JANES: A transition to mediocrity

As athletics transitions into spring sports, Yale is in the middle of a much more wide-sweeping, and more weighty transition.

This transition extends further back even than the past decade. It is predominantly out of the control of anyone within the Athletics Department, and it has me, for one, very concerned: a transition to mediocrity.

Soon, even our best year ever will no longer stack up with ancient rival Harvard’s norm, nor Princeton’s, nor that of the rest of the Ivy League.

Grab your tickets to that 2025 Yale vs. Southwestern Connecticut State Division III rivalry showdown now, because that’s where we’re headed.

And it’s no secret why.

Since the 1993-1994 academic year, Yale has won 51 Ivy League titles. In that time, only Columbia at 33 and Dartmouth with 39 have claimed fewer. That year coincides with the start of a move by Yale University administration to reduce the number of recruited student-athletes. According to a Sept. 2010 interview with University President Richard Levin in the Yale Alumni Magazine, the Levin administration has reduced the number of recruited athletes from 17 percent of the Yale’s student body to 13 percent. Levin told the magazine he wants that number to go down even more. For those few slots Yale coaches are allotted for athletes, recruiting gets harder and harder as coaches’ hands are tied not only with stringent restrictions, but also by the obvious gap in Yale’s commitment to support its athletes when compared with other schools. Simply put, it won’t be long before we don’t stand a chance.

I am a huge believer in the power of work ethic: recruit hard enough, coach hard enough, work hard enough as athletes and you can compete no matter what. And that’s exactly what the Yale Athletics Department has been doing — to the tune of one of our best years ever and seven Ivy titles in 2010-11. We even bested the Crimson’s total of five titles last year. But that was the first time since 1993 that we’ve outdone Harvard in the Ivy title category and only the fourth time since 1993 that Yale has been in the top three in Ivy League titles in a season.

I see no better future for Yale in the decision to drive one of the most storied Athletics Departments in American history into the ground. I see a willingness to accept less than the best, a willingness to be average, and a willingness to commit to something other than excellence. Speaking as someone who loves and takes great pride in this school: that is absolutely unacceptable on any front.

Things wouldn’t be easy even without the extra restraints. Building a highly-competitive program in the only league in Division I that can’t give scholarships has always been challenging. League sanctions aimed at preserving academic excellence make things even harder, and Yale’s added restrictions will eventually leave the Bulldogs battling to stay afloat in Division I. This approach to athletics also suggests that we know something people at seven of the most prestigious universities in the country don’t. The academic prestige of Harvard and Princeton certainly hasn’t dropped off with the growth and these institutions’ efforts to let their athletics departments flourish in recent years. In fact (and it really does sting to say it), according to those oh-so-infallible U.S. News rankings, their academic prestige has surpassed our own.

Yale prides itself on being one of the nation’s best across the board. Not just in academics, but also in our newspaper, our arts, our music, our debate teams, our libraries, our faculty, our tradition. No one at Yale comes here to be average. No one at Yale got here by committing him or herself to anything but excellence. So why is the one exception athletics?

I won’t be drawn into answering that question. That argument has been waged several times, and regardless of the perspective, it’s always hopelessly polarizing. All I will say (at least this week … ) is that the administration’s distrust in the people they’ve put in charge of the Athletics Department to choose student athletes deserving of being here and willing to contribute positively to the Yale community reflects on the abilities of no one but the administrators themselves.

In my opinion and experience, the people the administration has in place in that regard do recruit wisely and tirelessly: they put countless hours and log countless miles in doing so. The fact that Yale athletes are accomplishing the Herculean task of overcoming their comparative disadvantage while maintaining high standards academically is evidence enough of their efforts.

Don’t try to throw the “reducing the number of recruited athletes means you’ll get people who just love the sport” argument at me either. Yale athletes — and Ivy Leaguers in general — can’t earn scholarships. They come to play here because they love the game and want to be challenged academically too. If an athlete wants to go somewhere where they can mess around for four years and grab a diploma, they can pick somewhere easier and cheaper to do it than Yale (and somewhere cooler than New Haven — let’s be honest). Similarly, if a recruited athlete decides to abandon ambition and mishandles him or herself, he or she is a) a rare exception in the athletic community and b) wouldn’t be unique amongst members of all groups across the Yale student body in doing so. I can say with relative certainty that the majority of the Yale athlete population is highly focused on success on the field and off it. No one comes to Yale to play and get famous. There are no motives other than high-quality athletics and high-quality academics: the same “excellent-all-around” appeal that draws the nation’s best and brightest in everything to New Haven.

