Sports and Freedom: The Rise of Big-Time College Athletics

By Ronald A. Smith | Go to book overview

IV

Crew: Internationalism,
Expansion, and
the Yale-Harvard Pullout

HARVARD'S DOMINANCE of crew as the first two decades of intercollegiate contests came to a close led its crew members to consider challenging the supposed supremacy of England's Oxford and Cambridge universities. The natural rivalry between the English and the Americans had been most marked by two major wars, the American Revolution and the War of 1812, but it also had been spurred on by the Civil War in which England had given aid to the Confederacy. Americans had sporadically contested the English in boating, boxing, cricket, horse racing, running, and yachting in non-collegiate contests in the decades before the Civil War. Americans may not have liked the English, but they did look up to them and their culture. Sport was an important part of that culture, and Americans had a desire to see how they would stand up in competition. If American colleges were to challenge the best of England, it was logical that Harvard should lead the way. It was the oldest, wealthiest, and most prestigious American college, and in America's first intercollegiate sport, crew, it was the best.


The Harvard-Oxford Boat Race of 1869

Less than six months before the 1869 Harvard-Oxford crew meet, Charles Sumner, a leading senator and chairman of the Senate For

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