Tuesday, the Wall Street Journal asked its readers to ponder just “What Makes Cornell So Good?” Superior dining hall food, a kickass frat scene, a wine-tasting academic class, a great location in New York (no, that’s the other C Ivy) all seem like appropriate responses. Oh, and Slope Day. Slope Day is Good.
As the WSJ article astutely points out, though, everyone knows that the best thing about Cornell is the weather (JUST KIDDING AGAIN ITHACA SUCKS) its wrestling team.
Well, no, the WSJ actually doesn’t say that. In fact, the article is not concerned with the Good things of Cornell at all. Its title deceptively employs the umbrella term “Cornell” to lure readers who would prefer to remain ignorant of Ivy League athletics into a story on the wrestling team, which apparently is really, really good. The Big Red has taken second place in the NCAA Division I wrestling championships for the past two years in a row, a success unrivaled by the programs of peer institutions. The real question, then, is not one that can be answered with an A in Sauvignon Blanc or a bid to Kappa. Rather, it is the following: An Ivy League school is actually good at a sport. (??).
According to the article, Cornell coaches attribute athletic success to bomb.com alumni contributors (Goldman Sachs Chairman Stephen Friedman, for one) and innovative recruiting strategies:
The school sells recruits on the idea that while they might not get the free education offered by programs with athletic scholarships, their future earnings potential makes it a financial winner. With an active alumni network, wrestlers can expect a range of summer internship options in business, medicine and on Wall Street.
Therein lies their success, and other Ivy League schools that would like to play ball with the big boys should take a Big Red leaf out of Cornell’s book. It’s simple. The reasons behind the inferior athletics of schools like Harvard, Princeton, and Yale are their inability to sell themselves to potential recruits as competitive academic institutions and their lack of rich alumni. Sure, Harvard had the Facebook guy and Benjamin Franklin, but nerds don’t like sports and the Ben Franklin thing was a cheap shot “honorary degree.” Yale had George Bush, who once attempted to donate to the Yale athletic program but, due to an uncharacteristic mispronunciation, instead conceded the reality of global warming and led the United States into the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.
And for Princeton, no one really comes to mind. The Tigers did make it to some national basketball tournament, though? It was pretty under the radar, and they lost in the first round. Well, at least someone’s winning. (Hint: He did not attend Princeton, but he does have #Tigerblood.)