Coach’s call blitzed

ESPN called the decision “insane.”

The Wall Street Journal said it “shined a needed light on just how awful game management can be in college football.”

Coach Tom Williams leads the football team onto the field before Yale's game against Harvard
Charlie Croom
Coach Tom Williams leads the football team onto the field before Yale's game against Harvard

And from Sports Illustrated: “Imagine those kids at Yale, walking off a football field for the last time in their lives, thinking ‘This is my last memory in football? My coach going for it idiotically on fourth-and-22, causing us to lose to our archrivals?’ ”

From SportsCenter to The New York Times, head coach Tom Williams’ trick-punt play in The Game last Saturday has been widely criticized. Two and a half minutes before the end of the game, Yale led 10–7 when the Bulldogs went for it on fourth-and-22 at their 25-yard line. Though safety John Powers ’13 gained 15 yards, the run came up short of a first-down. Minutes later, Harvard scored a touchdown to take a 14–10 lead.

But despite the criticism, Williams and the Bulldogs defend the play, which they say was more complicated than the national media have made it out to be.

In a phone interview Sunday night, Williams said the Eli defense was slipping and that he wanted to catch the Crimson by surprise, get a first down and run the clock down without giving the ball back to Harvard. Earlier in the season, the Bulldogs had run two fake punts and both had been successful, including one that captain and linebacker Paul Rice ’10 had run for a 40-yard touchdown at Lehigh.

And, according to Williams, a missed block was the difference.

“We’d had a lot of bad things happen to us, including a missed tackle on fourth down and a missed field goal, and I thought our defense was gassed,” Williams said Sunday night. “We missed a block on the play — otherwise we would have won the game. It was good for 40 yards, and we’d prepared it all year.”

A column in Sunday’s New Haven Register questioned whether Williams in fact called for the fake punt or if there was an on-field miscommunication. In response, Williams said Sunday, “Anything that happens on the field is my responsibility.”

Punter Tom Mante ’10 said the play was called by a collection of coaches and that the players knew what the play was.

“I was surprised, as most people were, but we all knew what was coming,” said the All-Ivy punter, who finished the season with an Ivy-best 41.2 yards per punt average and was averaging 51.3 yards per punt in his three punts that day.

Although Williams’ decision has been panned by many Yale football fans and Yale alumni — as evidenced by recent comments on the News’ Web site, some of which even call for Williams’ resignation — Athletic Director Tom Beckett said in an e-mail Sunday evening that he stands by the head coach.

“He and his coaches made a decision that they believed was in the best interests of the team as the goal was to try and win the game,” Beckett said. “I personally believe in Coach Williams and support his efforts on behalf of our students both in victory and defeat.”

Williams said he does not put much thought in reactions from people outside the Yale program, including television and newspaper commentators.

“None of those guys have played football, and they certainly haven’t followed our team,” Williams said. “It’s easy for them to make a judgment like that, but the fact is that’s the way our team plays.”

One football alumnus, Yale tailback Calvin Hill ’69, who played in the famous 1968 29–29 tie with Harvard and went on to become a four-time NFL Pro Bowler, said the play has to be looked at in the context of the rest of the game.

“You have to look at the ebb and flow of the game, and Harvard seemed to have the momentum,” Hill said. “Had Yale made that play, it would have gone down as one of the great plays in the history of the rivalry.”

Hill added historical perspective on last week’s contest, pointing out that longtime head coach Carm Cozza was met with similar criticism after he lost to UConn — a team that was ordinarily a “warm-up” for the Bulldogs — in his first game with Yale.

“There were Old Blues all over saying, ‘What have we done?’ ” Hill said. “But he went on to be a great coach.”

Still, Williams’ future isn’t the first priority for Rice and the rest of the team’s seniors, who ended their careers on a team that finished 4–6 and lost to Harvard for the eighth time in nine games.

“I’ve really just tried to stop thinking about it,” Rice said.


  • ralph

    what if jack sid. called that bone head play.the coach is young and has to learn how to deal with big game conditions. this is why so many teams need to hire coachs that were already head football coachs.last year we lost 4 games by a total of 17 pts and you force a guy have a rookie coach live with it. and yes harvard has our number will get it back some day i hope.a fan for 35 years .tom let someone else call the plays .

  • Y61

    Strange that he says that the play was one block away from being successful. There were two more Harvard players right at the point where Powers was tackled. Maybe he thinks one block would have taken out all three of them. A poor rationalization for a horrendous call.

  • Boola

    I like Coach Williams overall so far, but the call was indefensible. Yeah, it would have been great to win the game on that play – it would also have been great to win the game on 4th-and-50, but you shouldn’t go for it then either. You have to play the percentages and weigh the risk in equal proportion to the reward.

    So I’ll criticize the call as much as anyone, but calling for Williams’ resignation over one call is way premature. Particularly when you consider that we were more competitive in this year’s Game as heavy underdogs than we were even as heavy favorites under Sid.

    Gotta take the good with the bad, but hopefully Coach Williams will learn from this experience. I think better days are ahead for Yale football.

