Another Heps Ruling (If I Ruled)


On St. Patrick’s Day, as I watched the early morning drunken revelers stumble along Second Avenue in the East Village, I found myself in a bit of a royalty mood. I took to my laptop and drafted “If I Ruled Heps.” In it I basically told everyone the moves I’d implement if I was in charge.

I figured I’d probably offend some, suggesting that in my world their days of hosting championships would have ended. Or that holding onto the same offering events for more than 60 years no longer made sense. Former Dartmouth sprinter Rick Berryman responded, saying, “That will stir the pot.”

But actually, I didn’t get the hate mail I’d expected. In fact, the response was, by and large, favorable.

So today I decided to ask folks over at HepsNation.com what they’d do. The first plea was for no homework and free ice cream. Then John Mack, one of the League’s best-ever quarter-milers, wrote, “Bring back Navy.”

Strange thing is that I hadn’t even considered that on St. Patrick’s Day. But John is half right. If I ruled Heps, I’d bring back Navy and Army.

I wasn’t around when Army left on its own accord in the 1990s, but I was at the Ivy Office when Navy both left abruptly on its own and was voted out by the League’s athletic directors. The Mid women abandoned the Heps’ ship without formally informing the League in 2003 and the ADs reacted swiftly, adding it to the annual agenda at the last minute and kicking out the men… both against the wishes of Navy and the Heps coaches.

Well. In my opinion, there were two mistakes. The Navy women, instead of working to build a better program, opted to improve the program by competing only in the less-competitive Patriot League (thus selfishly putting the men’s inclusion at risk). But — while I have a lot of respect for the League’s administrators — kicking out the men was an over-reaction.

Then an Associate Director of the League, I was the first league official to see the Naval Academy coaches after the decision. Word filtered quickly among the coaches at the IC4A Championships at Princeton on that day. When I walked into Weaver Stadium, one of the Ivy coaches said, “I’d hate to be you right now.”

I, myself, had just learned of not just the decision to boot the Academy, but that it was even on the docket.

The Navy coaches descended upon me near the front gate and I had so little to tell them about what had happened. They were near tears. I knew that there were no appropriate words to offer them. I remember being asked, “Is this final?” And I remember saying, “I don’t know.”

If I ruled Heps, it wouldn’t be final.

6 Responses to “Another Heps Ruling (If I Ruled)”

  1. Dave Farley says:

    Brett,
    Thanks for your wide-ranging ideas.My guess is that most HEPS athletes and coaches agree with most of your comments; so how can we motivate the powers to make changes?
    How can we start a dialogue to correct the Army/Navy situation? We miss them.
    You are right on about always having indoor HEPS at the Armory and/or other banked/speedy track (not at cold , snowy, difficult to get to, slow track Cornell—-great school, great program). Quality webstreaming is essential for Ivy track alumni (ae). Adjusting the events for men and women is a no-brainer–including substituting outdoor mile for 1500.

    • Brett Hoover says:

      Hi Dave… I am not sure what could be done with Army & Navy. Army left about 15 years by its own choice and the League’s ‘showing the door’ to Navy was an indication that the eight-team Ivy lineup was fine for them. Navy has now been gone for almost a decade and, I suspect, they worked through their difficulties to establish new traditions.

      Shy of someone plopping down a boatload of money to stir the pot, I don’t see it happening (even though it would be wonderful). Writing about “Bring back the mile” today.

      • Ronnie Harris Navy '87 says:

        Believe me, the new traditions are not impressive.  The Patriot League is Coke Zero.  Some of us enjoy a fresh can of pop that says “Coca Cola”  25 years removed from my last 5,000 meters at Yale, believe me when I tell you that all us old timers like Van Cortland Park at the end of October and the Heps campuses indoors and outdoors. 

  2. Patricia says:

    I agree wholeheartedly with the other comments expressed, Army and Navy should return.

  3. Mac, Navy '87 says:

    Since it was the Ivy AD’s that over-reacted and booted Navy (it was inconsiderate and classless what the Women’s Coach did), perhaps it is up to them to fix it. Perhaps all the gracious sentiment and comments of the Ivy Heps Alums will make a difference. It might be too late. I would ask Al Cantello and Steve Cooksey at Navy whether it is even politically viable. The Patriot League, I am sure, has had it’s positives. It is a great league in lacrosse, and is only getting better. It has been fine for basketball but I can’t speak for the other sports.
    As a former (underachieving) Navy runner, I thought the Heps were special. Had far more successful teammates who feel this loss far worse than I. It is gratifying to hear the Ivy Alum support. And, hey, what the hell – invite Army back too!

  4. Ronnie Harris, Navy '87 says:

    The Heps is the best track meet in the country!  As a seven time Heps champ, I will always love that meet and miss it dearly.  The Heps without Army and Navy is like the Beatles without Paul McCartney and John Lennon.  It’s like California without the Golden Gate bridge and the Santa Monica Pier.  Army and Navy belong in the Heps!  Ask anyone that was at Harvard indoors in 1986.  Beyond a doubt, the best Heps championship weekend ever!  Every race and relay was epic!