Harvard beat up on us a bit this year. I’m confident we’ll reverse that trend next year, but doing so is going to get tougher and tougher. Yale’s prestige will suffer; our reputation for haughty elitism will harden, and the honor and privilege of being involved in the most prestigious rivalry in all of college sports will soon devolve into an embarrassingly one-sided token matchup, if that. We can be amongst the best and are choosing not to be. Anyone that is willing to let any department that represents this school be anything less than the best it can be is losing sight of everything Yale stands for. We (not athletes, not sports fans, but everyone who loves Yale) deserve better.

Passion for such success aside, and however much Yale athletes are trained to not make excuses and work with what they’ve got, University restrictions are eventually going to make staying competitive in an increasingly-ambitious Ivy League impossible. End of story. And end of a storied tradition.


  • RexMottram08

    Ned Fulmer should take notes.

    THIS is how you discuss athletes.

  • BPC

    Chelsea, you have (with apologies for the use of such a trite sports metaphor) just clubbed a walk-off with this exceptionally well-written, and painfully accurate, account of Yale’s descent into “Just, compete, baby.”

  • LtwLimulus90


  • sonofmory

    Perfectly said! it is a shame that a place like Yale fosters an environment where certain teams know they cannot compete for Ivy titles. I do not think National titles are necessary, but each athletes should feel like they have the opportunity to win a championship in one of their four years. And if they cannot, it should not be mother-Yale that is taking that away from them!

  • xfxjuice

    Wonderful piece.

  • ldffly

    This started with Giamatti. Go back and check the record.

    What is Pres. Levin’s rationale, by the way? I haven’t heard one offered.

  • eli1

    Great piece. As an alum its hard to watch Levin slowly destroy Yale athletics year after year.

  • joematcha

    Thanks for the article. I’m definitely going to try to research this subject more because of it

  • capecodmmp

    This is a good article . Yale has not been a leader in winning Ivy championships. I think one of the problems has been the dominance Harvard has established in football over the last decade. Yale men I speak with are beside themselves in this regard. They seem to feel that the dismal showings of the football team casts a long , negative shadow over the entire athletic program. And the recently departed head coach { 4 th and 23 …..fake punt and run …oh my ! and the resume re a Rhodes … just pathetic } plus the embarrassing situation with the QB Witt hasn’t helped at all.

    Harvard is in a position today where they are convincing great high school athletes that a degree from Harvard plus an excellent showing on the gridiron or basketball court could result in a pro career. So come to Harvard , don’t throw away your chance to obtain OUR degree by going to an SEC or Big 10 factory. If you talk to coaches and scouts they will tell you that the Crimson is ou there recruiting hard for the very best prospects. The resuts have been obvious , especially in football.

    This fall’s game showed the tremendous difference between the two football squads both on the field and on the sidelines. Now the basketball program has improved significantly.How many prospects will Lin bring to Cambridge ?

  • sjatlas

    Face it, Yale is an academic institution, not an athletic institution. With the college admissions rat race getting more and more competitive, this is hardly the time to advocate taking more places away from extremely qualified candidates and giving them to merely average candidates who happen to be athletes. I think Levin is on the right track.

    • chandlerpv

      How is being a great musician and using a musical supplement to aid your application, or like circumstances, any different than working at a sport and aiding your application. The academic index standards at Yale are the highest of any DI university in the country. So the applicants that are getting in, are, at a minimum, still within 1 st deviation of the average of the freshman class, or above the bottom 16%. thats a requirement for admissions to grant recruited acceptance. and that would be if every recruit was off the lowest academic band. That means that, in reality, the academic statistics of these teams are much much higher. What the athletic departments wants, is not dumber athletes, it wants more spots to give out to athletes so they don’t preemptively sign letters of intent elsewhere, and forgo the risk of applying as a normal student–while they have a good shot at getting in either way.

      Academic institution you say? Is Yale’s athletic history not also important? including out olympic athletes that represent the united states? our long standing rivalry with harvard? the fact that we’re an Ivy League school? (that refers to our athletic conference if you didn’t know).

      Face it, you know nothing about what goes into the recruiting process and just want your voice to be heard about an issue which you don’t understand.

