Yale may not play in the Rose Bowl or make it to the Final Four, but the Bulldogs are champions when it comes to athletes in the classroom, according to a recent study by the National Collegiate Athletic Association.
On Feb. 28, the NCAA released a study on the academic progress rates of universities across the country, and Yale ranked first overall. The study on APR awarded universities points by team if their student-athletes remained at school, stayed academically eligible, and graduated. Twenty-seven of the 29 athletic teams at Yale had perfect scores of 1,000. Although posting scores under 1,000, football and men’s ice hockey still scored well above the Div. I national average of 948 with scores of 995 and 991 respectively. Sports that scored highest nationwide include women’s field hockey, women’s lacrosse and women’s rowing, which all scored 981 on average. On the other end of the spectrum, men’s basketball (923), football (923), men’s indoor track (923) and baseball (922) were the lowest scoring sports.
Though there has been some criticism about the study, University President Richard Levin said he was pleased with its results.
“I know there are some criticisms in that the study isn’t perfect in the way its developed its categories, but it’s always nice to be number one and I do think regardless of whether we rank first or 10th, we certainly expect and get serious academic achievement from Yale athletes,” Levin said. “I’m not surprised we would score well on such a survey.”
Athletic Director Tom Beckett said the ranking is a major accomplishment for Yale’s student-athletes.
“We are certainly proud that people will recognize and understand the academic rigors and commitment that Yale has in place relative to this notion of student first,” Beckett said. “We are awfully proud of the work that goes into the recruiting of these gifted people and the coaches work to identify the best and the brightest. I think the Ivy League is awfully proud and should be proud [of Yale].”
Although Beckett has been in charge of Yale athletics for over 10 years, he declined to take any personal credit for the way Yale scored in the APR study.
“It’s not about any one person, it’s about the ethos of Yale,” Beckett said. “It’s the mission of the institution in terms of the athletic component at Yale. This just tells everybody that Yale is very serious about finding the best and the brightest.”
While Dean of Admissions Richard Shaw said the study was “good news” for Yale, the study did not hold similarly positive results for every institution that belongs to the NCAA. According to data compiled by the NCAA, 7.2 percent of the 5,720 men’s and women’s sports teams competing in Division I athletics did not meet the standard set by the NCAA that translates to a 50 percent graduation rate. While about half of Div. I institutions have at least one team that falls below the score of 925, all of Yale’s teams scored above 990. Schools that are struggling to meet these standards for student-athletes risk penalties such as the withdrawal of at least one scholarship.
Some of the schools that were sub-par in the study have great success athletically, such as the universities of Connecticut and Arkansas. UConn’s basketball team scored 852 and Arkansas had five of its eight men’s teams miss the mark.
Shaw said he was concerned about the trend of athletically dominant schools failing to meet academic standards.
“The question one has to ask is why don’t we care about those young people,” Shaw said. “How is that we can just use them up on the courts and the fields and then dispense of them either because they aren’t successful athletically or they aren’t successful in the classroom?”
Shaw attributes Yale’s success to a community that celebrates achievements on the field and in the classroom.
“I think its an incredibly supportive environment where the academic experience of students is really quite important,” Shaw said. “It’s the vast, vast majority of our students who really understand that and it’s the vast majority of students who choose to come to Yale because of the community they’re going to be part of and their awareness of an incredible educational experience, so I think we have the right balance.”