Opinion | Columns

Which Club Sports Should Don Letters?

As all 45 loyal readers of this section know, last semester the Columbia Athletics Department introduced the Columbia Campaign for Athletics, in which the University asked for $100 million to help fund the construction of new venues, the sponsorship of new head coaching endowments, and a variety of other programs. Think of it like an NPR pledge drive, except that instead getting a tote bag and a smug sense of entitlement in return for your donation, you get an equipment room in the new Baker Field athletic facilities in your name.

Concurrently, the Athletics Department announced a restructuring of the policy for promotion to a varsity sport, giving club sports a new chance to apply for varsity status. Essentially, the campaign and the policy switch allow both the University the chance to support new varsity programs financially. The University has already seen the addition of one new team, with squash scheduled to become a varsity sport at Columbia in 2011.

Boosting club teams to the varsity level is, of course, neither cheap nor simple on a logistical level. Squash’s biggest obstacle, for instance, is that the team has to wait for Columbia to install regulation-size courts, something that requires more space than the University currently has. Either way, however, squash’s promotion suggests good news for the remaining club teams. If anything, the Athletic Department looks like it’s trying to give these teams a shot. So, what chances does each team have? Luckily for you, I’m here to break it all down for you.

Men’s Lacrosse

Pros: Over the last five years, the men’s lacrosse team has won more championships than the football, men’s basketball, and baseball teams combined. Admittedly, that means that lacrosse has just a 1-0 advantage over those other three, but the point still remains—this club has gone from virtually non-existent to one of the best club teams in the country almost overnight. Plus, the team’s Web site has a spiffy flash animation intro, although the use of (I think) Static X as the background music takes it down a notch.

Cons: The Ivy League isn’t exactly the easiest place to introduce a new lacrosse team. Take, for instance, the Columbia women’s lacrosse team, which made its debut a little over a decade ago and has one Ivy win to show for it. Suffice it to say that the first few years of existence for a varsity men’s team would be a little rough.

Rugby

Pros: Much like lacrosse, men’s rugby has risen from the dead, taking home the Metropolitan New York Division I championship back in October with a win over the Merchant Marine Academy. If the Athletics Department is looking for a team with a newfound track record of success, men’s rugby would be a good start. I’d give an update on the women’s side as well, but the team Web site, despite promising more than one update per year, apparently hasn’t been touched since July 2007.

Cons: Do you really think that I’m going to write anything negative about rugby, given that about 99 percent of rugby players on this campus could beat me to within an inch of my life? Journalistic integrity may be important, but I don’t like the idea of spending time in traction just because the rugby teams and I might have some differing opinions.

Men’s Hockey

Pros: Well, making men’s hockey a varsity team would virtually guarantee a dramatic influx of Canadians and Eastern Europeans onto campus, so if the University ever wanted to see Columbia get more of an international vibe and/or acquire more students named “Gordie” or “Vladimir,” this would be its best chance. Hockey also provides a solid amount of sucker punching during games, which is always welcome.

Cons: In case you haven’t noticed in your time in the fair city of New York, space is kind of at a premium around here. The University already went through enough hell to secure some land in Manhattanville—somehow, I don’t think there’d be widespread joy if that newly acquired terrain were earmarked for an ice rink. Additionally, members of the student body may be too pussy to join the team, which could have a negative impact on bringing in new players.

Badminton

Pros: Okay, I’ll admit, this was just a cheap way to get the phrase “shuttlecock” into a column. I’m sure that the Columbia badminton team is good, though—honestly, any player that can succeed in a sport where you’re told to keep your eye on the shuttlecock can’t be bad.

Cons: The team’s Web site substituted “feather birds” for “shuttlecocks.” Way to ruin my fun, guys.

So there you have it: Three teams that have as good a chance as any to ascend to the varsity ranks, and one team with hilariously named equipment. Any suggestions for other teams that should deserve a look for varsity? Send me an e-mail, and I promise to rate your team’s chances after taking a cursory glance at your Web site.

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