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COLUMN

JV Sports: Some Better Than None

Guest Column Stanley Hu

In an open forum last Monday, members of the Athletics Department asked what priorities they should set for the future. The only problem? They’ve already ruled out the most important items -- bringing back junior varsity (JV) teams and expanding team sizes.

JV teams play an essential part in athletics at MIT. They give many students a chance to participate on a team in ways that no intramural or club sport can provide. They offer structure, focus, and a high level of competition, which brings out the best in athletes. For some, JV teams serve as a stepping-stone to their varsity counterparts. Just ask Ed Keehr ’01, who ran on the men’s JV cross-country team his freshman year. He took to the roads the following summer, running over 100 miles per week. By the next year, he emerged as one of the top runners on the team. “If I had not been allowed to compete as a JV athlete my freshman year, I probably would not have fulfilled my goal of becoming a varsity runner,” Keehr said.

We’ve heard why these cuts were necessary and how carefully they were made. For example, more athletes increase the costs of transportation, uniforms, meals, equipment, -- even laundry. Or field space gets tight, and coaches and trainers feel overburdened by the numbers. Yet, despite all the talk of increased costs, the Athletics Department concedes that it saved only a little money by cutting people. “The number that we saved on the JV sports was not a number that would astound anyone,” said John Benedick, Assistant Director of Athletics. Why, then, isn’t anyone in the Athletics Department even considering bringing back JV teams and expanding team sizes?

Part of the problem is that some members of the administration feel that it does a service by keeping teams small. They argue that smaller teams help coaches and athletes in the same way reduced class sizes give students more attention from teachers. But whatever happened to letting coaches, not administrators, decide how many athletes they can manage effectively? After all, coaches know what’s best for their teams. The administration should focus on figuring out what it will take to bring back JV teams and expand squad sizes.

If money is the crux of the issue, then we should figure out a way to raise it. Many students would probably be willing to contribute. Allow teams to pay for things like transportation if they wish. Let teams travel with additional members to competitions if there is extra room, rather than enforcing fixed limits. Cut unnecessary services if necessary, such as providing practice grays.

For now, the administration should also loosen its hard-line stance against having all or no JV teams. Some sports are inherently more expensive than others. But that doesn’t mean every team should be cut. The administration should look at which JV teams can be supported on a meager budget, and let those teams return next year. The difficulty with that scenario is that in order to be fair to everyone, we can’t have some JV teams and not others. It’s far worse, though, to take away so many opportunities from the underclassmen who are hurt most by the cuts. Having some JV teams is better than having none.

Instead, the administration proudly talks about how wonderful the new Athletics Center will be and how athletic cards will no longer be necessary. All this is good news, but sports ultimately come down to who and how many people can play. The first step is to give priority to getting back JV teams and expanding team sizes, and then something can be done.

Stanley Hu is a member of the Class of 2000.