  • Michael Glodo

    Reading between the lines “our defense was so bad trusting it was riskier than a 4th and 22 deep in our own end.” i wonder if anyone on the defense has an opinion about the call.

  • robert99

    Seems to me that with 2.5 minutes to go the defense could have sucked it up and played acceptably well until the end. I doubt anyone came up to the coach whining about being tired and unable to continue. I think that this is just rationalization.

  • Taking Issue

    No one said the defense was “so bad.” The defense played AMAZINGLY. But they ARE human and it was clear they had to be out of gas after a remarkable goal line stand and being on the field forever.

  • Old Blue

    Re Comment #1, from “by Ralph.” I can’t believe that the writer is a Yale student or graduate, considering the poor grasp he or she has on basic English grammar and spelling. I know, I know, this is a trivial comment, and not at all relevant to the subject matter of Yale football. Still, I wonder what’s happening to correct use of the English language at Yale.

  • Get Some Perspective

    Okay, folks, let’s take a step back and look at the big picture. I mean the big, BIG picture. In that perspective, Coach Williams’ call was a great decision.

    Why do we love The Game? It’s a fantastic party, it’s a mini-reunion, it’s a ritual. Do any of these reasons have anything to do with football? No.

    More broadly than just game-day fun, The Game fills an important psychological need for all of us. It highlights our special relationship with Harvard. Let’s face it. As much as we like to criticize our “rivals” in Massachusetts, we love being associated with them. Indeed, it’s a big part of how we think about ourselves. We’re not “Yale,” we’re “Harvard sucks and Princeton swallows” (or “doesn’t matter,” depending on your preference).

    The greatest Yale-Harvard game of all-time was the 29-29 tie in 1968. Was it because of the late-game dramatics? No, it’s because people are still talking about that game today. If we had won 29-27, that game would have been quickly lost to history.

    The same with “The Call.” Sure, we lost. So what? The lasting legacy of the 2009 game will be that, in 41 years and for long after that, people—including the national media—will be talking about Coach Williams’ “idiotic,” “insane” call. And every time that they, do, our name will be associated again with Harvard. When was the last time that Yale-Harvard was mentioned by ESPN or Sports Illustrated the week AFTER the game?

    Well played, Coach Williams, well played. Don’t let the small minded critics get you down.

  • usually tolerant Blue

    Ultimately the call comes down to an assessment that you can make a first down on a 4th and 22 more often than a (supposedly) fatigued defense can avoid giving up a touchdown with a long field. The folly of the call, when looked at it that way, seems spectacularly obvious, and it is frankly offensive to see the coach justify his call with the familiar “None of those guys have played football.”
    Consider that Harvard had scored once during the entire game to that point. Since Harvard would most likely have to pass on most plays, and Yale would defend with this in mind, it is probably more likely that Yale would intercept a pass than make a 4th and 22. I do not believe that Yale has ever made a first down on 4th and 22 in the more than 100 years of Yale football. Furthermore, the fact that the defense was porous on the previous drive is deceiving, since at that point Yale appeared to be “giving territory for time;” a debatable but reasonable strategy when up by 2 scores, but one would not have been used on a last Harvard drive. Add in the wonderful Yale punter, the chance of a sack or a penalty setting Harvard back, and I think that what you wind up with is a spectacular mistake. However, it is one mistake, and I would be more than ready to overlook it as a rookie coach in his first Game – if he could now, in the light of day, see how monumentally dumb it was! Using mindless platitudes like “we want to be aggressive” or the like just makes me think that he actually is either defensive or strategically challenged. How about admitting that you made a mistake and moving on?

  • Tanner

    #8 Great lets not keep score like in “childrens games.” Don’t you think it might be better if Williams first year as coach would be better with a win against Harvard, not by a bonehead call. Using your thinking I suppose it was a great play because ESPN, “the tymees” and Wall Street Journal actually noticed, reported and opined on “The Game.”

  • is anybody else disturbed by the oddly racial overtone to all the criticism of coach williams? isn’t it a little bit gauche to have all these white and asian guys picking on the first ever black yale football coach?

  • hy5

    Yes, it was a foolish decision. Have you ever made one? Sure you have. We all have. It does not merit vilification. Coach Williams is a good man, and he will learn from this experience and lead Yale forward well. Chin up, Coach Williams, and Yalies.

  • Old Blue ’73

    Trick plays or fake punts work best when the opposing team doesn’t expect them. 22 yards to go does seem to be too much to expect to gain, though. Nevertheless, the winning pass would have been a touchdown if it had been 80 yards to go rather than 20. One play does not decide a game. The test of a head coach in college is whether he draws good players among the pool who will come to an Ivy school and whether he properly motivates them to play well as a team.

  • ralph

    old blue .the one thing i understand you never go on 4th and 22 when leading in a game.and i didnt go to yale so what speak the truth about the play. old blue

  • 8 and counting

    Actually, this year’s seniors did not lose to Harvard for the eighth time in nine years. They only feel like they did. But you need to rope in an entire, additional set of 4 years of players plus one more to have achieved this remarkable feat.

