This week, we have compiled the most important stories from the decade pertaining to student life, the Bowdoin Student Government (BSG), athletics. We have pulled a selection of actual headlines from former issues, and condensed and synthesized stories relevant to each headline in order to showcase some of the most significant moments and enduring issues covered by the Orient. While our compilation is comprehensive, it is by no means complete. We encourage readers to pursue these headlines and others in our online archives, and to read our future installments of this series over the next several weeks.
Topics to come: A second installment of student life, college finances, admissions and reputation, environment and service, and Maine and Brunswick issues.
Bowdoin to admit fewer rated athletes, December 7, 2001
At the start of the decade, a controversial report called into question the role of athletics at New England Small Colleges Athletic Conference (NESCAC) schools, finding that athletes received an advantage in admissions over non-athletes despite lower test scores, and tended to rank in the bottom portions of their class. Months of deliberation among NESCAC presidents and administrators followed the report's release, which ultimately led to a decision to admit a lower percentage of "rated" athletes, those marked as desirable for admission by a coach.
The 30-page report, "Academic-Athletic Divide," found, for example, that 75 percent of males recruited by NESCAC schools to play football, basketball or ice hockey were in the bottom third of their class. These students scored an average of 150 points lower on their SATs than their non-athletic counterparts, the Orient reported. At the time, for the matriculating class of 1999, the report showed that while the average acceptance rate of NESCAC colleges was one-third of applicants, two-thirds of recruited athletes were accepted on average.
The NESCAC presidents made a statement accompanying the release of the report that said, "While we admire the achievements and talents of our student athletes and reaffirm the educational value of athletic competition, we are concerned that the competitive pressures of intercollegiate athletics...risk distorting the place and purpose of athletic participation in our institutions."
Responses to the report varied across campus, according to an October 19, 2001 Orient article. Director of Athletics Jeff Ward said he found the report "hurtful to coaches and athletes" to have others question whether athletes belonged at the College. Dave Caputi, former head coach of the football team, said the report did not acknowledge that athletes are screened based on "academic qualifications" before being placed on an admissions list. Gil Barney, head coach of the men's and women's crew teams, said the report might lead to a "sense of antagonism or suspicion about groups of people, rather than an appreciation of what people have to offer the community."
Opinions of the administration varied from those in athletics, as then-Dean of Academic Affairs Craig McEwen said it was "unusual and rather courageous" for the NESCAC schools to "expose themselves" on the issue. Then-Dean of Student Affairs Craig Bradley said, "The principle thing is the academic experience, and we need to always remember that. A November 2, 2001 Orient article reported that then-Dean of Admissions James Miller strongly denied the existence of an athletic-academic divide at the College. While he said Bowdoin's first goal was to "recruit and recognize excellence across the board," he noted that, "We have chosen to make sports an important part of the college experience at Bowdoin, and this subset of recruitment has developed out of that decision."
According to the Admission's viewbook, over 80 percent of students at the time participated in some form of varsity, club, or intramural-level sport, pointing to the importance of athletics to Bowdoin. Miller explicitly stated, "If a recruit isn't admissible we tell them and we move on," and the admissions office works closely with the athletic department to sort out which students to accept. While he denied any comparison between other NESCAC admissions policies, he said, "Everybody we're playing with isn't playing by the same rules."
A month after Miller's comments, however, a December 7, 2001 article reported that, after working with President Mills and Ward, the College decided to enroll roughly 20 percent fewer rated athletes in the next class. While 124 rated athletes were admitted to the Class of 2005, with 99 matriculating, the Office of Admissions said they would aim for 79 rated athletes matriculating with the Class of 2006. The announcement, made at a faculty meeting, received support from several faculty members who spoke up and said that too many athletes gave athletics a priority over academics. While some faculty suggested the report needed to consider academic engagement over quantitative components, others questioned why other groups or organizations did not receive similar preference in the admissions process.
