In nearly all American universities and colleges athletic and other sports are under the general control of faculty committees, to which the undergraduate athletic committees are subordinate, and which have the power to forbid the participation of any student who has not attained a certain standard of scholarship. For some years prior to 1906 no student of an American university was allowed to represent his university in any sport for longer than four years. Early in that year, however, many of the most important institutions, including Harvard, Yale, Princeton and Pennsylvania, entered upon a new agreement, that only students who have been in residence one year should play in ’varsity teams in any branch of athletics and that no student should play longer than three years. This, together with many other reformatory changes, was directly due to a widespread outcry against the growing roughness of play exhibited in American football, basket-ball, hockey and other sports, the too evident desire to win at all hazards, the extraordinary luxury of the training equipment, and the enormous gate-receipts of many of the large institutions—the Yale Athletic Association held a surplus of about $100,000 (£20,000) in December 1905, after deducting immense amounts for expenses. The new rule against the participation of freshmen in ’varsity sports was to discourage the practice of offering material advantages of different kinds to promising athletes, generally those at preparatory schools, to induce them to become students at certain universities.
At the present day athletic sports are usually understood to consist of those events recognized in the championship programmes of the different countries. Those in the competitions between Oxford and Cambridge are the 100 yards, 440 yards, 880 yards, 1-mile and 3-mile runs; 120 yards hurdle-race; high and long jumps; throwing the hammer; and putting the weight (shot). To the above list the English A.A.A. adds the 4-mile and 10-mile runs; the 2-mile and 7-mile walking races; the 2-mile steeplechase; and the pole-vault. The American intercollegiate programme is identical with that of the Oxford-Cambridge meeting, except that a 2-mile run takes the place of the 3-mile, and the pole-vault is added. The American A.A.U. programme includes the 100 yards, 220 yards, 440 yards, 880 yards, 1-mile and 5-mile runs; 120 yards high-hurdle race; 220 yards low-hurdle race; high and broad (long) jumps; throwing the hammer; throwing 56-℔ weight; putting 16-℔ shot; throwing the discus; and pole-vault. Of these the running contests are called “track athletics,” and the rest “field” events.
International athletic contests of any importance have, with the exception of the modern Olympic games, invariably taken place between Britons, Americans and Canadians, the continental European countries having as yet produced few track or field athletes of the first class, although the interest in sports in general has greatly increased in Europe during the last ten years. In 1844 George Seward, an American professional runner, visited England and competed with success against the best athletes there; and in 1863 Louis Bennett, called “Deerfoot,” a full-blooded Seneca Indian, repeated Seward’s triumphs, establishing running records up to 12 miles. In 1878 the Canadian, C. C. McIvor, champion sprinter of America, went to England, but failed to beat his British professional rivals. In 1881 L. E. Myers of New York and E. E. Merrill of Boston competed successfully in England, Myers winning every short-distance championship except the 100-yards, and Merrill all the walking championships save the 7-miles. The same year W. C. Davies of England won the 5-mile championship of America, but, like several other British runners who have had success in America, he competed under the colours of an American club. In 1882 the famous English runner, W. G. George, ran against Myers in America in races of 1 mile, ¾ mile and ½ mile, winning over the first two distances. In 1884 Myers again went to England and made new British records over 500, 600, 800 and 1000 yards, and world’s records over ½ mile and 1200 yards. The next year he won both the British ¼-mile and ½-mile championships. The same year a team of Irish athletes, among them W. J. M. Barry, won several Canadian championships. In 1888 a team of the Manhattan Athletic Club, New York, competed in England with fair success, and during the same season an Irish team from the Gaelic Athletic Association visited America without much success. In 1890 a team from the Salford Harriers was invited to America by the Manhattan Athletic Club, but the evidently commercial character of the enterprise caused its failure. One of the Harriers, E. W. Parry, won the American steeplechase championship. The next year saw another visit to Europe of the Manhattan athletes, who had fair success in England and won every event at Paris. In 1895 the London Athletic Club team competed in New York against the New York Athletic Club, but lost every one of the eleven events, several new records being established. During the previous summer (1894) occurred the first of the international matches between British and American universities which still retain their place as the most interesting athletic event. In that contest, which took place at Queen’s Club, London, Oxford beat Yale by 5½ to 3½ events. The next summer Cambridge, as the champion English university, visited America and was beaten by Yale (3 to 8). In 1899 both British universities competed at Queen’s Club against the combined athletes of Harvard and Yale, who were beaten by the odd event. The return match took place between the same universities at New York in the summer of 1901, the Americans winning 6 to 3 events. In 1904 Harvard and Yale beat Oxford and Cambridge at Queen’s Club by the same score.
Outside Great Britain and America the most important athletic events are undoubtedly the revived Olympic games. They were instituted by delegates from the different nations who met in Paris on the 16th of June 1894, principally at the instigation of Baron Pierre de Coubertin, the result being the formation of an International Olympic Games Committee with Baron de Coubertin at its head, which resolved that games should be held every fourth year in a different country. The first modern Olympiad took place at Athens, 6th to 12th April 1896, in the ancient stadium, which was rebuilt through the liberality of a Greek merchant and seated about 45,000 people. The programme of events included the usual field and track sports, gymnastics, wrestling, pole-climbing, lawn tennis, fencing, rifle and revolver shooting, weight-lifting, swimming, the Marathon race and bicycle racing. Among the contestants were representatives of nearly every European nation, besides Americans and Australians. Great Britain took little direct interest in the occasion and was inadequately represented, but the United States sent five men from Boston and four from Princeton University, who, though none of them held American championships, succeeded in winning every event for which they were entered. The Marathon race of 42 kilometres (26 miles), commemorative of the famous run of the Greek messenger to Athens with the news of the victory of Marathon, was won by a Greek peasant. The second Olympiad was held in Paris in June 1900. Again Great Britain was poorly represented, but American athletes won eighteen of the twenty-four championship events. The third Olympiad was held at St Louis in the summer of 1904 in connexion with the Louisiana Purchase Exposition, its success being due in great measure to James E. Sullivan, the physical director of the Exposition, and Caspar Whitney, the president of the American Olympic Games Committee. The games were much more numerous than at the previous Olympiads, including sports of all kinds, handicaps, inter-club competitions, and contests for aborigines. In the track and field competitions the American athletes won every championship except weight-throwing (56 ℔) and lifting the bar. The sports of the savages, among whom were American Indians, Africans of several tribes, Moros, Patagonians, Syrians, Ainus and Filipinos, were disappointing; their efforts in throwing the javelin, shooting with bow and arrow, weight-lifting, running and jumping, proving to be feeble compared with those of white races. The Americanized Indians made the best showing.
The Greeks, however, were not altogether satisfied with the cosmopolitan character of the revival of these celebrated games of their ancestors, and resolved to give the revival a more definitely Hellenic stamp by intercalating an additional series,