College Athletics are interwoven with the cultural character of the American University system. Hosting some of the earliest and most established traditions at schools, as well as providing a brand and image, athletics are at the heart of the college experience in one way or another. Garnering some of the heaviest scrutiny from the public towards separate athletic departments and the NCAA at large, athletics do not always hold the highest esteemed position among the public. Regardless, with an undoubtable affiliation with college sports, even with criticism leveled at some institutional practices, it remains an icon of Americana. Lehigh has been wrapped up in the evolution college athletics. As the NCAA would grow so too would athletics at Lehigh. The early history of College athletes are quite distinct from today’s establishment; the history of American college athletics finding its way as an integrated part of Academia can be traced along side its establishment at Lehigh.
Debates surrounding the purpose of college athletics swirled early in their conception. A significant opinion at the times saw athletics as unfit for association with academia with the highest brow opinions depicting sport at brutish. This is an opinion that is certainly out of favor in today’s society, the sheer popularity of sport is unavoidable. However, an opinion that most resembles the actual experience of a college athlete is probably best defined in that era by John C Nolan in an opinion published in the “Bulletin of the American Association of University Professors,” in 1929. He posited a defense of athletics, not a mere past time, but an integral part of the learning experience well suited to the liberal art ideology of education. He states in his opinion, “ If the college of
liberal arts has any function at all, apart from furnishing agreeable club facilities for the children of the rich, it is the function of organizing the scattered material of our complex civilization into some sort of unity, and thus giving meaning and direction to the lives of
the rising generation. The college cannot begin to contemplate this essential service without a practical recognition, on its own part, of the unity of life (Nolan 4).” Education for universities is broader than what is done in the classroom and athletics have been a triumphant part of that broader view of education.
As a college athlete my experience at Lehigh has been shaped by sports. I feel a shared idea to the Football players arguing to maintain the sport in the late 19th century; the struggles, the hardships, the celebration, college athletics are a rewarding experience worth championing and maintaining. That being said college athletics have changed incredibly so since the era before the NCAA. The change from the massive institutional giant that college sports are today from the very loose and unsure starting point is an engaging history. Athletics, perhaps, never had an obvious space in the academic world, but instead built one overtime. At the forefront of social change and questions about academic integrity, athletics have been a test case for larger change around us. Athletics give both a history and a present; proving a cultural story and lineage to their schools. I have seen all of this reflected in my time at Lehigh. From personal experience and lessons learned through them, to the feeling of membership to a university community that long predates me, college athletics is among the most interesting and vital parts of a college experience and there is much to be learned from how that has come to be.
Title: Growth of Lehigh and NCAA Athletics
Author: Ryan Givens
Date: May 13th, 2019
Description: An overview of the history of Athletics at Lehigh. This timeline traces the origins of sports at the University from the burgeoning days of college athletics, through many changes and iterations, until the current state of affairs.
Subject: Lehigh, Athletics, Sports, Teams, NCAA, Patriot League, Mountain Hawks
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