Sunday, November 20, 2011

The story of the conferences-Ivy League

Linked by a common bond of academic excellence, strong research capabilities, and roots in pre-revolution America, the Ivy League is without question, the most prestigious collection of universites in the world, not just this country. Naturally you would think that these schools would have their fingerprints on athletics, right, well yes, historically. These days, the Ivy League, or Ivy Group, is an inconsistent mid-major league, but in the early days of organized university athletics, they were the major power conference of it's time. Most of it centered on football, but they were pretty good at hoops too.

The Early Years

In 1900, Nine years after Dr. James Naismith created the sport of basketball at today's Springfield College, Harvard and Yale joined with four other highly prestigious schools; Amherst, Holy Cross, Trinity College, and Williams to form the New England Inter-Collegiate Basketball League, the first recognized association of universities formed to played basketball. It lasted all of one season, when the Bulldogs and Crimson left to form a new association with Columbia, Cornell, and Princeton; calling it the Eastern Intercollegiate Basketball League. The basic structure of the league called for all members to play each other, twice during the season. Soon after, champions of this league started arranging championship playoffs with the Western Conference(today's Big Ten). These lasted only a few years before it was ended(mostly due to travel, but also for two seasons, the EIBL did not play a league schedule). In the meantime, Pennsylvania joined for 1904, followed by Harvard's withdrawal after 1909, and Dartmouth joined in 1912. It would remain at six until 1934, when Harvard returned.

Enter the Ivy
For 1953-54, Brown was finally persuaded to join the EIBL, but that was a precursor of things to come, for in the spring of 1954, the eight schools agreed to combine all their athletic pursuits into a single all-sports alliance, the Ivy League. Thus, 1955 was the last year for the EIBL. There has not been a change in membership since.

Doing things differently
Today, the Ivy League does several things differently than anyother league within Division I. For instance:
*The league is the only one not to conduct a postseason tournament, due to academic schedules. To compensate, in years where there is a tie for first, a one game, neutral-site, playoff is held.
*It also does not award any athletic scholarships of any kind. All scholarships are awarded on need, only.
*It also schedules games, again for academic reasons, only on Fridays and Saturdays, save for the Penn-Princeton games, which are played on Tuesdays.

In the Helms Foundation period of national championships, the Ivy recorded several national titles. Columbia won three of these(1904, 1905, 1910), while Yale(1901 and 1903) and Penn(1920 and 1921) won twice, and Princeton won it in 1925. Dartmouth won it in 1906, but were not an EIBL member during that period.
Since the NCAA tournament era began in 1939, no Ivy League school has won, although Dartmouth came closest, twice, finishing runner-up in 1942 and 1944. Since 1951, Princeton came the closest, finishing third in 1965 behind the play of Bill Bradley, while Penn placed 4th in 1979. The Tigers are the only school to take home an National Invitational Tournament title, winning the 1975 crown.

Very strong. Except for a brief period in the late 1940's and early 1950's when Penn looked to breakaway due to issues with the televising of football games, the Ivies have remained locked together in the longest running conference configuration. With the exception of Cornell, which came along in 1865, all members can trace their roots to pre-revolution America. In short, don't look for anyone to join, or leave, the Ivy League as long as it exists.

The story of the conferences-Intro post

Welcome to a new series of posts detailing(in basketball terms) with the stories of the 52 historically recognized conferences of NCAA Division I. Each post details the whos and whens of membership, their historical success, and their prospects for future growth and stability. I'll detail each and every conference in order of creation, going from the Ivy League to the Great West. So sit back and enjoy this series.