Admissions bar raised for athletes



The Council of Ivy Group Presidents implemented this summer reforms designed to better track and regulate the academic record of recruited athletes, Yale President Richard Levin said.

After decades without significant modifications in the way student athletes are admitted to Ivy League universities, the Presidents Council raised the minimum Academic Index — a weighted average of SAT scores, SAT II scores and high school class rank — for recruited athletes, limited the total number of recruited athletes per class and revamped the controversial rule mandating 49 off-days per year.

“I think the rationale has been the growing awareness that over time an increasing fraction of the admitted classes at Ivy Schools were recruited athletes, so there was some interest in putting a cap on that trend,” Yale President Richard Levin said. “There’s also a concern that the athletes be more representative of the rest of the class as far as academic potential and performance.”

The academic index has been used for years by the Ivy League to maintain academic standards for football, basketball and ice hockey players; now, the academic index will apply to athletes in every sport. Under the new rules, the average academic index of every Yale athlete in a particular class must lie within one standard deviation of the average academic index of the previous four classes at Yale. In addition, the minimum academic index for any admitted athlete has increased by two points. While some coaches worry that the changes will limit their ability to field strong teams for upcoming years, others, including Athletics Director Tom Beckett, say the changes will have a negligible effect on the performance of Yale sports teams.

“The change in the raising of the academic index should have very little, if any, impact on the recruited athletes and sports teams at Yale,” Beckett said.

Beckett also said that Yale’s recruited athletes are traditionally “on the highest band” of academics and should not have any trouble being admitted under the new rules.

More troubling to some coaches is the new rule that limits the total number of recruited athletes per school. Schools like Columbia University and the University of Pennsylvania, which field no ice hockey teams, will have a slightly lower number of allowed recruits since the figure is based on the number of varsity sports teams at each school.

Yale women’s soccer coach Rudolph Meredith said the caps on recruited athletes might make it harder for him to build and maintain a strong team from year to year.

“What if you have a chance to get eight really good players, but Yale tells you that you can only take four: the others will probably go to four other Ivy League schools. That’s the part that scares me a little bit,” Meredith said. “The main problem I have is that kids can come to this school and then quit and not be held accountable.”

On the other hand, officials like Ivy League Executive Director Jeffrey Orleans said the considerations of coaches were carefully taken into account when the conference’s presidents reached their decision.

“A goal of the presidents was for the proportion of students in athletics not to increase as enrollment grows larger [at schools such as Princeton],” Orleans said. “The presidents were very careful when they adopted this cap to come up with numbers that do not decrease their ability to field teams and compete.”

Football will remain exempt from the new capped recruiting system, however, since a separate decision by the Council of Ivy Group Presidents in June 2002 reduced the number of annual football recruits per Ivy League school from 35 to 30.

“There was a feeling that football was working, and we saw no reason to change a system that was working and involved so many students,” Orleans said. Another result of the annual meeting was that a year-old rule requiring 49 off-days for athletes, in seven-day intervals, was revised so that the 49 days can be distributed on a day-by-day basis throughout the year. This change resulted from a flood of complaints from both athletes and coaches last season. Yale men’s ice hockey coach Tim Taylor said the previous policy was unworkable.

“[The new rules are] an admission that their policy last year was really flawed; the athletes didn’t like it,” Taylor said.

Ultimately, coaches and administrators agreed that the rules should help admitted students thrive in all aspects of their college careers. Yale Director of Admissions Richard Shaw said the new program would help ensure that recruited athletes explore their full potential in both athletics and academics.

“The goal of [the recruiting changes] is continuing to try to work towards the philosophical foundation that student athletes are student athletes,” Shaw said.

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