For a long while now, the Cornell football program has been—let us be careful here, and, as always, charitable—abysmal. The Big Red? Please. That's an insult to our most renowned fighting color. Cornell is by far the biggest of the Ivys (12,600 students), but since the league was formalized 30 years ago the Little Pink has never won the title outright. Only Brown and Columbia have matched that futility.
This state of affairs distressed a high-rolling New York investment manager named Roger J. Weiss, who received an undergraduate and a law degree at Cornell. "I wanted to see the same level of excellence in our football as in the rest of the university," says Weiss, "where we do all we can to allow students to be as good as their skills allow them to be."
So in 1982 Weiss contributed $750,000 to endow the Roger J. Weiss Coach of Football chair. It's just like the university's other 130 endowed chairs. The return on investments for the Weiss chair has run around $55,000 a year, part of which is used to pay coach Maxie Baughan. How does Baughan, four times an All-Pro linebacker, feel about Weiss's endowed chair? "I like the idea," he says. "After all, we can't support ourselves."
Indeed not. That's because, to Cornell's credit, the university has 35 intercollegiate sports. (It also has an endowed chair in track.) The only sport that makes even a tiny profit is hockey.
So how is Weiss's quest for excellence faring? Not well, thanks. In 1982 the Little Pink went 4-6, and coach Bob Blackman took his leave. Then came 1983's 3-6-1 finish, 1984's 2-7 and last season's 3-7. But Saturday, Cornell opened its '86 season with a 39-8 win over Princeton, which means that with the chair in place, Cornell has gone 13-26-1.
However, let us not be so sour. Endowing a chair for a football coach links the sport more closely to the academic life of a university. In these troubled times, that's precisely where football needs to be. "I know," says Weiss, "that what we're doing hasn't shown up in the won-loss column, but I'm positive it will."
Even if it doesn't, the concept is a laudable one. Fight on, Little Pink.
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