Here's a letter I almost submitted to the IDS- I'm still on the fence about it because the rule has been officially instituted at this point..under the noses of the masses, as usual. That's how we do things at IU.
Back 30 years ago, you might say the little 500 was in the height of its participation on campus. 80+ teams each year would attempt to qualify in what is known internationally as the “world’s greatest college weekend.” It’s the reason students go crazy almost the full week leading up to the two races, taking part in drinking heavily and attending concerts with big headliners. The traditions surrounding the race are steeped heavily in the structure and rules laid out in its formation in 1919.
IUSF has come into question with recent changes to the race’s format- last year’s repeated changing of the gearing of bikes for the women’s race, disqualification of the director of Team Major Taylor, and now the biggest change yet- allowing category 1 and 2 riders to enter the race (ids articles 1|2). The United States Cycling Federation, which licenses most cyclists in the country, has 5 categories- once a rider wins enough races to get to a 1 or 2 status, they’re considered “professional.” Until now, only categories 3 to 5 were allowed in the race.
The issues here are many- the first being that the rule itself makes exception for the very people trying to institute it, as they either already fall under category 2 status or will next year. The rider’s council is dominated by top-tier teams, which is hardly representative of the array of riders who participate each year- how can this change be made without the rule-makers only benefiting themselves? Even if a change like this is implemented, the appropriate thing to do is to implement it retroactively.
Finally, consider the changes the rule itself makes. In more recent years, the field has barely been able to be filled for the women’s race and only ends up cutting a few extra teams from those who attempt to qualify in the men’s. Cycling has gotten more advanced- it’s getting harder for new teams to enter the race and be successful, and now they want new riders to try and compete with professionals?
The foundations of this race were not to rocket athletes into cycling fame. It was about a group of guys, riding around a building in the Collins (MRC) courtyard. What a way to disgrace Howdy Wilcox and everyone else who helped root and grow the little 500 into what it is today.