In 1954, the presidents of eight schools entered into an agreement to improve and foster intercollegiate athletics while keeping the emphasis on such competition in harmony with the educational purposes of the institutions. Three years later, the conference they created held its first athletic events.
Today, that conference sponsors 33 men's and women's championships. The member schools average 35 varsity teams each -- more intercollegiate athletic opportunities for both men and women than any other conference. The eight are all among the top 20 NCAA Division I schools in a number of sports offered for men and women.
In addition, they offer an extensive intramural and recreational athletics.
The schools adhere to rigorous academic standards. They enjoy the highest four-year graduation rate for athletes of any conference in the nation. The graduation rate for athletes is the same as for non-athletes.
For each sport, they have established a set period of weeks during the academic year when intercollegiate athletes will have no required activities and during which no coaching supervision of voluntary conditioning activities will occur. Competition is also prohibited during examination periods.
There are no athletic scholarships. Individuals, including athletes, are admitted on the basis of their achievements and potential as students and on the basis of their personal accomplishments. All students, including athletes, receive financial aid only on the basis of need. They actively recruit individuals who excel as students and as athletes. No students is required to engage in athletic competition as a condition of receiving financial aid.
The most diverse intercollegiate competition in the country is also among the best. Conference teams and athletes in a variety of sports regularly compete for national championships and honors.
Alas, this particular eight is not the Big Eight, and it does not include the Jayhawks. No "Harvard on the Kaw" in the Ivy League. Now, which would be a better way to spend our time, energy and money:
1) Continuing a futile effort to match the athletic powerhouses of the Big 12? Or,
2) Seeking seven like-minded institutions in order to form a league of our one, one in which athletic competition is kept in harmony with the educational purposes of the institutions?
Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, Pennsylvania, Princeton and Yale. Wouldn't that be nice company for the sons and daughters of Kansas to keep? And a vibrant athletic program to boot.
Jerry Harper is an attorney and Lawrence resident.