VARSITY TEAMS: 38 INTRAMURAL SPORTS: 38 FAMOUS ALUMNI: BILL
BRADLEY, DICK KAZMEIER, GEOFF PETRIE
EXTRA CREDIT FOR: SUCCEEDING WITHOUT ATHLETIC SCHOLARSHIPS
Sitting in a 240-year-old building, in the shadow of an almost
century-old painting, Princeton president Harold Shapiro has
just heard some intriguing news. His institution, the one with
the $30,000-a-year price tag and no athletic scholarships, has
been named the 10th-best jock school in the country.
Come again? At Princeton, which guards its academic reputation
like a birthright, this is cause for...what? Pride? Angst?
Certainly the man in the painting, former school president
Woodrow Wilson, isn't smiling. And for a second, you wonder if
the building--Nassau Hall, which once withstood shelling by the
British--might come crashing down around him.
Thankfully it doesn't. "I'm surprised since that isn't what
jumps to people's minds when they think of Princeton," says
Shapiro. "But we've always believed that sports are an important
part of the program here, so I'm glad." His teams are worth the
price of admission. Last year the Tigers won three national
championships (in men's lacrosse, men's heavyweight crew and
men's lightweight crew), and those didn't include the second
straight national title won by the women's rugby club, which has
a 59-match winning streak. Meanwhile, the softball team won 37
games in a row last season en route to its second straight
College World Series appearance, and the men's basketball team,
wielder of the sport's most famous slingshot, has been to the
NCAA tournament six times in the last nine years.
Princeton dominated the Ivy League in 1995-96 like no school
before, winning 11 conference titles. This year four Tigers
teams have already won Ivy championships, including the field
hockey team, which made a surprise run to the NCAA title game.
Certain to add to the list of conference championships is the
undefeated men's lacrosse squad, which has been ranked No. 1 in
the nation all season and is favored to win its fourth NCAA
title in six years.
Behind the success is athletic director Gary Walters, a former
Tigers basketball player who appeared on a 1967 SI cover under
the slightly overheated headline princeton builds a basketball
dynasty. Since taking over in 1994, Walters, one of the few ADs
who can get away with using the terms agonistes and bete noir in
consecutive sentences, has raised not just the number of varsity
teams (there will be 38 next year, second in the country only to
Harvard's 41), but also shiny new facilities. The building boom
has included a $3.5 million stadium for lacrosse and field
hockey and a $2.5 million renovation of the school's 10 varsity
squash courts. In the coming year workmen will erect a $9
million women's locker room and the crown jewel, a $45 million
replacement for Palmer Stadium, which until its recent
demolition was the nation's second-oldest football stadium.
It all amounts to a big sports commitment by a small school, and
not just to its varsity athletes. For the first time last year,
more than a thousand participants competed in Princeton's 34
club sports, which include cricket and ballroom dancing.
Students with a jones for nature can go indoors (on the 26-foot
climbing wall) or outdoors (on hiking and canoeing excursions
throughout the Northeast). As for more traditional athletic
pursuits, Princeton's intramurals attract more than 600 teams.
The country's oldest intramural event, an 18-sport
freshmen-versus-sophomores fest called Cane Spree, has kicked
off every school year since 1869.
Princeton's most notorious athletic tradition is maintained at
midnight after the season's first snowfall, when as many as four
hundred sophomores run au naturel around the Holder Hall
courtyard in a coed frolic known as the Nude Olympics. In recent
years, so many spectators (and tabloid camera crews) came to see
just how well-rounded Princeton students were that admission for
this year's Olympics was restricted to those with student I.D.'s.
Alas, all the sports talk and championships have elicited a
serious case of faculty hand-wringing. Admits Walters,
"Externally we're becoming known for our athletic success.
Internally we worry about that success." He shouldn't worry too
much. After all, Nassau Hall isn't slated to be razed for a
football practice field, at least not yet.