  • Get Some Perspective

    #10 Tanner, you made two unrelated points in response to my original post. Your first point is exactly the opposite of what I’m saying. I SUPPORT keeping score. Indeed, it’s the fluky 29-29 tie or the late game 14-10 crushing defeat which draws the media and national attention.

    And, concerning your second point, yes – that’s exactly what I’m saying: “The Call” was a great play because it was, to use the adjectives proffered by others, so “idiotic” and “insane” that it drew the attention of ESPN, Sports Illustrated and just about every football blog on the planet. That IS my point.

    Hey, we love being associated with Harvard and Princeton. We may not admit it in so many words, but you and I both know that the reason we celebrate The Game is that we’re playing Harvard. There’s a reason that, until this year, we put a big crimson “H” or big orange “P” at midfield for our last home game each season.

    Every time Harvard scores 16 points in the last two minutes to tie us 29-29 or Coach Williams makes a crazy decision which gets us on SportsCenter, it puts us in the public eye with Harvard. To me and most Yalies who will perform a little introspective thinking, that’s why we love The Game.

    A 10-7 Yale victory last weekend would not attract more than a two-paragraph agate-type summary in the next morning’s New York Times. On the other hand, a 14-10 excruciating loss with a highly debatable coaching decision (coming the week after Bill Belichick was excoriated for making a similar call on fourth down) which is splashed all over the front page of every sports section in America? I love it!

  • christina wakefield, TD 2011

    Re: comment # 11

    i genuinely hope you’re being sarcastic…

  • Eddy

    #11 you sound like a bigger idiot than the coach. Racial overtones? Where? You are obviously afro-american and embarrassed by the call. The probabilities of that play succeeding are 1 in a 1000. Ask anyone who has ever coached or played the game. Coach your comments and explanations are a disgrace. I played football for 18 years thru division one college and that was a terrible call. Cut the excuses and admit you cost these seniors the most important game of their career. Congratulations. And Mr Beckett ask the class of 54 how they feel.

  • Applegate

    like #13 says “trick plays work best when ones’ opponent does not expect it”
    This was plain as day, Yale is going for it on 4’th down AND TWENTY.
    Maybe what the coach had in mind was for whoever is running towards first down with the ball to just throw the ball up in the air ! Put it down and kick it

  • Gaffer

    Between the Register column and this story, here is what you have: a Yale head coach who allowed his players to engage in thuggery at Princeton such that he had to apologize to alumni; he follows that up with either making a bonehead call that hands the game to Harvard or allows the call to be made by others in an obvious punting situation. So, you have a terrible call and a head coach obfuscating who really called it in the guise of “taking” responsibility even though maybe he(wink, wink) did not call it, and in denial about how poor the call was to boot. Oh, and losing to heavy underdog Princeton and blowing the lead to Harvard.

  • Michael Glodo

    #17 – ditto.

  • Yale CC ’08

    To #17, actually, a previous article on Williams that left a ton of comments revealed several that were very racially tempered. Something having to do with affirmative action and how he would have been fired if he wasn’t black.

    And #7, why don’t you chill? Nothing in #1’s comment says anything about him being a Yale alum.

  • anon

    RE #17

    We don’t need to piggyback on Harvard to retain our merit as the best college in the country. The name Yale speaks for itself. Screw Harvard.

  • To #23 anon:

    Lets face it: Yale has been “piggybacking on Harvard” even since a wrathful Cotton Mather – scorned by his alma mater for the presidency – organized a group of orthodox clerics to found a new “schoole” in Connecticut. The principle rationale for the “schoole” was that it was “not Harvard” – where dangerous liberal thinking was taking hold.

    Ever since, Harvard has served as the benchmark, setting an example for Yale to follow or to rebel against.

    When there is a drive to hugely increase financial aid, or to admit women as undergrads, or to convert from single to two-ply toilet paper, Harvard has shown the way.

    When Harvard decided to drop the yield-enhancing early admissions device, Yale agonized, then felt it couldn’t safely follow, and decided to make a virtue of necessity by “counter-programming.”

    In any case,Yale – while it may or may not be “the best college in the country” as you claim – is generally reactive in most respects, taking its cue from the behemoth to the North.

  • To #23 (replying to #16)

    Lets face it: Yale has been “piggybacking on Harvard” even since a wrathful Cotton Mather – scorned by his alma mater for the presidency – organized a group of orthodox clerics to found a new “schoole” in Connecticut. The principle rationale for the “schoole” was that it was “not Harvard” – where dangerous liberal thinking was taking hold.

    Ever since, Harvard has served as the benchmark, setting an example for Yale to follow or to rebel against.

    When there is a drive to hugely increase financial aid, or to admit women as undergrads, or to convert from single to two-ply toilet paper, Harvard has shown the way.

    When Harvard decided to drop the yield-enhancing early admissions device, Yale agonized, then felt it couldn’t safely follow, and decided to make a virtue of necessity by “counter-programming.”