The following week, President Barry Mills and the other NESCAC presidents met in Boston, at which point Williams, Amherst and Wesleyan announced a similar reduction in admitting rated athletes. While Middlebury also announced plans for similar admissions actions, "they were less specific in their actual goals," Mills said in a January 25, 2002 article. Overall, Mills said that the meeting reflected similar viewpoints and goals among NESCAC schools, "that students who are at any of these schools and participate in athletics should be representative of the student body as a whole."
NESCAC at-large bids face scrutiny, October 12, 2001
An October 12, 2001 article reported that the presidents of the NESCAC schools met to discuss the merits of at-large bids into NCAA championships, and whether NESCAC schools should even compete in NCAA championships. At the time of the conference on September 20, at-large bids were to be eliminated for the 2001-2002 season, but the NESCAC presidents voted for a one-year extension to the bid process.
An at-large bid is an invitation for a NESCAC team to play in an NCAA championship, without having won the NESCAC championship. Until at-large bids began in 1994, NESCAC teams were not eligible for competition in NCAA tournaments, and in 1999 the process changed to automatic qualifiers. Most teams in NCAA championships were conference winners, with a few at-large bids selected through the country, the Orient reported. A selection committee, comprised of coaches and administrators nationwide, chooses the at-large bids.
While the trial period was to allow NESCAC presidents and coaches time to assess the importance of at-large bids and debate whether to allow NESCAC teams to participate in NCAA championship play, the at-large bid process still continues for NESCAC teams today.
Injury forces NESCAC to amend rules, November 8, 2002
The presidents of the 11 NESCAC colleges met in September of 2002 and adopted changes to the NESCAC constitution after a Colby athlete sustained an injury during an out-of-season hockey scrimmage. While the NESCAC constitution prohibited out-of-season practices, rules had slowly changed to allow captain's practices. After this injury, however, the presidents decided that any practice or game "organized by a team member and primarily for a NESCAC team is not permitted," the Orient reported, although "casual pick-up games are still allowed."
Complications postpone completion of Astroturf field, February 9, 2001
A February 9, 2001 article reported delays in the completion of the Astroturf playing field that was eventually constructed behind Farley Field House in the spring of 2001. The College has seen other developments in athletic facilities, including the construction of Watson Arena and the Buck Center for Health and Fitness (please see last week's Decade in review: Part III for more details). In an interview this week, Ward said the new facilities were designed well and much needed for the athletics program.
"When I got here, our facilities were amongst the lower third of NESCAC, now we're easily we're in the top third, and I think Watson Arena is the nicest hockey rink in Division III," he said. "What we've done with athletic facilities in the last 10 years sort of mirrors all facilities in the College in the sense that they're incredibly functional, they're very tasteful, and we were intelligently frugal in what we did."
Demand strains sports trainers, October 6, 2006
In October of 2006, the Orient ran a report on the growing demand for athletic trainers. With close to half the student body playing a varsity sport, assisted by three Bowdoin athletic trainers and two interns spread across five locations, there was no guaranteed trainer attention for any club sport competitors. Although any non-varsity athletes in need of non-emergency medical attention went to Dudley Coe Health Center, and were able to make an appointment with the visiting physical therapist, many club sport (rugby, crew and Frisbee) athletes were frustrated by their experiences, the Orient reported.
While Ward said the department wanted to "make sure that every situation is safe," he said the priority went to varsity athletes. The captain of the men's rugby team said that Bowdoin's varsity program received priority in field use, too, and would have liked more medical attention for the team. At the time, Ward said he requested an additional trainer in its budget for the 2007-08 academic year.
Alpine skiing to be cut after 2003 season, February 7, 2003
The 2003-2004 academic year proved to be a controversial one for sports teams. A February 7, 2003 Orient article reported that the alpine ski team, "one of only a handful of Bowdoin sports that regularly competes in Division I," would be cut after the winter season. Facing tough economic constraints, Mills asked Ward to cut seven percent of the athletic department's budget, or $200,000. Ward said that alpine skiing cost the school $60,000 a year, which carried the highest cost-per-student of any team.
