As we did last semester, the students in Western New England University’s Managing Intercollegiate Athletics course, and I (Dan Covell), will again cover important issues in intercollegiate athletics. Throughout the spring, we will work together in researching and writing posts for this site.
First, however, an update on an issue we’ve tracked over the past year or two: The vaunted Trinity College men’s squash program (profiled in a case study in Chapter 4 of Managing Intercollegiate Athletics and several online posts since 2010) fell to Yale University last week. The 5–4 loss ended Trinity’s dual match unbeaten streak, which began in 1998 after a loss to Harvard University, at 252 matches. I first learned of the streak’s end from a video clip of the match-point win appearing on a local sports program (since I live in New England, this outcome counted as an important story). Two days later, the New York Times covered the loss on the front page, lower-right corner, of its sport section. Author Paul Wachter, who has covered this story for some time and clearly knows the sport well, noted that the win for Yale was hardly an upset, as Trinity had played Yale in last season’s national championship and had won 5–4, and the school had then lost its top four players to graduation. Trinity head coach Paul Assaiante was somewhat gracious in defeat, commenting that “there’s a lot more parity, and four or five schools have a shot at the championship this year.” Assaiante also waxed poetic when describing the atmosphere of the match in New Haven: “When you’re on the road, the crowd wears on you, like swimming into a wave. At home, you’re on a surfboard” (Wachter, 2012, pp. B10, B12). Interested readers might also want to read his autobiography, Run to the Roar (discussed here last year).
According to Wachter, Yale and others have caught up to the Bantams by copying them: that is, by recruiting foreign players. Yale head coach Dave Talbott noted that of the 18 players in the match, only 4 were American (3 for Yale).
Although a landmark event, this recent match had none of the histrionics that surfaced in 2010 when the two teams met in the national finals. After winning the match point, Trinity’s Baset Ashfaq Chaudry stooped down, and for three or four seconds yelled at Yale’s Kenny Chan. In the words of Assaiante, “Seeing Chan exiting the court behind him, Baset turns and yells at him again. … The whole story goes viral. The video of the match reaches ESPN, who places it on heavy rotation on SportsCenter, … In the first sixty hours after the incident, I get more than five hundred emails from people I don’t know. Twelve straight titles and Trinity Squash has never gotten this much attention” (Assaiante and Zug, 2011, pp. 223–224). This time, Yale did not return the favor. In the decisive fifth game of the match, Yale’s John Roberts (from Ireland) defeated Swede Johan Detter, 11–4, but the match did not result in any fireworks. “Johan’s a very nice guy,” said Roberts. Assaiante was worried, however, and after the match he stated that “I wanted to protect my guys and make sure that they showed character and class and walked out of there with their heads high.” He also struck a tone that some might describe as sour grapes: “At the end of the day it’s only a squash match. There are more important things in life” (Wachter, 2012, p. B12).
By the way, Wachter notes that Trinity can still win its 14th-straight national title; it is looking to do so by bringing in four highly touted recruits at the beginning of the spring semester, a practice to which Yale and the Ivies do not ascribe.
Check back next week as we begin to tackle more new and emerging events.
Assaiante, P. and Zug, J. (2011). Run to the roar: Coaching to overcome fear. London: Penguin.
Wachter, P. (2012, January 20). After 14-year run, squash juggernaut loses a match. New York Times, pp. B10, B12.