    In any case,Yale – while it may or may not be “the best college in the country” as you claim – is generally reactive in most respects, taking its cue from the behemoth to the North.

  • Replying to #25

    Both H and Y are great universities, with different strengths, but denigrating one at the expense of the other makes it tempting to suggest the other side. Everyone knows that the school taking big steps in the last 15 years has not been Harvard – wracked by poor and contentious leadership, stalled by its ETOB philosophy, over levereged, filled with deteriorating facilities, challenged by a huge unfilled hole in the center of Allston, faced with poor undergraduate teaching, behind in the arts, and with nothing holding together its separate schools which have no loyalties except to themselves, and a restive undergraduate population, happy to be at a place named “Harvard” and dissatisfied by the experience. Sure they keep a shiny face on the mess but I think many are happy enough not be be at that “benchmark” institution right now and pleased to be in new Haven. The analysis of why Yale stayed early admissions is side splitting. For many years Yale was a vastly less affluent and more parochial institution, that’s true. But Yale is now in its heydey and many know the challenges the “benchmark” institution is facing . . .

  • early 90s alum

    Tragic that race is part of this discussion. Actually, more so, the reference is a poor reflection of what one would expect to be a reasonably intelligent readership. White, black, green, red does not change the reality of the call: horrific. That being said, Coach Williams deserves to continue. He brings youthful enthusiasm to the program, which is overdue. Ideally he will learn from this mistake and we will move on, successfully.

  • Replying to #26

    Rather sad to be arguing that Yale is in its “heyday” at a time when it is chronically stuck in 4th place or lower in most rankings, losing to Stanford and Princeton – and overwhelmingly to Harvard – in the cross-admit battle, and so sensitive about losing the last football game of the year that its wailing alumni are ready to fire the second coach in as many years who has shown he can’t win it.

    Frankly, I’d say Yale was in its “heyday” about 1927.

  • Last Response to #28

    Well, it is true that Yale won The Game by 14 points in 1927. Other than that, #28 is patently absurd. Even if the rankings mattered – which they do not – or showed more than the most minuscule data-driven differences between schools – which they do not – or compared institutions with the same strengths – which they do not – this would be absurd. In which rankings is Yale “chronically stuck in 4th place?” Name them! – you cannot because they are inaccurate – NOT again that it matters in so ridiculous a “battle.” And where are you getting your statistics about who has lost to whom in the “cross-admit battle”? Point those statistics out, please! O, you cannot? Well then, you are whistling in thin air! Both institutions have lost their greatest generation of faculty, but I would say once again that Yale is now in its heyday, and Harvard was in its heydey during the Bok era. Since then it has been mostly downhill.

  • Cross admit numbers

    This data is closely held of course, but there are numerous numbers that have slipped out in recent years. I could pull them together for you, but this is hardly the best place to do so. Suffice it to say that the Yale yield rate has declined for 4 years in a row, despite hanging onto the yield-boosting early admissions program. Its “opem market” yield rate substantially trails Harvard and Stanford, and is no better than even vs. MIT and Stanford. Since these are the top competitors – whose admits constitute the lion’s share of the cross-admit losses for Yale, its easy to see why the school hangs onto the early admissions program in order to reduce the size of the cross-admit pool, particularly with Harvard!

  • ’96

    “Coach” Williams has often expressed admiration for President Obama. In light of the speech last night at West Point, Williams has decided that he will take his team off the field after the third quarter of the Harvard game next year.

  • Yale should stop obsessing about Harvard

    Whether in football or toilet paper, why must Yale always obsess about how it stacks up againt Harvard?

    A 2001 column from the Yale Herald:

    Time for Yale to question rivalry

    Let’s be honest: President Richard Levin’s, GRD ’74, speeches usually put us to sleep. If there was ever a moment when Levin’s oration evoked a powerful response from the student body, it was in 1997, when he said two words that caused an entire auditorium of Yalies to go absolutely berserk: Harvard sucks.
    You can find these words anywhere on the Yale campus. They are plastered onto bulletin boards, etched into wooden desks, and printed on t-shirts. We have made them the mantra of our college years, and by now, “sucks” follows “Harvard” in common conversation.
    We students are not the only ones guilty of allowing Harvard to obsess our minds. The Administration seems haunted by its influence. Policies are changed not because change is long overdue, but because Harvard, is changing theirs. These changes may be necessary to stay competitive with our rivals and to attract the best students, but no one can deny that comparison is often taken too far. We evaluate every miniscule facet of Yale life in light of Harvard; perhaps one of the most ridiculous examples is a 1998 Yale Daily News article entitled, “Harvard beats Yale in the race for two-ply toilet paper” [YDN, 1/27/98].
    I have never understood why Yale feels a compulsion to constantly compare itself to Harvard.