      • kdaysandtou

        The “academic index standards” are irrelevant. Yes, athletes come here with a decent AI – they’re almost all wealthy alumni of private high schools who got a good enough education to get a convincing SAT score. That proves nothing, especially considering that most athletes take little more than a passing interest in academics once they’re here (even if they are smart). There’s no concept of a gut class here without athletes.

        And do Yale athletes really compare themselves with the musicians, etc. who get in here on that basis? A Yale musician would be among the best in his or her peer group. Yale athletes (with the exception of sports that only 1% of the country plays like squash, crew, etc.) are not even close to that level.

        I’d rather see us recruit the best football players, basketball players, etc. than continue this policy of allotting 10-15% of every freshman class to mediocre prep school athletes. That will never happen though, so for now, Levin is in the right.

        • LtwLimulus90

          Quite frankly, most prep school students are rather mediocre, and are only here because of the name of their school. Many others are smart and academically capable, but weren’t incredibly impressive applicants in any extracurricular sense. Let’s just get rid of all the rich kids, right?? Of course not. Anyone with a brain knows there is tremendous value to having athletes, legacies, and minorities here at Yale, all of whom have lowered academic standards.

    • BPC

      Sounds like you should have gone to MIT. Couldn’t gain admission?

    • Boogs

      Levin is trying to turn Yale into a mini-MIT. The University is recruiting students who are not only disinterested in athletics, but also extracurricular activity and cultural literacy generally. Yale is NOT just about academics. That’s a horrifically naive observation, which probably demonstrates your own unpreparedness for the institution. Too bad you’re probably missing out on a lot this university has to offer.

      • sjatlas

        Some of the commenters here make a lot of assumptions, and needlessly personalize their responses. There is no need to be snarky. As a matter of fact, I was admitted to both Yale and MIT, chose Yale, and was very glad I did. As an alum, I am well aware of what Yale has to offer, and I have nothing against athletics. My point was that there are so many more outstanding candidates for admission than there are available places (and more candidates than there ever were before), it seems like a really bad time to increase the level of athletic recruiting at the inevitable expense of other, more qualified, applicants.

      • ldffly

        From what I can see and from those with whom I’ve spoken, I can’t see that Levin is pointing the university in the direction of MIT. This is quite a surprising observation to me.

      • yalengineer

        MIT has a very proud sports tradition. Close to 50% of the campus is involved with a varsity or club sport. Extracurriculars? There are thousands of MIT lab rats going about building things for society. MIT is anything but focused on academics. They are focused on being beavers, nature’s engineers.

      • Sam

        I don’t even know how to respond to this. As someone whose major is much more on the MIT end of the spectrum, I can assure you that Yale is still very different. The drive to recruit science and engineering students isn’t trying to make us into MIT but instead is trying to remedy the fact that our STEM programs are much worse than those at Harvard, Stanford, Princeton, etc.

        • ldffly

          Sam, what you describe has probably been true for most of the university’s history–science and engineering were regarded as second class and still are. It’s a sorry state of mind that dominates the place. That is why I can’t see Levin’s attempt to supress athletics as a means to raise science and engineering. The two actions don’t correlate in that fashion. Levin just has low regard for the sports programs.

          So, with Levin doing his thing, we could end up with STEM programs in stasis and athetics headed into the dump. Levin would have been far better off to have raised money for science and engineering improvements, cut Yale college enrollment back below 5000, killed the new colleges, and allowed the athletic department do the best it could within the constraints of the demanding academic standards. But NOOOOOOOOOOOO!

  • elijah

    I was with you until “Levin shouldn’t be doing this.” Money spent on varsity athletics is money wasted.

    • LtwLimulus90

      that’s ridiculous for so many reasons. As someone who works intimately with fundraising operations at Yale, just for practical reasons, alienating the athletic community is just a BAD idea for the Yale administration. Not only do they make a powerful alumni demographic who open career doors for countless Yalie undergrads, athlete and non-athlete, every single year, very angry, but they also shrink the undergraduate demographic that donates back to Yale the most (BY FAR) after graduation.

  • btcl

    “Yale prides itself on being one of the nation’s best across the board. Not just in academics, but also in our newspaper, our arts, our music, our debate teams, our libraries, our faculty, our tradition.”

    The difference is that the people who get into Yale who are great singers, great instrumentalists, and great journalists still have to go through the same application process. Yes, maybe they’re allowed to get away with meeting slightly lower academic standards, but they are not actively recruited or given special privileges in the same way athletes are.