"The hardest thing I've had to do as [Associate Director], and I've been here for 12 years, was talk to the coach and students from alpine skiing," Ward said in an interview last week. He said that, at the time, only three students were on the team, they were driving 90 minutes each way to train three to four times a week, and he was concerned about the future of the program. "I still believe that it was the right thing to do," Ward said.
While the alpine ski team protested the budget cuts, head coach Martin Wilson said he received verbal agreement the year before from Ward that the ski program would extend through 2005—as long as Siri Ashton '05, who competed in the NCAA championships the year before, stuck with the team. Ward, however, said he could not foresee the budget cuts at the time. The Orient reported that the other budget cuts came through cutting the training room intern position for 2004-2005, and not filling the fourth assistant coaching position for the football team after Phil Soule's retirement.
With the budget cuts and restructuring of the athletic department, a May 2, 2003 Orient article reported that the women's club rugby team was being promoted to a varsity sport. Ward said that the women's rugby team was very "impressive," and that the new status of the team "makes Bowdoin one of the only true Title IX compliant schools in the country." Nonetheless, the varsity status created financial challenges for the College. The team would now receive funding through the athletic department, rather than the Student Activities Funding Committee, and the women's rugby coach, Mary Beth Mathews, would be employed by the College. Funding would also be used for transportation and uniform services.
Some aspects of the decision struck students as odd, the Orient reported. The women's team was not consulted before the decision was made, surprising many, and upsetting some who thought the varsity status might eliminate some of the "fun and social atmosphere" of the team. Further, the men's rugby team was not made a varsity sport, and would be expected to share the rugby pitch and equipment with the women's team.
In April of 2004, Bowdoin athletics said goodbye to "Century Sid" Watson, who died of a heart attack and was an All-American athlete and coach of Bowdoin's hockey team for 24 seasons. He attended Northeastern University, earning his nickname "Century Sid" for averaging over 100 yards per game. His name is in the record books for the most career and single-season points. Watson went on to play in the NFL with the Pittsburgh Steelers and Washington Redskins. He turned down another NFL offer in favor of a coaching position for Bowdoin's hockey team in 1958, taking over the following year and leading the Polar Bears to play in four ECAC Championships and 16 Division II playoffs.
In May of 2008, former Associate Athletic Director and Head Women's Basketball Coach Stefanie Pemper announced that she was leaving Bowdoin to take the position of head women's basketball coach at the Division-I U.S. Naval Academy.
Hazing investigation concludes 'mild hazing', January 25, 2008
Completing a three-month investigation into allegations of a hazing incident, College officials concluded that members of the women's squash team "were victims of 'mild hazing' in 2006," the Orient reported. The investigation began when an October 26 Portland Press Herald article reported the discovery of a photo album on webshots.com with the title "squash initiation." The College also discovered another photo album with the title "Bowdoin Sailing Team Initiation" later in the month, the Orient reported, but did not deem it a hazing incident. Senior Associate Dean of Student Affairs Margaret Hazlett and Ward led the investigations on both the sailing and women's squash teams' allegations. Dean of Student Affairs Tim Foster said that the College would "take disciplinary action consistent with current policy practices" for alcohol policy violations, and that the teams would be expected to help lead programs preventing hazing incidents on sports teams.
Bowdoin mulls new logo for athletic department, April 4, 2008
In April of 2008, the College hired a design firm, Morrow Creative Group, and formed a group of students, coaches and administrators to create a new image for the Bowdoin athletics polar bear mascot. College officials said that too much variety in the polar bear design over the years made it hard to create an identity as an athletic program. At the time, the College wanted to solicit input from campus to create a new logo.
In October of 2008, the College unveiled the new polar bear mascot, which focus groups said should represent "pride, dignity, intelligence, confidence, courage, quiet power, genuineness, and presence," according to an October 24, 2008 Orient article. After a survey of approximately 80 individuals of four separate mascot designs, one winner stood out. The Orient described the new logo as a "bear, gazing directly at the viewer, [standing] on three legs, with the fourth paw raised and resting on a capital letter 'B.'" After the announcement, the College said it would order new merchandise in February and begin phasing in the new design, but would not eliminate the other designs used by campus groups or materials.