    Trying to figure it out, I thought of a question someone in my hometown once asked me: “Why would you go to Yale if you could go to Harvard?” This question infuriated me, because I knew he had never stepped on either campus, nor did he have any concept of what either school had to offer. Somehow, most likely by virtue of age, Harvard has been ingrained in the American mind as No. 1. Levin, our skillfull orator, put it best when he said, “Harvard deserves its high ranking only when judged by the silly criteria of small-minded people.” Public opinion constantly second-guesses the greatness of the school we know to be the greatest. The result: an inferiority complex that manifests itself in intense hatred of Harvard.

    It is tempting to counter doubts about Yale’s status by tearing down Harvard’s. But frankly, adopting a “Harvard Sucks” mantra makes us look lame more than anything else. It is easy to mistake an inferiority complex for inferiority. In an editorial entitled “Always Second Best,” the Crimson applauded us for “proudly carrying the banner of inferiority all these years” [Crimson, 11/19/99].
    It is time we broke out of the confining comparison trap and started proclaiming our merits simply by proclaiming our merits. We ultimately do ourselves a better service by appreciating what we have, rather than comparing ourselves to what we chose not to have.

    Collen Kinder is a junior in Morse.

  • response to #30

    Harvard’s move (in which it seems it sold P’ton a stocking full of coal)hasn’t helped kids one whit. You could argue that eliminating early allows kids to compare financial aid packages and that could have been a solid argument. BUT in schools where the aid is as good as H, Y and P that is now virtually irrelevant. Beyond this, there is little to recommend this move as helpful to anything, except in shiny tinny headlines. If you take pressure off kids early, you put MORE on them LATER. You simply rearrange the pressure! Everyone must apply everywhere causing gigantic applicant pools. You force schools to depress admits because they have NO idea what the size of their entering classes will be – ALL the strongest kids are still in their pool and they must admit them all and are sure to lose a pile to other schools as NO school yields ALL these kids. Next, you push colleges down the line to keep large waiting lists because they never can accurately estimate their yield. This means scores more kids end up sitting on waiting lists and gnashing their fingers and chewing their nails while they wait to see if they will get into their first choice. Meanwhile when and if they do get into their first choice they then create a HUGE chain reaction down the line. Yale reasoned this out and stood pat. Excepting highly specialized schools like CIT, Yale clearly is the second hardest school to get into in the country AND clearly does second best in the cross admit “battle.” But not because it stops considering what is the right thing to do or who actually benefits.
    2. “Pull together” that information! Let’s see what you’ve got other than a big bag of skewed misinformation! Beyond this,I think more and more kids are gradually figuring out that while H is a great school and nice name, Y is a great school and nice name too, and in general a happier place to be.

  • Tim

    Hey Collen,
    Now you know how Albertus Magnus students feel about the University of New Haven.

  • Reply to #33

    An amusing rationalization for Yale’s retention of the early admissions crutch: as I understand it, only the 6 out of 7 rejected from the early admissions pool are forced to deal with those dreaded schools “down the line (which) keep large waiting lists because they can never accurately estimate their yield.”

    How noble an selfless of Yale to jump in early and snag as many top students as possible before they find out what their options are … and just to think: Yale’s only aim is to reduce the size of waitlists at Cornell, Duke and Penn!

    Spare us! Levin virtually admitted that his bluff was called by Harvard. After years of handwringing about the evils of early admissions in NYTimes and NPR interviews, and saying he only wished Yale’s peers would drop it so that Yale could too, he choked when the chance to put his money where his mouth was actually presented itself.

    Pure and simply (as a contemporary Yale Herald article pointed out) Levin knew that true open admissions would mean an absolutely HUGE overlap pool with Harvard. Experience amply demonstrated that Harvard would grab the lion’s share of the common admits, so that it would be YALE (rather than the pitiable Penn, Cornell and Duke) which would need the huge waiting list!

    At Yale, in admissions, morality took a back seat to expediency.

  • Recent Alum

    I see that *NYCFAN* is dominating the comments here.

  • #35 Nonsense

    #35 You really and truly have no idea what you are talking about. The top students, the ones everyone wants, go wherever they wish, whether they are in Yale’s or Stanford’s early pools, and stay there, or enter them and then enter Harvard’s and Princeton’s later. Period. Everyone knows that. They aren’t afraid to take one admit and seek another. Everyone else – and not just at Cornell, Penn, or Duke – is thrown onto the mercy of a damnably excruciating process. You are right that Levin did say early on that he favored the eradication of early admissions and that therefore he wanted the chance to consider it with peers, since you cannot act alone in this; every move you make affects everyone and everything else. But no one talked. Someone jumped, grabbing the headlines and simply assuming everyone – “everyone” here meaning Yale and Stanford, at least – would act the same way. That, I believe, forced robust consideration of the process, when you could begin to talk not only inside the institution but also to many high schools and counselors and think it through from a global as well as institutional perspective. I pity someone who thinks that every institution makes every decision only out of pure self interest. He or she must work for the kind of institution that thinks and acts that way.