    • sonofmory

      wrong – musicians, actors, scientists – they are actively recruited – just ask admissions!

      • whatwhat

        false-musicians are not actively recruited. yale does not fly recruiters all over the country to pick out budding soloists/concertmasters of orchestras/etc with decent grades to fill a quota of musicians.

    • chandlerpv

      Yale athletes also go through the same application process as everyone else. They receive a likely only to give them advanced warning of admission, so they don’t sign intent elsewhere. This is no different then how Yale recruits engineers with likely letters, or other students who are exceptional in their endeavors. Yale recruits are often rejected by admissions, even with recruiting help. So in reality, the process is no different.. I would like to know what you think these special privileges are. If you saw how the recruiting process actually works, you would see differently. Although, it might be easier to invent the concept that athletes are given special privileges and stick with that.

  • busymom

    All you have to do it look at the scaffolding around Payne Whitney for the last 4 years and you know how the Yale president feels about athletics!

    • thesouthernyalie

      That same scaffolding where ZERO work has taken place do to a insufficient funding, scaffolding that is cheaper to rent than take down!

    • Goldie08

      hear hear

  • The Anti-Yale

    *”Soon, even our best year ever will no longer stack up with ancient rival Harvard’s norm, nor Princeton’s, nor that of the rest of the Ivy League.
    Grab your tickets to that 2025 Yale vs. Southwestern Connecticut State Division III rivalry showdown now, because that’s where we’re headed.”*

    **The monstrosity of competetive collegiate sports with its “Divisions” and its “Titles” is a grotesque wart on the aging face of an Ivy League whose elitist, old money, Tom Buchanon (aka George Bush) values, are fast fading with the ascension of the digital world.

    Welcome to the e-galitarian blandness of tweets,texts, walling, and friending.

    As much as I abhor sports, I abhor this digital diversion even more.


    M.Div. ’80, etc.**

    • sonofmory

      because the trophy just for showing up culture that is being established throughout our country is working out so well. that is creating more of a sense of entitlement than the Ivy League. Titles and Divisions allow people to strive for something – to work together towards a common goal. To learn the value of winning and losing with dignity. not getting rewarded for showing up.

    • Motiv8or

      You’re such a softy, “theantiyale”. I’m sorry you don’t fit into society. I’m sorry you are so bitter and unhappy. You’re clearly a teacher so you can boss around kids. I’ll tell you what, when you can carry on a conversation with adults, then we’ll listen. Until then, know that everyone sees you for what you are. Weak and insecure.

  • Nighttime

    This is one of the best articles I have ever read in the Yale Daily News. It is fair, well thought out, energized with logic, and very important for the university. As a two sport alum, I applaud your great work, Chelsea and I nominate you to carry a renewed and measured examination of this topic directly to the President’s office for serious reconsideration. I know that you would have enthusiastic support of the hundreds of current athletes at Yale and the thousands of athlete alums AND other alums that are saddened by the deterioration of Yale Athletics. We will help you any way we can!!!

  • ldffly

    A sound mind in a sound body is a worthy ideal for us all. Why not recruit first rate athletes who are capable academically? I do not and would never advocate creating athletic sloughs within Yale College. Recruiting a top athlete is hardly doing such a thing.

    Can sports corrupt a person? Yes. Can they corrupt an institution of higher learning? Clearly they can. However, can they and do they often build character? Yes. Persistence through tough circumstances, persistence through physical pain, building of recognition that one must sacrifice in the present for a longer term goal are all virtues that get put to work in sports.

    Don Scholander, Frank Shorter and Calvin Hill are three the likes of whom Yale will probably never see again.

  • morse_14

    I don’t think people resent athletes qua athletes. I think that people resent the fact that there are spots and likely letters explicitly reserved for athletes. The best trombone player (or debater, or math olympian, etc. etc.) in the country doesn’t get recruited, but the best (realistically, mediocre) football player does. That’s the disconnect that most non-athletes object to. Far from athletics being marginalized, they’re unfairly privileged in the admissions process.

    Treat high school athletics as any other extracurricular. It’s something that takes a lot of time, skill, and dedication — but so does playing an instrument, for example. You get a likely letter for the former and not the latter, and that’s the problem that many students here have.

    • chandlerpv

      …many students do get a likely for the latter. Just because you didn’t, doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. Only about half of likely letters go to athletes. so.. the other half is what exactly? thin air?


