Above: Bartles Hall, Credit: Wikimedia Commons
The recent poor performances of several Cornell athletics programs have elicited concern amongst many that Cornell sports are on a downward slide. This problem is not a product of coaching staff or athletes but it is rather the outcome of the poor state of Cornell’s athletic facilities, coupled with the apathy of many Cornell faculty and students towards the athletic program.
Cornell University’s facilities are among the poorest in the Ivy League. Robison Alumni Fields use natural turf (grass), making them unsuitable for men’s or women’s lacrosse. They are completely unusable during bad weather conditions. This predicament has created the situation where these teams train in the early mornings or late nights, and have limited time for individual reps or position work. Alarmingly, the Cornell Master Plan suggests the idea to remove Robison Alumni Fields completely and replace them with an “alumni quad”, something which is completely against the intended purposes of the alumni who funded the levelling of these fields to provide a space for teams to practice and play in perpetuity.
The lack of practice space, with so many teams competing for use of Schoellkopf field, has also affected the Cornell Football team. I observed during a Football practice kickers and punters being unable to hone their craft due to the lack of space. In comparison, Princeton has two practice fields (Finney and Campbell Fields) in addition to their game-day facility.
Schoellkopf Field, our stadium, lost its West stands due to disrepair. This creates a bizarre and unappealing appearance for recruits and visitors, with a large patch of unusable blacktop in front of a large parking garage. While we continue to have one of the most historic and iconic stadiums in America, the blank space spoils the appearance of one of Cornell’s landmarks. This is a problem which must be rectified immediately.
More importantly, the Cornell community has not rallied to support its athletics program. Recently, I brought up Rob Pannell ’13 (a Cornell lacrosse legend, and arguably one of the greatest lacrosse players of his generation) to another student. To my shock, he was unable to even recognise the name. Another example is more personal. I was asked to explain my absence from a club meeting due to my participation in a athletic competition. When I did so, the faculty member whom I was speaking with ludicrously suggested that I could have prioritised this meeting over my game. This is not a reflection of the ignorance of this particular Cornell faculty member, or of the student, but rather of the apathy that many Cornellians hold towards the athletics program.
I admire and applaud every member of the Cornell athletics community for continuing to achieve excellence despite the challenges it faces, but it cannot continue to sustain this excellence without major investments in facilities. The Cornell community as a whole must become engaged in improving the athletics program, should it wish to continue enjoying the benefits and recognition of Ivy League membership.