  • To #37 hardly “nonsense”

    After a lot of dubious claims that early admissions programs don’t really give schools a psychological edge with top applicants (that’s their very PURPOSE!!) you go on to concede, that Levin reconsidered his loudly proclaimed moral opposition to early admissions in the wake of the decision by Harvard, Princeton and UVa to drop the crutch.

    This forced “robust consideration” of the process, you say. Great phrase! Actually Yale went into the bunker for several weeks, refusing comment, consulting surveys, running computer models etc. and finally concluded, rather cynically, that – morality be damned – this presented Yale with some short-range tactical opportunities.

    All that was necessary was to pin down Stanford – with which he maintained close institutional ties, and a firewall could be put in place. Eventually this was achieved, and a mealy-mouthed statement was issued in order to justify the President’s startling flip flop (oh, excuse me .. his “robust reconsideration”) with respect to his prior noble stance.

    It is interesting to place, side-by-side, Levin’s historical statements justifying (1) the move to binding early decision (2) the move to “single-choice-early action” (3) calls to the abolition of all early programs, and (4) the recent “robust reconsideration” of his moral distaste for early admissions programs in any guise.

    No one – except you, perhaps, and a few party-lining loyalists – thinks Levin was acting selflessly, He was acting purely in Yale’s self interest as he perceived it on each occasion, after periodic “robust reconsideration” of the options.

    Nothing wrong with thinking tactically, except that in this case, as earlier, Levin’s torturous twists and turns may not provide the clear edge he initially thought he was gaining. Early admission programs are addictive, and can unanticipated side-effects.

    Time for another “robust reconsideration”, I’s say!

  • @ #30

    “This data is closely held of course, but there are numerous numbers that have slipped out in recent years. I could pull them together for you, but this is hardly the best place to do so”

    – Nevertheless, why don’t you have a crack? Don’t forget to cite sources.

  • take it out back

    this article was about football, not early admissions, y’all. you know, the 4th and 22 call?

  • cross admit numbers

    Exerpt fromYale Herald Interview with Donald Routh, Yale Director of Financial Aid, Feb. 2002:

    DR: Last year, Harvard got 83 percent of students that got into both Yale and Harvard.

    ZK: Do you have a breakdown of what kinds of backgrounds those 83 percent come from?

    DR: You mean, do we lose the poor students or the rich students?

    ZK: Right. Because then you would know exactly how the new (financial aid)policies affect that.

    DR: Well, we know we didn’t lose any poor students to Princeton, even though they took the loan obligation out of the package for students under a $40,000 income. And actually, Harvard [got] 83 percent with students believing they were going to have $1,000 extra in self-help, because [Harvard] didn’t make any changes until September of this year, and then they made it retroactive. That was the strangest decision that any of us had ever heard.

    ZK: Perhaps a large part of the 83 percent were students from middle-income families.

    DR: I don’t think it has anything to do with financial aid.

    EC: I think it does, slightly. My little brother was accepted to both Harvard and Yale last year, and financial aid did influence his decision to go to Harvard because Harvard offered him a better deal.

    DR: Did he ask us to review his package?

    EC: Oh, you reviewed it, but in the end, Harvard gave him a better package.

    ZK: Is that particular to his case?

    DR: It happens both ways. That’s because the Justice Department won’t let us compare notes anymore. For 30 years we exercised what we called “overlap.” About 25 schools literally got together around a table and reviewed the need of candidates. All we know now is what the student tells us. We no longer know if we have the same information, because we don’t have a chance to compare our analysis. The competition has taken away whatever spirit of cooperation we used to have.

    The invisible hand

    YH: So would you call this a bidding war?

    DR: In overlap, its a group of schools with a natural order of selection–nobody at Yale likes you to tell them that 83 percent choose Harvard, but it’s a fact.

  • y10

    We lose the wealthy WASPs to Princeton. We lose the SMART poor kids and minorities to Harvard. We lose the techies to MIT.

    That leaves Yale with a bunch of 2nd rate, institution-loathing uber-liberals (abortion art, Fitzgerald shirt banning, Gone With the Wind banning, etc) who think that “anyone who would choose Princeton and Harvard over Yale isn’t wanted here anyway.” Swell.

  • To #38 and #41

    #41 “Cross Admit numbers” you are quoting from a Skip Routh interview from eight years ago!!!! Can’t you do any better than THAT? Much, much has changed since then. It’s hopeless to go on with this. You don’t really know what’s going on at Yale. You have fabricated a view of things. It’s actually amazing to hear! Yale didn’t go into a bunker to make its EA decision. It was talking with public and private high schools and counselors around the country as well as discussing this in its own councils. (Admittedly, the wait must have seemed interminable to H and P, though.) H pulled a surprise, no doubt having discussed this “robustly” in its own councils; why should Yale rush a decision before investigating it?

    Of COURSE Yale wasn’t discussing what it was going to do publicly before it knew. No doubt others thought: O well, we have done all the thinking. Levin stated he is interested in making things better for students,and seems to like the idea of eliminating early, so we don’t have to talk to Yale, Yale will just follow us.