      A little bit of reading…

      • morse_14

        Oh please, College Confidential isn’t an actual source. Citing that is like citing the NY Post or the Daily Mail.

        The other half of likely letters don’t go into thin air — the vast majority of them go to YES-W students, all 100+ of whom receive them.

        • Justine

          “Admissions preferences are sometimes given to the children of alumni, the wealthy and celebrities, which is an overwhelmingly white group. Recruited athletes get breaks. Since the top colleges say diversity is crucial to a world-class education, African-Americans, Latinos, Native Americans, and Hawaiian/Pacific Islanders also may get in despite lower scores than other applicants.” http://www.usatoday.com/news/education/story/2011-12-03/asian-students-college-applications/51620236/1

          What then does Admissions do with preferred admits based on ethnicity, legacy, wealth, connections, children of professors or administrators…where does it end? Likely letter or not, the real issue is preferred admissions is a fact of life…Business 101

    • sonofmory

      wrong – the best trombone player does get recruited and the music department does get to submit lists to admissions for support. it is no different, it is just that there are not 35 different bands on this campus, so the numbers are not as large. however, the process if the same across a variety of extracurriculars!

      • morse_14

        This is not really true in my experience. I’m not musical myself, but I know quite a lot of people in the YSO, and not a single one of them received a likely letter.

        Basically, your facts are wrong. What you’re saying just isn’t true.

        • Justine

          Legacies. Sons and daughters of high wealth donors. Children of “connected” families in industry here and abroad. Business 101…thats the way the world rolls…athletes are but a category of preferred admits to Admissions in all colleges…duh

          • morse_14

            Thankfully, Yale isn’t “all colleges”…….

            There are problems with all of those things too, but they’re not as great because they’re not structured in the way that athletic recruiting is.. And many of them can be explained in other ways — children of legacies, for example, tend to have higher standardized test scores and better academic records than students in the general applicant pool. That doesn’t explain the whole difference, but it certainly accounts for some of it.

          • LtwLimulus90

            what you said about legacies is just false. Legacies have on average the lowest standardized test scores of any admissions demographic (including athletes).

            And what you said about people in YSO is also abjectly false. I know several who were “recruited” and two that said they have received ‘likely letters’.

          • morse_14

            If you think I’m wrong, go educate yourself. I’d start with this paper: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0272775710001676. It basically lays out my second paragraph in a quantitative way.

        • Justine

          legacies, children of high weath or connected families in industry, government here and abroad, children of professors…preferential admission is a fact of business…
          and athletes are just a piece of the puzzle…Yale admitted athletes have been admitted to Harvard, Princeton and other Ivies to be sure…they chose Yale!

        • sonofmory

          not a likely letter – but a higher chance of being admitted if the music chair supported them

          • morse_14

            Sure, but that’s not as big of a problem for two reasons. First, it’s not structured, formalized, and institutionalized in the way that athletic recruiting is; second, it’s not done on anywhere near the same scale of athletic recruiting.

            If athletic recruiting meant taking a handful — literally a handful — of highly qualified athletes and giving them informal support in the way that it happens for highly qualified musicians, I wouldn’t have a problem with it. But the likely letter (as well as the entire process) presents a huge problem because it’s nothing like that.

        • joematcha

          You know a lot of people in YSO and none of them received a likely letter and thus sonofmory has to be wrong? I’m at a bit of a loss reading this

          • RexMottram08

            There is greater competition nationally for great athletes. Yale issues likely letters so we are not at a disadvantage relative to scholarship schools who can dangle a written offer in front of recruits.

            There are no likely letters for tuba players because there isn’t a highly competitive and structured market for tuba players.

          • morse_14

            The YSO is the institution that draws the best-qualified undergraduate musicians. I know quite a few of them. If not a single one of them (including more than several first-chair players) got a likely letter, I highly doubt that anybody else did, at least for musical qualifications.

            I apologize if that train of thought wasn’t clear to you; to be honest, it seemed rather obvious to me.

    • LtwLimulus90

      On principle, complaining about lowered admissions standards for athletes is the same as complaining about lowered admissions standards for minorities, legacies, and candidates of geographic diversity. The university has a place for all of these students and need all of them. To say otherwise is shortsighted, naive, and quite frankly, sanctimonious.

