March 7, 2002

Ivies Look Into Athletic Recruitment

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Ivy League presidents have asked a league-wide committee of athletic directors to submit a report addressing the number of annual athletic recruits and the experience of student-athletes. The committee of athletic directors may issue a recommendation to reduce the number of annually recruited athletes in their report. Another review will also be presented by another group, the Policy Committee, which is comprised of faculty representatives and student affairs officers from each institution.

According to Susan Murphy ’73, vice president for student and academic services, both the committee of athletic directors and the Policy Committee are standing committees that have existed since the foundation of the Ivy League.

“The current discussions reflect an ongoing review of Ivy athletics by the Ivy presidents, … especially discussions over the last five years or so,” said Jeff Orleans, executive director of the Council of Ivy Group Presidents/The Ivy League. “These discussions are not focused on numbers of athletes … as much as on the overall athletic experience within each Ivy institution.”

According to Murphy, who served as the dean of admissions and financial aid for nine years, student-athletes apply to any one of the seven undergraduate colleges just like any other prospective student. They are then judged by the individual colleges’ regular selection committee. Coaches can notify the admissions selection committees of the student’s athletic ability and of their potential contribution to the athletic program, but the selection committees ultimately determine which applicants will be accepted.

“For almost 20 years, we have operated under a structure, established by the Ivy presidents, that limits the number of matriculants who have been recruited to play football and men’s basketball and ice hockey,” Orleans said.

“In addition, the competitive nature of admissions generally at each Ivy institution, the desire of each institution to have a diverse — in a variety of ways — undergraduate student body, and the number of sports that are sponsored, all means that each institution has developed its own internal way of monitoring the number of recruited athletes among its accepted candidates,” he added.

“This is frankly a non-issue for us. In a freshman class of 3,000, athletes comprise less than ten percent [of the matriculating class] even with 36 athletic teams … For [smaller] schools, such as Princeton and Columbia, the issue is of a greater concern,” Murphy said.

The ultimate decision to reduce the number of recruited athletes would come from the committee of the eight Ivy League presidents. Any reduction affecting the admissions or recruitment process would go into effect during next year’s application process for the class of 2007.

“Personally and philosophically, I’m not opposed to a reduction at all from a coach’s standpoint — though there are some opposed in our league — if reductions are done accordingly and the right way,” said Tim Pendergast, head coach of the Cornell football team.

Ivy League schools do not offer merit-based, athletic scholarships and, therefore, attrition rates tend to be slightly higher than at other NCAA colleges and universities where a student-athlete could lose scholarships upon discontinuing athletic participation.

“I don’t believe the reduction being thrown around is huge. It’s enough of a reduction that coaches will have to do a better job controlling attrition,” Pendergast said.

In addition to a possible recomON>

ation for a reduction in athletic recruitment, the report from the athletic directors will also address the undergraduate experience of college athletes.

“We want to make the experience that student athletes have as good as it can be, great experiences in the classroom, great experiences in the rest of their lives … we understand they’re not just student-athletes,” Pendergast said.

The Ivy League is the formal athletic conference of the eight Ivy institutions. It was officially formed in 1954, and the first seasons of competition took place during the 1956-1957 school year. “The league is part of the NCAA Division I (I-AA in football) and sponsors championships in 33 sports, [offering] the widest athletic opportunities for both men and women in college athletics,” Orleans noted.

Archived article by Laura Rowntree