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.