Web Exclusives: From the P-Nut Gallery
a column by Nate Sellwyn email@example.com
P-Nut examines some Tigers' need for new jungles
So here's the story. Spencer Gloger, class of zero-something,
has petitioned the NCAA for an extra year of athletic eligibility.
For those who don't own the DVD, here's a brief rundown of the Gloger
story. In the 1999-00 season when the P-Nut was still just
a high school senior Gloger averaged 12.0 points a game for
the Tigers. Big numbers for a freshman, and the nation took notice.
Gloger even got some ink in SLAM. The end of the season also marked
Bill Carmody's departure from Princeton, however, and Gloger took
off with him, heading for the sunnier courts of UCLA. His travels
were just beginning. After sitting out the 2000-01 season in California
as a transfer, Gloger came back to Princeton as a sophomore during
the 2001-02 school year, during which he was ineligible to play
for a second straight year, since he was once again a transfer.
Gloger's second time around on the court with the Tigers included
the first 20 games of the 2002-03 season, and he led the Tigers
in scoring (15.7 points per game). Then, more trouble. Due to "academic
difficulties," Gloger was forced to leave campus for two semesters.
Now, he's back. Enrolled for the spring semester, Gloger is good
to go, but due to his travels, this is his last season of basketball
eligibility, regardless of whether he suits up. Or is it? Gloger
is petitioning the NCAA for an extra year of eligibility, which
would allow him to play next year.
Gloger is notoriously media shy, and the P-Nut doesn't like to
force anything. I couldn't help but wonder, though, how much of
this whole mess might have been avoided if Gloger hadn't gone west
in the first place. I sat down with Joe Clarke '03 to look closer
at the issue of being an athlete at Princeton and elsewhere to get
some insight on why Gloger left campus in the first place. Clarke,
who earned an AB in ecology and evolutionary biology last June,
is a graduate student at West Virginia University, where he is using
his final year of NCAA eligibility to wrestle for the 19th-ranked
Mountaineers. In addition to being a two-time place winner in the
Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association, Clarke was a first
team All-Ivy selection in 2001 and a runner-up in 2003, when he
had 17 wins. At West Virginia, he has already topped the 20-win
mark this season.
P-Nut: OK, first things first. Why exactly were
you able to carry a year of eligibility to W.V.U?
J.C.: I redshirted my junior season at Princeton, and the
year of eligibility could not be used in the Ivy League. I was informed
that I would not be allowed to compete for my weight class, 141,
so I decided to save the year of eligibility.
P-Nut: For the uninitiated, what does redshirting entail?
You could practice but not compete?
J.C.: I practiced with the team and wrestled in open tournaments,
but not for Princeton, or in a Princeton singlet. Unattached, essentially.
P-Nut: Was that lost time the biggest reason
you wanted to continue wrestling at W.V.U.?
J.C.: Interestingly enough, the first tournament I wrestled
in that year was the W.V.U. Open, which I won. The biggest reason
was that I felt I was unable to achieve my potential or accomplish
my goals during my time at Princeton. I felt that I needed to give
it one more shot before putting my career and goals to rest. Also,
the point of the redshirt was to be able to use the year elsewhere,
and thus turn a negative into a positive.
P-Nut: What was the first difference you found in being
an athlete at W.V.U.?
J.C.: After being frustrated with the recent approach the
Ivy League has had to athletics, I was excited to be a part of a
larger Division I program in which approaching your sport with serious
goals and professionalism is expected. Last year at Princeton, I
shared the disappointment many fellow athletes had with the establishment
of the seven-week moratorium.
P-Nut: Do you feel the promotion of athletic success
is considered secondary at Ivy League schools?
J.C.: Yes, of course. I think that the attitude toward
the balance between athletics and academics has changed significantly
over the past few years. I think the moratorium suggests that student
athletes at Ivy League schools can no longer responsibly balance
the two. Most athletes find that implication both prejudiced and
upsetting. I'm obviously frustrated about the moratorium and would
like to see the tradition of strong athletics at Princeton remain.
That said, it would be nice to see rules such as the moratorium
pondered over by student athletes as well as Ivy League presidents
P-Nut: What is it about the athletics at W.V.U. that
makes the difference so tangible?
J.C.: I'll give you a list... The coaches are top notch.
Head Coach Craig Turnbull has been at W.V.U. for 26 years and has
established a great tradition with the team. Assistant Zeke Jones
is a world-class technician who will be coaching the U.S. freestyle
Olympic team this summer. Both are able to point out tiny corrections
in practice that can make the difference between winning and losing
in a close match.
The team. A large percentage of my teammates are physical-education
majors and their commitment to wrestling equals or outweighs their
commitment to academics. Everyone in the starting lineup is a very
talented wrestler, making the practice atmosphere much more intense
than it was at Princeton. Guys on the team at Princeton simply didn't
challenge me to the extent that the W.V. guys can. I've been able
to progress in the practice room more than ever before. We also
train an average of three hours a day, as opposed to half that at
P-Nut: How about in terms of social activity? As an
athlete, how are you treated by other students, and how does that
compare to life at Princeton?
J.C.: One thing that struck me about W.V.U. is how much
lower the percentage of student athletes is. However, I can't compare
experience as an undergrad since I'm a grad student, and thus largely
separate from the undergrad community. I spend the overwhelming
majority of my time in a lab doing cancer research.
P-Nut: Do you think, as an athlete, you would
have had a more beneficial experience as an undergraduate at an
institution like W.V.U? Knowing what you do now, are there any regrets?
J.C.: No chance. I love Princeton, despite my concern for
the directions the athletics take. I couldn't ask for a better undergraduate
experience. I just hope Princeton remains a place where you can
try to do it all.
P-Nut: Although I feel like I know the answer, would
your thinking be different if you were someone trying to pursue
athletics as a career?
J.C.: I think that all depends on the situation the athlete
is in. Princeton has shown the ability to graduate athletes that
successfully join the pro ranks. If athletics is your lone pursuit,
then I don't think it would even occur to you to look at Princeton.
But for people that want it all, I think it remains one of the best
places out there. I hope it stays that way.
That said, I would have had a hard time practicing three hours
a day and getting by at Princeton. My work in the lab is independent
enough that I have flexibility with when I perform experiments,
resulting in less of a clash between academics and athletics here
at W.V.U. That is due to less didactic coursework and isn't indicative
of any differences between Princeton and West Virginia.
P-Nut: What about students who bounce back and forth
between Princeton and larger programs as undergraduates? Why do
you think they vacillate so much in their thinking?
J.C.: I think it's natural for serious student athletes
to wonder what it would be like were they to compete at a larger
school with a less strenuous academic life. It's hard enough to
excel academically at Princeton. When you try to accomplish lofty
athletic goals as well, it can be frustrating. Many athletes get
spread thin in the balancing act, but in the long run I think it's
more worthwhile because of how hard it is.
You can reach Nate at nsellyn@Princeton.EDU