Harry 'Dad' Vail
|Results | Summary|
The controversy over a four-mile race length continued through the spring of 1917, when the IRA stewards tentatively decided to shorten the length to 3 miles. Syracuse Coach Ten Eyck objected vociferously, in spite of support for a shorter length from the Pacific Coast (which raced a 3 mile course), Princeton (which sought a 2 mile course) and Cornell (which initially agreed with Princeton on a 2 mile course, but soon compromised to 3 miles). Meanwhile, Navy and Wisconsin also held out.
Princeton Professor and crew coach J. Duncan Spaeth , in an article in The Daily Princetonian , wrote
I have for a number of years been of the opinion that four-mile races are not suitable for American college crews. The amount of training necessary to enable crews to row this distance with safety is apt to develop the heart and lungs to an extent that makes a greater amount of exercise necessary after graduation than the ordinary college graduate can and ought to afford, if he is to keep in good physical condition.
My chief objection to the four-mile distance is due to the fact that inasmuch as few of the rowing colleges have four-mile courses at home, training quarters have to be established at places like Poughkeepsie and New London, where for nearly a month young men devote themselves exclusively to rowing, supported either by gate receipts from commercialized athletics or by the generosity of opulent patrons.
When Congress declared war on April 6, many colleges, including Syracuse , suspended athletics of all types. The IRA's were suspended in 1917, 1918 and 1919 during WW I.
To pass the time, Jim Ten Eyck, Sr. built boats and rowed from Syracuse to the Columbia pier in New York City ; he was 66 years old. Famous Washington Coach Hiram “Connie” Connibear retired home idle. In September, 1917, he fell from a fruit tree on his property in Seattle , breaking his neck and dying instantly.
The Badger 1921 wrote,
Intercollegiate crew at UW was banned for several years (UW did not participate in the IRA's from 1915 through 1923) by the UW medical faculty and Athletic Council which held that four-mile rowing was ‘injurious to health.' For six years, rowing as a sport languished with only intramural competition as an incentive.
For fifteen consecutive years, the red-tipped blades of Wisconsin 's crew had dipped and flashed in the Poughkeepsie Regatta held every June on the Hudson River . Though never “sweeping the river” in a regatta, Wisconsin 's crew won three 2 nd places and a number of third and fourth places in competition with the best crews of the east.
The intensive training system necessary to put a crew in condition for a four mile race, and the strain of the race itself, caused the faculty to take action against intercollegiate rowing in 1914. Since then the course has been reduced to three miles.
The trip east, with two weeks training on the Hudson , was an expensive trip, but it brought Wisconsin to the attention of the eastern schools as the only western representative in their annual regatta. Leland-Stanford is now the western representative (first IRA in 1912), sending a crew from California each season. It was with great regret that the East saw Wisconsin drop out of the Poughkeepsie event, and with greater regret that Wisconsin saw interest in what had been a major sport for a long gradually die out.
Now that the course has been officially shortened to three miles, the objection that crew racing was too great a strain is removed. With this in mind it is to be hoped that Wisconsin may again see her crew on Lake Mendota, that “Dad” Vail may again coach a Badger team, and that, “Are you ready, Wisconsin?” will ring out over the Hudson when the crews come into line.
In the IRA:
The IRA's were cancelled in 1917 and for the next two years because WWI had called so many young men from college.