      • morse_14

        Actually, I’d complain about most of those things. Yale is a university, first and foremost, and sports teams (and, I’d concede, orchestras) are only ancillary to its primary mission. If we could take all the candidates we wanted, I’d be fine with lowered admissions standards for athletes because admissions would no longer be a zero-sum game. As it is, I think that lowered admissions standards for minorities and candidates of geographic diversity is a problem; I’m more skeptical of the legacy argument, because I think that children of Yale alums tend, on average, to be more academically qualified to attend Yale.

        I’d be all right with some limited form of socioeconomic affirmative action, because it’s an inescapable reality that students who attend underfunded public schools will have slightly lower scores through no fault of their own. However, that’s about all the preference I think that Yale should (or needs to) give.

        As for the rest of your ad hominems, I don’t really think they’re worth responding to, at least until you come up with some reason to support them. Yale is, first and foremost, a university — and universities shouldn’t be measured by how many athletic championships they win. Any vision of Yale as something other than a research university is completely misguided and ignores reality. Your assertion that we need these types of students is not consonant with the truth.

        • RexMottram08

          What is Yale’s mission? I haven’t heard a serious declaration of the nature and purpose of the university since WFB Jr.’s God and Man at Yale.

  • River_Tam


  • Justine

    STANFORD has it all both academic selectivity and athletic success at both Pac 12 and NCAA levels in both men and women’s sports…
    Setting the bar low to be competitive in the Ivy League is an option. Competing in the NCAAs is a higher standard.

    Why have Athletics at Yale if you are not in it to win it?

    …and investment goes beyond recruiting, need the best coaches whose feet are held to the fire that their employment is directly tied to their winning an Ivy Championship..like the current Athletic Director, many coaches have been here forever underperforming…Is this Yale or the Post Office, punching your timecard and calling it a day?

    • LtwLimulus90

      Preach! The Athletic department here is the primary culprit. Most athletes here are made terribly unhappy by the incompetence demonstrated daily by the Athletics department. It’s a joke and Tom Beckett needs to be fired.

      • sonofmory

        Tom Beckett is as the mercy of his boss, PResident LEvin. Considering our teams are as successful as they are and we have the facilities we have is a tribute to his leadership. Without it, we would be Columbia!

        • Justine

          From 2000-01 to 2010-11 in the Ivy League Championship History Archives (for men and women’s sports), Yale is near the bottom of the ladder in number of Championships earned in the past 11 years:

          Princeton 122
          Harvard 68
          Cornell 68
          Penn 43
          Yale 36
          Columbia 25
          Brown 24


          This illustrious accomplishment has been headed up by an Athletic Director at the behest of his President who both proudly have achieved one of the longest tenures in history across not only the Ivy League but all universities in these United States. Our Yale coaches tenures are right up there as they mark their 10, 15 and 20 year milestones.

          Not saying revolving door jobs security and short terms are the answers, but heck, what about good, old-fashioned performance metrics for job retention?

      • CharlieWalls

        I agree. Beckett has made mistakes, it seems. His choice of a Bush name for an honor being one. He may be too surface oriented, both in himself and in viewing those who impress him.

  • RexMottram08

    I’d rather put money into athletics than another useless pseudo-major.

  • The Anti-Yale

    “This is one of the best articles I have ever read in the Yale Daily News.”

    What a revealing confession., and a devastating critique of the YDN if it is accurate.

    **Sports are a triviality. That’s their function: re-creation. Fun, relaxation, cleanse the mind of daily detritus.
    What Mercantilia has done to sports is make recreation into conspicuous consumption competition, a variation of the hemlock we drink for breakfast each day in our consumer society.
    M.Div. ’80, blah, blah.**

    • RexMottram08

      The recreation you describe is a triviality. Serious athletic competition has more in common with duty and responsibility.

      It’s not even a question of body vs. mind.

      A truly great left tackle, quarterback or safety (at any school) has more mental dexterity than most of Yale’s students.

    • LtwLimulus90

      That you don’t understand the value of athletics to the growth of the individual in body, mind, and soul simply betrays that you were probably never an athlete. if you were, I can almost guarantee you weren’t a good one, nor were you someone who would be capable of valuing the experience of membership on a sports team.

      • ldffly

        There’s a slightly impolite word that can be used in this connection. Participation in sports can build guts. A virtue that can carry into many walks of life.

    • Motiv8or

      What? Has the TheAntiYale ever been with a girl? Snuggle up to your book, bonehead, and shut up.

  • The Anti-Yale

    “Serious athletic competition has more in common with duty and responsibility.”

