Letters to the Editor

Open Letter from Malcolm Wesselink

Three weeks ago I learned from my Athletic Director that Andover was planning to drop Exeter in boys’ basketball. The Exonian ran a story on it last week. We have received nothing in writing as to why this might happen but The Exonian quoted Coach Modeste as saying that “In basketball, we are just not able to compete with A-level teams like Exeter. We are not following the A philosophy because class A basketball puts a higher emphasis on the sport than we want to have.” I agree that Class A basketball is very strong. I’ve been coaching a long time and I have yet to make it beyond the first round of the tournament. Some of the Class A schools are small schools that have hung their hats on their basketball programs, but many are strong in a number of different sports. Few have the extensive athletic programs that Exeter and Andover have. So saying that Class A schools put a higher emphasis on basketball is partially true at some schools. At Exeter we do not put a higher emphasis on basketball than on other sports. I believe we put an emphasis on doing the very best we can in all our programs and I assume that is what Andover does too. Some facts about Exeter/Andover Basketball: • We have been playing for 88 years • We have played 135 games • In the last 10 games Exeter is 9-1, but in the last 10 years we are 11-6 • From 1994-2002 Andover was 11-4 • Overall the series is at 75-60 This is a good rivalry. These are games played in front of great crowds in a heightened atmosphere. The atmosphere is so great that the halftime step dancing has become a loud, exciting competition. I’ve been involved in about 50 Andover games and there is always an extra bit of adrenaline flowing. I always present it to my players as a game they will never forget. Our athletic rivalry is probably the most significant prep school rivalry in the country. We play you in every other sport. I don’t know all the records of all the other sports but I do know that we dominate you in some and you dominate us in others. Most are probably pretty even. But in any of the sports, whether we’re favored to win or we’re looking for the upset, we feel that the Andover game is special. Exeter has not changed anything to elevate boys’ basketball. In the big picture we are more like Andover than any other school we play. The seniors on the Exeter teams are going on to the same good colleges that your seniors go on to. Our basketball team has enjoyed some success. Certainly Coach Modeste understands that with success comes success as the Andover football team has had a terrific run the past few years. Yet even with the success your football team has had in general, and specifically over Exeter these past few years, I know that Coach Glennon, his staff, and all the Exeter players and fans would never dream of giving the rivalry up. It means too much. It’s too much fun. This is not about wins and losses. It is not about different levels. This is not about advantages. This is about 88 years of basketball rivalry, over 100 years of athletic competition, and over 200 years of mutual respect. Think of what February 28, 2009 will be like for our boys’ varsity basketball teams. Will we sit in the stands and cheer? Will we be on the road playing a relatively meaningless game? Will this become the way we end our seasons, having had taken from us a game that teams before us anticipated, prepared for, and competed in—a game that just meant more than all the other games? Ask anyone who has played in or coached an Exeter/Andover game how much our boys’ basketball teams, and our student bodies, will be missing out on. For what purpose? Coach Modeste says his team is frustrated but they understand. Perhaps they can explain it to me because I don’t understand. Leave Class A if you want to. Drop other long time opponents like Worcester and NMH if you think that it’s best for your program. But don’t drop Exeter. We’ll never drop you. Malcolm Wesselink Head Boys Varsity Basketball Coach Phillips Exeter Academy