While officials said in the October article that the polar bear was well-received by students, an op-ed submitted in April of 2009 stated that the "alteration is a gross misrepresentation of both Bowdoin College athletics and polar bears," suggesting it was "expressionless without even a hint of ferocity."
Speed-enhancing LZR suits rip through pool at NESCACs February 27, 2009
Women's swim teams at the NESCAC Swimming and Diving Championships in February of 2009 were allowed to wear the controversial LZR, made by Speedo, and the Nero Comp, made by Blueseventy, swimsuits, which "are thick and increase the buoyancy of the swimmer, thus making it easier for them to cut through the water," the Orient reported. Head Coach Brad Burnham said that the entire Williams team wore LZRs, Amherst had a mix of LZRs and Nero Comps, and Middlebury and Tufts wore some, as well. With a price tag of $400 each and the high demand, Burnham said that Bowdoin was only able to acquire four Nero Comps. Multiple students on Bowdoin's team felt the suits gave some swimmers an unfair advantage for NESCACs that year.
Hockey game heckling homophobic, classist, February 20, 2009
In February of 2009, controversy was sparked by a debate over heckling from the crowds at hockey games. Two juniors wrote a letter to the editor stating that they were "disturbed by Bowdoin students' heckling," which they found "often homophobic and classist." Citing chants mocking hockey players' sexual orientations, hometowns, economic statuses, and other elitist commentary, the authors argued that the taunts "have no place at Bowdoin." The following week, another junior wrote in to say he was "sick to attend a school dominated by political correctness," and that the game was "an intense men's sport, and [such chants] come with the package."
On February 20, when the original letter was posted online, barstoolsports.com reposted the letter on its Web site, with an author standing up in defense of the "homophobic and classist" chants. Users responded in force, proceeding to post 128 comments, many of which directly insulted the two authors of the letter. Ward acknowledged the heckling was an issue at the time, and commended the men's hockey team for sending a letter out to the campus against homophobic language use at the games.
Repeat champions, November 21, 2008
While the past decade has been filled with thousands of sporting events, making it nearly impossible to recap every game-winning or important play, a few notable, standout performances and highlights do stand out from the rest.
In March of 2001, the women's basketball team made it to the Sweet Sixteen round of the NCAA division III tournament. In March of 2002, the women's team won the NESCAC tournament and beat their own record, advancing to the Elite Eight. A March of 2006 Orient article reported that women's basketball claimed their sixth consecutive NESCAC crown, giving the team an automatic bid to NCAA play. The Orient reported that women's basketball made it to the Elite Eight again in 2006 and 2007, but only made it to the second round of the tournament in 2008 and 2009. In March of 2004, the women's basketball team made history by becoming the first Bowdoin team to appear in the Final Four of an NCAA tournament.
In February of 2002, the men's hockey team went undefeated for 18 games, was ranked No. 3 in national Division III rankings, and was the only team in college hockey with an undefeated record, until an "aggravating" loss against Colby. In March, team captain Mike Carosi '02 was named Eastern All-America first team, and received the Joe Cancannon Award, given to the top American-born hockey player from NCAA Division II and III colleges in New England. In December of 2008, first year Ryan Leary broke the record for most goals scored in a single game, netting six, and made the fastest hat trick in Bowdoin history.
After reaching the Final Four in 2005 and 2006, the women's field hockey team became Bowdoin's first team to win the NCAA Division III Championship in 2007. The team defeated the Middlebury Panthers 4-3 and was greeted upon their 1 a.m. return to campus by a crowd of fans. The women's field hockey team won the NCAA championship again the following year, in 2008, becoming only the fourth team in Division III history to win back-to-back national championships, the Orient reported.
In April of 2008, the men's tennis team won the NESCAC championship at Middlebury College, making it the first men's team to win a NESCAC tournament since men's cross-country in the fall of 2002.
In February of 2009, men's basketball defeated the Williams College Ephs on the Williamstown court for the first time in 40 years, not having won since the 1968-69 season.
In April of 2009, the men's outdoor track and field team won the Maine State Championship for the first time since 2001, marking another victory.