Ivies ponder recruitment reductions

An Ivy League-wide committee of athletics directors will make a recommendation to the Ivy League presidents this spring about a possible reduction in the number of annual athletics recruits, Yale Athletics Director Tom Beckett said.

The decision to examine the policy comes amid a national debate about the role of athletics recruiting in admissions that has led University President Richard Levin to say that Yale may admit fewer football recruits.

Before being presented to the presidents, who will make the ultimate decision, a policy committee made up of various administrators from around the Ancient Eight will review the recommendations.

Levin said a reduction in the number of football recruits admitted could bring the number of recruits at Yale closer to the figures for much of the rest of the NCAA.

At many other NCAA programs, recruited athletes can lose their scholarship if they get injured or decide not to play. But because Yale students do not receive athletic scholarships, there is a higher attrition rate, and Levin said the University recruits a greater number of athletes each year than many other schools.

“The NCAA schools have way fewer [football recruits per year],” Levin said. “Our request to the athletic directors is that they consider reducing the number of recruited football players.”

The Ivy League has not significantly altered its admissions policies for athletics recruits since 1993, when it cut the average number of annual football recruits from 50 to 35, said Jeff Orleans, the executive director of the Council of Ivy Group Presidents.

The committee’s review comes in the wake of the 2001 publication of “The Game of Life,” by James Shulman and William G. Bowen, which questions the relationship between athletics and admissions. The book influenced the decision of five schools from the New England Small College Athletic Conference to reduce the number of annual varsity recruits last fall, said Tom Parker, the dean of admissions at Amherst College.

Under current Ivy League regulations, three Yale teams have a set number of spots for recruits. This number covers a four-year period, but Orleans said the average number of recruits each year for football, men’s hockey and men’s basketball are 35, 10, and eight respectively.

If the Ivy presidents decide to change the admissions policies for recruits, those changes would not affect the Class of 2006 but would be phased in over about one or two years, Levin said.

Yale football coach Jack Siedlecki said the University deals with his 35 recruits in a specific way. Using various academic and extracurricular statistical measures, the freshman class is given a mean score and athletes can be no more than two and half standard deviations away from that mean, he said.

Yale College Dean Richard Brodhead said the designation of a certain number of slots for recruited athletes relates to the inherent structure of the Ivy League.

“We speak of the Ivy League as a synonym for very prestigious, selective schools, but the Ivy League is really a sports league,” Brodhead said. “A group of schools have tried to make it possible to have a very high level of athletic competition without having athletics entirely drive admissions decisions and without having athletics override academics.”

Dean of Undergraduate Admissions and Financial Aid Richard Shaw said that there are no quotas for students who have excelled in areas like music or the arts, but that the admissions office considers these talents in much the same light as athletics.

“Scholar-athletes bring good talent, strong talent; they’re part of the mix,” Shaw said. “So do people who play the cello, or are actors, or engage in research.”

Brodhead said the University reserves spots for athletes and not for students who participate in other extracurricular activities because of formalized league policies that have developed over time.

Levin also said that policies for admitting recruited athletes are accepted throughout the league, but added that they still can be improved.

“It is simply a matter of fact that they are so,” Levin said. “The question is, are there any changes that would be warranted?”

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