Encyclopedia Brunoniana

Ivy League

The Ivy League is an athletic conference consisting of Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, the University of Pennsylvania, Princeton, and Yale. It began in November 1945 with a formal statement by the presidents of the eight colleges of their intention to continue intercollegiate football “in such a way as to maintain the value of the game while keeping it in fitting proportion to the main purposes of academic life.” The pact regulated player eligibility, athletic scholarships, and postseason play. News stories about this development included the words “Ivy League,” but neither of these words appeared in the agreement and there was no league as such, as the institutions continued to arrange their own schedules and were not obliged to play each other. The “Ivy” designation was introduced in the 1930s by sportswriters Stanley Woodward and Caswell Adams and others to describe loosely, and not necessarily in a complimentary manner, the athletic teams of the oldest colleges in the East. In February 1935, Associated Press sports editor Alan Gould wrote, “The so-called ‘Ivy League’ which is in the process of formation among a group of the older Eastern universities now seems to have welcomed Brown into the fold and automatically assumed the proportions of a Big Eight’”. The other colleges were those which comprise the present Ivy League. In December 1936 the editors of the student newspapers of seven of the eight colleges printed a joint editorial proposing “an Ivy League in fact, not just the one in the minds of sportswriters.” Brown was the one college which did not print the editorial. However, in the minds of the presidents and athletic directors of the colleges, the differences in the identities of the individual colleges were too great to overcome until the agreement of 1945.

A new agreement adopted in July 1952 called for the creation of a Presidents’ Policy Committee. The “Ivy Group Agreement,” which was only concerned with football, affirmed the group’s common philosophy regarding eligibility and financial aid to athletes, and also decreed that a player’s years of eligibility include any year lost through scholastic or disciplinary failure and excluded students whose secondary school education was subsidized or whose graduate education was to be aided on condition of attending a particular college. The effect of the agreement was felt when Brown was compelled in 1952 to report a violation of the agreement and to declare fourteen football players ineligible, when it became known that they had not reported receiving unofficial donations toward their tuition from a group of alumni. Beginning in the fall of 1953 all the colleges in the Group were required to play each of the others at least once every five years. In February 1954 the Ivy Group announced that beginning in 1956 the eight colleges would set up schedules for yearly games with the other seven. The Group also approved the principle of round-robin play in “as many sports as practicable.” The three basic rules of the League are that student athletes be admitted on the basis of academic and personal potential in addition to athletic ability, receive financial aid only on the basis of need, and be treated no differently than other students. The agreement signed in 1954 stated, “The Group affirm their conviction that under proper conditions, intercollegiate competition in organized athletics offers desirable development and recreation for players and a healthy focus of collegiate loyalty. These conditions require that the players shall be truly representative of the student body and not composed of a group of specially recruited athletes. ... In the total life of the campus emphasis upon intercollegiate competition must be kept in harmony with the essential educational purposes of the institution.”