    But that isn’t the way things work when schools actually have to think through complex matters. Why didn’t H ask Yale before jumping?? Perhaps otherwise both schools could have discussed the complex pros and cons and mapped it out together.

    Here’s the truth: Going regular decision hasn’t made the life of one student better – and if Yale and Stanford had followed Hvd and Pton it wouldn’t have been any different. I repeat: it would not have been any different. The Yale folks saw that.

    I also love the way #41 suggests that Stanford made its decision solely because Levin had ties there. It just couldn’t be that Stanford reflected and decided this move would only immensely complicate matters without making them better, could it? (not to mention what eliminating early does to the vetting process – so much has to get much shorter shrift when it is all crammed into a few months)

    Why are you on the Yale web site? When people feel this strongly about a place not their own and decisions not their own it can only be because they are choked with envy. You have fabricated a narrative which seems a bitter manifestation of a cynical mind. I will now stop reading and writing; you can have the last word.

  • To #43

    Not a “fabricated narrative” but the truth. To borrow Routh’s phrase “A lot of people at Yale don’t like to admit it, but its the truth.”

    And cross admit rates have remained relatively constant for 25 years, at least, regardless of various tactical maneuvers in re early admissions.

    All that is accomplished by restricting admits to a single early decision or early action application is reducing the size of the overlap pool. This, of course, is what Levin has constantly striven to achieve, in an effort to boost the yield rate.

  • To #44

    O Lord, I can’t bear this. Cross admit rates have not remained constant over 25 years. “Relatively constant” (#44’s phrase) is an iteration that needs specificity in instances where 20-25 or more can signify major change. This person does not know what he or she is talking about. If you do, ante up! Let’s have the statistics! And not the ones from 2002! Further, Levin has not cared about the yield rate (not the same as your cross admit rate against your strongest peers) because if he did there would be many ways to adjust it other than the one unjustly alleged here. For example, You could admit people who are sure to accept your offer; you could not admit people with other strong institutional ties; and on and on and on. Yale has not done this. That is because the long run winner is the school with the strongest students – not necessarily the school with the strongest yield! Any Ivy can manufacture a strong yield. Yield and strength aren’t the same – one can be manufactured, the other not. Only US News and the most superficial of the most superficial believe yield is the final test of everything. O well. People who can’t imagine integrity will never believe in it.

  • “Levin doesn’t care about the yield rate”

    Oh Lord, spare us! If the yield rate and admit rate weren’t seen as key, then Yale wouldn’t count as “applicants” people who have withdrawn their applications or left them incomplete – and yet they chronically do so. (The Alumni School Committee alone gets the true numbers.)

    Furthermore, there are the unique games played with the admit numbers in many years, to exclude, for example, those deferring a year. Furthermore, it should be disclosed (but is not) that deferred early admits (predisposed to matriculate if admitted) are later accepted at a rate far higher than “ordinary” applicants in the regular pool. “Any Ivy can manufacture a strong yield” you say: true enough. And there is no better way to do so than to fill more than half the seats with people from the early pool – self-identified as predisposed to matriculate. This is precisely WHY schools have early admissions programs: ie, to flag those applicants who are most likely to matriculate if admitted, and then admit them at a much higher rate than those who have not sent this “signal.”

    Of course the larger fraction of the class filled from the early pool then the chances are the cross-admit pool with your greatest competitors will be smaller. This may not help the cross-admit rate (which is harder to manipulate) but it can do wonders for the yield rate!

    You have to hand it to Penn: they, at least, candidly admit this is precisely why they have an early program, and exactly why they grant a huge edge in admissions to the early applicants. By being honest, Penn has “integrity” perhaps, as opposed to schools which pretend they are serving any interests except their own by loading up on early applicants.

  • Enough

    Isn’t this about FOOTBALL? Either get back to the point or get off it. A discussion about what improvements/changes are needed would be much more beneficial than all of this! Coach Williams and his staff have a lot of work to do. Help them out!! Help Coach Williams get back to reality!

  • To #46 (sorry #47) -Part I

    Penn is in an utterly different position from Yale. Keeping early is necessary for Penn – as it is for Brown or Dartmouth – because as “second choices” to H,Y, P, and S they stand to lose terribly if they do not lock in early.I completely agree that Penn is to be lauded for being straightforward about ITS reasons for being early DECISION – which locks people who are admitted in – and not Early ACTION – which is Yale’s system and which does NOT lock students in. BIG BIG difference, #46!!
    And here is why ending early will never help students: Basically not enough schools can do it. If a school like Penn or Brown went regular decision only every kid in the world would apply there as their “second choice.” How would you EVER guess how many to admit from such a gigantic pool of people who have you right there as back up. And by the way EVERY school would cope with ENORMOUS pools, since no one would know where he or she would get in and would try everywhere! Without SOME sorting out at the start, you would have chaos.

