We Are The Champions, Sometimes: The Highs And Lows Of NYU Athletics

We all know that “NYU” and “athletics” are two words not usually associated with each other. The general attitude of the student body seems to veer more towards indifference than rabid devotion, and asking the person next to you whether the Violets won this weekend will likely be answered with a blank stare rather than the score to the game.

To be fair, that may not be entirely our fault: Only 0.3% of the school’s budget is given to its sports programs. But the fact remains: Many NYU students don’t know a whole lot about the Violets, beyond the fact that they were named after a flower and are represented by a library guide. To help remedy this, we’ve put together a list of the highs and lows in our long athletic history.

There were the good times…

1929: The National Intercollegiate Women’s Fencing Association is founded by NYU freshmen Julia Jones and Dorothy Hafner.

1935: Ed Smith, former NYU football player, poses as the model for the Heisman Trophy.

1940: Students protest before a football game between NYU and Missouri that had included a “gentlemen’s agreement” to exclude black athletes at Missouri’s request.

1947-1976: The men’s fencing team wins 12 national titles in the span of 29 years.

1983: The NYU Bobcat makes one of its first appearances at the University Senate Meeting. He was portlier in his early days, nothing like the jacked-up feline we have now.

1997: The women’s basketball team wins the national championship, coming victorious against the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, with a final score of 72-70. Marsha Harris delivered the game-winning shot – a lay-up – with only two seconds left in the game.

2004-2005: Men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams win consecutive Eastern College Athletic Conference championships.

2012: NYU Athletics and men’s volleyball captain Jay Hayes release ‘It Gets Better’ Video, inspired by Hayes’ own experiences. The video is picked up by the Huffington Post and the Daily News and receives over 28,000 hits on Youtube.

And then there were the bad times…

1951: NYU suffers its first point-shaving scandal, which also involved seven other schools, four of them in the greater New York area.

1952: NYU actually used to have a football team. It was dropped in 1952, however, and though students attempted to restart it in 1964, they failed, and we’ve been football-less ever since.

1961: NYU suffers its second point-shaving scandal, this time leading to the arrest of 37 players from 22 schools. This, as well as the 1951 debacle, “was the beginning of the end,” said Don Blaha, a former player, in an interview with the Wall Street Journal.

1971: The men’s basketball team is dropped from the University despite its successful history. Though the reason was likely due to budget constraints, it was a yet another slap in the face after the two earlier point-shaving scandals.

1981: NYU leaves Division I athletics, apparently at the suggestion of then-president John Brademas.

1983: The men’s basketball team is reinstated, but this time as a Division III team instead of the Division I team it had been previously. At the inaugural game, which the Violets lost, the then-mascot appeared wearing a skintight green bodysuit, purple flower necklace, and purple face paint. Thankfully, the Bobcat would soon replace this flower child.

2006: The men’s golf team coach resigns after it was discovered he accompanied his team to a strip club in Florida. He told the Washington Square News that he “made a very spontaneous decision that night,” and that he “never should have” pulled the van into the strip club’s parking lot.

May 2009: The NYU Violets are voted the third-worst college sports team name by Time Magazine, losing out on the top spot to the UC Santa Cruz Banana Slugs.

September 2009: NYU alum Ariel Fleurimond sues her former school, alleging that they used her design for the Bobcat mascot without giving her proper compensation. After NYU’s legal department decided that she had been fairly compensated for her service at the athletic department (where she was working at the time she submitted the design), Fleurimond decided to sue, because, as her lawyer said, “she was paid to pick up dirty towels.”

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Now you can tell your friends from home that your school used to have a football team. Hey, at least our mascot isn’t a dancing flower anymore.

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  1. Cecilia Busick says

    Awhhh Sophie, you forgot about NYU’s Equestrian Team! The past three years we’ve been IHSA Regional Champions anddd we’ve had riders go on to IHSA Nationals every year! You can forget about coming to Mad Men party on Sunday. Jk. Bring whiskey.