The Dartmouth Women’s squash team finished their season ranked 9th nationally this year, the Men’s team finished ranked 11th. In order to attain a national ranking, squash teams are selected to compete in eight team cups. The top eight teams in the country compete in the Howey Cup, the second eight compete in the Kurtz cup. A squash match is comprised of 9 individual matches and the winner is determined by which team wins 5 of the 9. The women won the Kurtz Cup in three matches with scores of 9-0, 9-0, 8-1, meaning they won 26 of the 27 individual matches they played. The men placed third in the Kurtz Cup and thus earned their own national distinction.
Both teams have been selected to play in the Howey Cup (top eight) for the last six years. The men came in 7th last year and the women 8th. Members of the women’s and men’s teams both expressed positive feedback about their seasons with Tori Dewey, a ’16 on the women’s team saying “The team was really good. Squash is an interesting sport because there are so few people on the team and everyone got along really well. The end of the season we were able to win the B division, dropping only one match the entire tournament which is amazing.”
However, the end of the regular season (just before the draws for the national cups were released) came with controversy for both teams. The final match of the regular season for both the men and the women was against Brown. At the time, both Dartmouth squads were ranked 8th in the country and Brown 17th. If Dartmouth won this match, as was expected against the far inferior Brown, both teams would have been selected to play in the Howey Cup and thus given a chance to win a national title.
The match was to take place on a Sunday. However, instead of the expected win, so many members of both the men’s and women’s sides were benched that Dartmouth was forced to forfeit the match. Coach Hansi explained that while the teams had beaten Brown 8-1 in November, “multiple team rules were broken,” and due to these transgressions, players were benched and Dartmouth forfeited the match.
Sources close to the teams shed more light on the disobediences, explaining that the team has a rule which prohibits drinking within 48 hours of a match. The match against Brown was on a Sunday and the team members drank on that Friday, thus violating the rule. An unconfirmed number of the women’s team drank and all but three members (Captains Robbie Maycock and Chris Hanson as well as junior Chris Jung) of the men’s team drank. The more interesting part of the controversy is how the Coach and athletic directors discovered the disobedience. Sources close to the teams confirmed that the captains of the women’s team blitzed Coach Hansi the names of the women who drank. As to how it was discovered the men drank, there are two theories circulating. Either the women’s captains included the names of the men who drank in their whistle blowing blitz, or upon discovering that the women drank Coach Hansi asked the men’s captains who drank and the truth was discerned.
Athletic Director Harry Sheehy confirmed that the players broke the team drinking rule which prohibits players from drinking within 48 hours of a match, quipping that while no NCAA rules were broken “although New Hampshire State Law might have been,” but that the NCAA “in most cases doesn’t drill down to that level.” Mr. Sheehy also discussed his own involvement in the decision to sit the players saying, Richard Witmore, the associate Athletic Director in charge of squash as well Sheehy and Coach Hansi all sat down to discuss how to punish the players. “It wasn’t a department rule that was violated. It was their own rule,” said Sheehy. “We thought about it a little and we wanted to make sure the message gets out. There are things that you do that impact the whole team.” Sheehy went on to make clear that he sees the education and integrity of Dartmouth sports as more important than the success of the programs. “We’re always going to try to do the right thing at Dartmouth. We’re going to make sure that what we makes sense and we’re not going to worry about Ws and Ls over doing the right thing.”
Ivy League sports, with a few notable exceptions such as squash, are rarely noteworthy in the world of college sports. Sheehy’s attitude is one of the prevailing reasons for this lack of notoriety. Would Alabama or LSU bench players for a transgression which would have had no impact on the season? Would the more academically comparable Stanford make a similar decision? The Ivy League’s repute is based on academic excellence and while that identity should come first and foremost, is the Dartmouth Athletic Department doing a disservice to the school by handicapping our few nationally significant programs?