    Therefore, some schools need for their own strategic reasons to keep Early DECISION (not Early ACTION). if Harvard drops early in the hopes of taking pressure off of students, that aim is sure to fail! Some of these students will just sweat and agonize about whether to apply early to Penn or Brown (or Duke etc)in hopes of maximizing their chances there but locking themselves in – OR waiting to apply to Harvard or Yale later. Admissions is like a big chess board and every school that moves affects all other schools. An admissions approach that doesn’t take the realities of other schools situations into consideration cannot make a right decision for students as a whole group. (continued in next box)

  • To #46 (Part II)

    It is funny to hear the reasoning about why a higher percentage of early applicants are admitted in the spring from Yale’s early pool. The implication is: It is all for yield! Hilarious! And wrong! It is, rather, because that early pool is inherently strong. You always want to be cautious early, of course, and leave room for all the good people who come later or for students from communities not as focused on “getting into college” who do not get their acts together as early. You never know what any pool will bring. But in the end you want the strongest students – and many strong students apply early!

    AND by the way if they are in the Yale pool, they do NOT all want to go to Yale! Some apply early to Yale because Princeton and Harvard do not HAVE early; admitted or not, they intend to go right straight over and apply to their favorite school in the spring for regular decision. In this scenario, you see that keeping early does NOT always advantage the school that does it, because that school leaves itself vulnerable to losing yield when the students who applied early to Yale because they could not apply early to Harvard and Princeton – then turn around and apply to them and get in. So let me repeat: your analysis is WRONG. Early ACTION (as opposed to Early DECISION) does NOT always advantage yield because you are admitting very strong kids who can go anywhere they want – and will IF their first choice is not Yale. If Yale wanted to maximize yield above all, it would go Early DECISION – NOT Early ACTION! Duh!

    So why offer early? Well, gosh, here we are again: because it doesn’t help anything NOT to offer it, because many students actually want it, because it tends to sort out some of those who know where they want to go (admittedly others just want an admit in hand), and because it makes it a helluva lot easier to administer an office and READ the applications carefully if you have a little more TIME. In the end it is – gasp – unbelievable – but – gasp – true – contextually the right thing to do! Yup! Once again #46 seems not to believe this decision could be strategically defensible but also the right thing. He or she seems to have something against Levin’s notable and universally admired success as a president and is intent on proving him somehow a villain. However, the guy has just finished 15 enormously successful years in which he literally turned around a great university, gained virtually universal approval and managed it all with integrity and class. Too bad there are not more around like him.

  • To: the Admissions apologist

    You are a master at evading this issue by assuming an argument not made.

    Levin is certainly notable, and widely (if not universally) admired. Flip-flopping on his widely-proclaimed moral opposition to early admissions in order to gain a perceived, short-range tactical advantage, was not, however, been his finest hour.

    (I feel betrayed a bit because I loudly praised his (former) principled opposition to the early admissions scam in this forum, Atlantic, and others.)

    You pretend that Yale is not motivated by petty factors such as yield rate and cross-admit numbers, since it is in “an entirely different position” from Penn. Well I hate to break it to you, but the lion’s share of Yale’s 650 cross admit losses last year were to Harvard, Princeton and Stanford. It has ever been thus. The goal of the early admissions program is to minimize these cross admit losses by sharply limiting the size of the overlap pool. (Note: Princeton’s cross admit losses exceeded 900 last year – the largest number heading to Harvard. Without the early admit “firewall” Yale’s losses to its main competitors would have been even greater than Princeton’s.)

    The problem for Yale is that the pecking order in admissions is fairly rigid and inflexible, and the larger its cross admit pool with Harvard, the lower its yield rate will be (ie, the smaller the fraction of its most highly-sought recruits it will land.) (Hansmann, Yale)

    See also “Winner Take All In Higher Education” - (Frank, Cornell)

    Finally, the “single choice early action” alternative is an inspired scam, since it gives the appearance – though not the reality – of offering a real “choice”. By preventing applicants from applying early elsewhere, Yale (and Stanford) guarantee themselves a 3-month exclusive negotiating period to romance the early admits – showering them with t-shirts, party invitations etc, in an effort to get them signed up before they have concrete alternatives elsewhere.

    In fact, the yield rate for “single-choice early action” admits is barely lower that the yield rate for the binding early decision program Yale adopted in 1996. The SCEA yield rate at Yale (and Stanford) has hovered at about 88% since this option was offered. (In the single year Harvard used it, its yield rate was 92%.) The old “bird in the hand” thing, don’t you know.

  • More to the admissions apologist:

    I hasten to add that SCEA is less offensive than binding ED, if only slightly:

    “By exposing their early admits to the vagaries of the market, Yale and Stanford are opening themselves up to greater competitive pressures than they have faced in years, said Harvard Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid William R. Fitzsimmons ’67.

    Three out of four students who get into both Yale and Harvard choose Harvard, according to Fitzsimmons.

    Although Fitzsimmons said the changes might give Harvard access to more top candidates who previously would have been bound to attend Yale or Stanford, he lauded them for making decisions in the best interest of students.

    “We lose [Early Action students] to them every year, now they will lose some to us,” he said. “But it’s a winning decision for students.”

  • A new cross admit survey – 2009
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