Tough Times: Dartmouth Taking Its Lumps in League Play

  • Dartmouth College men’s basketball coach David McLaughlin takes a minute to himself during a game earlier this season. The Big Green entered this week 6-19 overall and 3-9 in Ivy League play. (Valley News - Tris Wykes)

  • Dartmouth College’s Morgan Philie can’t bear to watch as Princeton celebrates a goal during its 7-3 field hockey victory on Sept. 27, 2015, in Hanover. The Big Green is 2-12 in Ivy League play the last two seasons and finished in last place last fall. (Valley News photographs - Tris Wykes)

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 3/4/2017 11:52:55 PM
Modified: 3/6/2017 5:57:45 PM

Hanover — When it comes to wins and losses, the 2016-17 school year is shaping up as a historically bad one for Dartmouth College sports.

Football, field hockey, women’s soccer, women’s hockey and men’s and women’s swimming each finished last in the Ivy League standings. Women’s cross country and women’s squash were next-to-last.

Men’s basketball began this weekend tied for last in the Ivy standings, and women’s basketball was last. Each had two league games remaining.

Men’s hockey and men’s and women’s track were mediocre in Ivy competition, which is pretty much the department’s normal showing when glancing back one, two and three decades.

Thus far this school year, the combined Ivy League winning percentage of Dartmouth higher-profile fall and winter sports teams is .236. The combined number for the last five years and to roughly this point in the school year is .423.

Ten years ago, Dartmouth’s league winning percentage to this point in the school year was .559. Twenty years ago it was .519, and for the 1986-87 academic year it was .486.

There are bright spots. Men’s soccer won its third consecutive Ivy title last fall. The men’s and women’s tennis teams and the men’s golf squad were each second during last spring’s league action, and the Big Green’s skiing and women’s rugby squads have done well, though neither of those latter two sports is sanctioned by the Ivy League.

Baseball and softball have been strong recently. However, they’re somewhat offset by the long-term struggles of the men’s lacrosse and women’s golf programs and the decline of women’s lacrosse during the past five years.

Seventh-year athletic director Harry Sheehy has hired new head coaches for nearly a dozen sports since 2014. The 64-year-old said he’s not overly concerned with the current downturn, pointing out that various programs are in different states of rebuilding.

“We’ve had to blow some things up, but I think this year is enough of an outlier that I don’t think we’ll see it again next year,” Sheehy said. “The next three to five years will be much more telling to me. I feel we now have the coaching staffs on board that we really want.”

Sheehy said college athletics progress is rarely linear, but often features “two steps forward and one step back,” a situation that’s sometimes hard for fans to endure.

“I abhor losing, and the only reason I can sleep at night is because I see reasons we’re going to get better,” Sheehy said. “We’re in a resources game, and we don’t have the fewest resources in the league and we don’t have the most.”

How much longer will Sheehy man his post? He doesn’t sound like he’s going anywhere else anytime soon, expressing a love for both his work and its setting.

“Would I leave Dartmouth to take another athletic director’s job?” he said. “I don’t think so. I think this is the best one in the country for me. I’m not done yet.”

Tris Wykes can be reached at or 603-727-3227.

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