."
Past recipients of the GTE CoSida Academic All-American award or an NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship returned from all over the world to participate in a halftime ceremony in their honor. With a total of 84 honorees, MIT has received more awards than any other school, said Theresa Joyce, project manager of Alumni/ae Activities. Twenty-three of these distinguished athletes were present at Saturday's festivities.
Homecoming weekend also provided a forum for promoting athletics at MIT, which generally do not receive the recognition they deserve, homecoming organizers said.
It is "good to see how many people have gotten awards. The athletic program here is really underrated," said Stephanie Ragucci '91, recipient of a GTE award in 1991 for her skill on the softball field. She also credited the athletic department's sports information office for its work. "If not for them, we wouldn't have these awards," she continued.
Karen K. Gleason '82, who was awarded an NCAA scholarship in 1982 for swimming, agreed. "Sports are a great part of MIT. The level of participation is much higher here than at other schools, such as Princeton, where they have a highly-ranked football team," she said.
Representatives of the Alumni Office were pleased with the outcome of their months of effort. Although the general alumni response was not as great as had been hoped, Joyce felt that this is a good beginning to what will hopefully become an MIT tradition.
"The purpose of this event was to get people back to campus to see friends they wouldn't see otherwise," said Diana Strange, senior associate director of Alumni Activities.
Indeed, many alumni at the game said they enjoyed themselves and that they would definitely come to future homecomings.
"I'm very excited about this. I definitely think it will become tradition," said Henrik Martin '93, whose fencing prowess earned him a GTE award in 1992. Others also seemed to feel that this will catch on as an important feature on the MIT social calendar in a few years.
Several events also took place in conjunction with homecoming weekend, including Head of the Charles regatta, other sports events, and a virtual reality exposition.
In addition, "A lot of the fraternities have things going on this weekend. They just aren't on campus," Joyce said. "We hope that in the future they will include the homecoming game in their plans."
MIT's first homecoming also raised questions about whether the annual event would bring football too much into the fore of the MIT athletic program.
One alumnus who was involved in athletics while at MIT said he was concerned that forming a tradition around football "relegates other sports to second class."
"When I came to MIT, the athletic department focused on participation and providing a broad base of sports and levels of play," he said. But he said that the emphasis seems to be shifting away from encouraging students from playing sports to watching them.
Sports Information Director Roger Crosley had assured the MIT community when the football team entered the NCAA that "football is no more and no less than any other sport at MIT."
But "the simple fact is, if we're going to have a ceremony like this, we can draw more people to football," Crosley said.
Whether or not football will gain popularity to the detriment of other MIT sports remains to be seen. The athletic department as a whole has gained respect in the past few years according to Ragucci, who feels that there is "more of a blend between athletics and academics."