Through the Lens of Lentz

by Dan Lentz | 10/3/11 10:00pm

Imagine that you know you have to take a really tough class this Fall, one of these courses that will take five hours of work per class. More than that, this course is so important that it will define your year. Whether you are applying for a job, med school, law school, non-profit organization, whatever, this is important.

Naturally, being the hard-working student you are, you decide to get some work done before the year to prepare. You get to the class and because of all that hard work, you feel like you can take it. But get this: The professor decides that he is going to give you the test (yes, THE test, the only one of the semester) in the third week of class. This will be the only one that matters all year, the only one that decides your grade.

In other words, you are expected to be in mid- to end-of-the-year form by the third week of class. Kind of ridiculous, right?

Why am I talking about academics? Well, in case my over-the-top metaphor is not clear to you yet, let me ask one more thing. Did you know that the football team just played its third game of the season?

Because Ivy League football does not have a postseason, the all-around champion is decided by regular-season record alone. And, unless you live under a rock, you know that Dartmouth's football team just began its League season with a heartbreaking loss to last year's Ivy League champions, the University of Pennslyania, in the College's first-ever night game on Saturday.

Now before I get into my discourse, which actually involves sports for once, let me clarify something important. I am in no way saying that the football team has now failed because it lost to Penn. It can definitely still win the League, and it can still have a great season even if it does not. But remember that the Big Green took Penn to overtime last season and that the Quakers went undefeated in League play the rest of the season. You see my point.

Everyone who attended that game on Saturday night knows how close Dartmouth was to winning. (An aside for a moment that night game was awesome. Despite the freezing rain, the stadium was still packed. Why can we not do this more often? It helps the football team, builds a school community and adds another thing to do "in deserto." Make it happen, JYK.)

Well such is sports, right? I guess many people's rationale is that the scoreboard at the end of each individual game tells the story, so the Big Green doesn't need some climactic end-of-seaon playoff in which it can prove all it has learned and accomplished over the course of a grueling preseason and regular season. Yeah, yeah, I know it's sour grapes. Penn and the rest of the League abide by the same exact system. But that doesn't mean the system is right. Ask the 2007 New York Giants. Or if you're from New England, the 2004 Red Sox (which was a wild card team that year). Without a playoff system, neither of those teams would have had a chance at championship glory.

It is incomprehensible to have an entire season during which these athletes work so hard, and then not let them play in a playoff system. Even a championship game, where the top two teams from the League would play each other for the title, would help. You could charge admission for the game, use some proceeds to cover costs and give the rest to charity.

The rationale for keeping the status quo is always that the League must maintain students' academic integrity. Want to ask each student-athlete (who puts countless hours of work into football and still manages to excel in Ivy League courses for 10 regular-season weeks) whether they'd be willing to go one more week for a shot at the title?

Better yet, if for monetary and academic reasons the League teams still want to keep the season the way it is, cut out a conference game and keep week 10 TBA. That way each team can play for a championship or a consolation position during the last the week of the season. You cannot tell me that bumping Yale vs. Harvard to week nine would sully long-standing tradition. If the Big Ten can do it with Ohio State vs. the University of Michigan, the Ivy League can do it, too.

Other college football conferences have a championship game. In fact, the rest of Division I-AA which the League is a part of plays through a long multi-round playoff system. Most other sports at this school participate in some type of playoff as well.

So why not football? Why must an important title potentially be left to the third week of the season? Why must the final be taken in the third week of the term? Don't ask me. I have no clue.

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