Levin’s daughter calls for athletic reforms



Sarah Levin backs up her new book on athletics with an impressive resume.

A member of the Harvard Class of 2000, she captained the Harvard sailing team and was named an All-American during her senior year. That same year, her team finished second in the country.

Levin co-authored the recently released “Reclaiming the Game,” a book that tracked the academic progress of athletes at 33 selective academic institutions that do not offer athletic scholarships, including all Ivy League universities.

The Harvard graduate is also the daughter of Yale President Richard Levin. But both father and daughter say their relationship does not put her in a special position to influence Yale athletics.

The book — whose other author is William Bowen, president of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and former president of Princeton University — claims that athletes fail to meet grade projections based on their high school grades and test scores, even when their sports are not in season.

Sarah Levin said the book’s proposals are directed not toward eliminating athletics but integrating them with educational goals of a university.

Richard Levin said he was impressed by the book’s analysis, but is not planning drastic change for Yale athletics.

“There are so many moderate corrective measures that we’ve already begun to take in the Ivy League,” he said. “To me [the book is] not going to question our commitment to varsity athletics.”

Sarah Levin, who is now a student at the Harvard School of Public Health and a research associate at The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, said her father gave her analysis ideas, such as discerning whether athletes in certain sports underperformed. To test whether practice time affected academic performance, he also suggested that she look at academic performance for football in the spring, when it is not in season.

Richard Levin said there were many conversations about the book over the dinner table and that he read it in bits and pieces as it emerged.

“I would talk to him about what we were finding,” Sarah Levin said. “He had a lot of interesting things to say.”

Richard Levin said the statistical breakdown offered in the book, which examined the credentials and experiences of students who started college in 1995 and 1999, provided valuable new information on the role of athletes at elite academic institutions.

But both father and daughter said there was nothing suspect about any collaboration they had. Sarah Levin said all the presidents of schools evaluated in the book were given preliminary data before the book was released. And Richard Levin said he had read drafts and made comments on many of William Bowen’s previous books.

Michael Dunleavy ’06, a member of the football team who co-wrote a response to an October Yale Daily News column that drew from Sarah Levin’s book, said he takes issue with some of the book’s findings. He said even when out of season, football players still have considerable time commitments in the form of meetings, practices and conditioning.

“When the season does end, we have spring ball,” he said. “Before that we have eight weeks of conditioning. Even though there is no games, we are still rather quite busy.”

Like her father, Sarah Levin said any changes resulting from the book should take place at the Ivy League level as opposed to within individual schools. She also said there was not a need for “anything drastic.”

But Sarah Levin said if she were president of Yale, she would make a few changes in the way athletics are handled.

“The basic change that would address the problems in the book would be weighing the coaches’ input less in admissions,” she said.

This might mean raising the threshold for academic index or limiting number of recruits, she said.

She also said that small scheduling changes might make a difference, such as making sure there were days during which athletes could take a break from practice to attend events like Master’s Teas.

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