    **To what? A team? A school? A division?
    Sounds like training for bureaucracy to me—or for militia.

    • RexMottram08

      What’s wrong with training for a militia?

      Only a defeatist would let defensive muscles atrophy.

  • Alfonzo_Cruz

    Keep it up! I hope that people do not drop this issue- if the YDN and the student body at large can continue to bring the decline in the athletics program to the administration’s attention, maybe something can actually change. Pointing to Harvard and Princeton is important: those schools have strong athletics programs without comprising what they do as universities.

    • ldffly

      Alfonzo, I only wish you were right. I don’t think any level of pressure can move Levin on most matters, this one especially. The students were mostly opposed to the new colleges and look at the result. Sports will probably descend to the level of the Univ. of Chicago.

      • Branford73

        You’re probably right. For all the good things Levin has accomplished, this is a blind spot for him in my view. But he can’t stay Prez forever and the issue I hope will be one for consideration in his replacement when he retires.

        • ldffly

          “But he can’t stay Prez forever .” I think he’s trying hard.

  • Inigo_Montoya

    1. Question for supporters of athletic recruiting in its current form: would you be in favor of formalizing (with an academic “band” system and preference lists made by Yale arts faculty members) arts recruitment? If not, why not?

    2. Question for opponents of athletic recruiting: would you be okay with an athletic recruiting system that works the way currently existing arts recruiting works? If not, are you willing to advocate junking arts recruiting?

  • ShaveTheWhales

    These is no arts recruitment or preference lists made by Yale arts faculty members.

    Pointing to Harvard and Princeton is stupid. They do have stronger athletic programs without compromising academic endeavors, but that’s because their teams don’t suck and athletes want to join them.

    Sports teams are only really important to athletes and the Yale alums in their old boys clubs.

    • LtwLimulus90

      The reason why Yale doesn’t get good athletes (and I hope Janes writes a piece about this) is the utter incompetence of the Athletics department here, including both the administrators and many of the less successful coaches. It is too easy to reliably underperform here and keep your job. Part of that job is recruiting smartly. Too many coaches here are too lazy to do so.

      • Branford73

        If a coaching position here has fewer tools by way of admission preferences, facilities and support from the school, better candidates will choose other more supportive universities. What chance does Yale have to hire a coach for any team of Tommy Ammaker’s caliber? Yale doesn’t need to compete with Stanford or Duke. It does need to compete with Harvard, Princeton and the other Ivies who are eating its lunch in larger team sports. Enjoy your hockey team while it lasts.

        A healthy sports program attracts attractive students who won’t play on the teams but prefer to attend a university that has competitive sports programs.

        • LtwLimulus90

          right, that is of course all true. But Yale athletics also suffers from the lack of a formal review process for coaches and an easy and cushy tenure program. Athletes cannot review the performance of their coaches, and coaches cannot review the performance of the administrators. Review programs exist at all universities that take athletic success seriously, including Harvard and Princeton and Dartmouth and Stanford, etc. I know athletes at Yale complain all the time about a number of dinosaur coaches who are completely outclassed by their competition at rival schools who can’t get fired either because of their employment agreements or because no one notices how awful they are because 1) their athletes can’t complain and 2) no one who has the power to fire them (i.e. the university administration) in the first place because of objectively bad performance (i.e. season records) cares enough to pay attention!

  • The Anti-Yale

    **Sports teams are only important to puppets of the lonely consumer culture.
    I have to confess, a few weeks ago when River-Tam said “boom, etc.”of my final volley on the journalistic fiasco over Mr. Witt, I felt a RUSH of victory, and thought: “Is this how a jock feels?”
    River_Tam 3 minutes ago
    “The leakers may have been anonymous, but not their evidence.”
    Boom. And Paul D Keane drives it home for the win**

    • sonofmory

      Sports teams are only important to puppets of the lonely consumer culture – really? Tell that to the people of Japan after their women’s soccer team won the world cup this past summer. That victory gave them hope after the devastating tsunami.

      you do not know what you are talking about!

      • xfxjuice

        Or even when Jesse Owens took back 4 gold medals for the US during the 1936 Olympics, when Hitler was in power. That is a big ” F You” if I have ever seen one, and brought a huge sense of pride to both the US and the Black Community in a time of great turmoil.

      • The Anti-Yale

        In this case, you are correct. I do not know what I’m talking about. I’m just grindling a life-long ax. I apologize.

        PK, etc.

  • ashe12

    In my experience, the “transition to mediocrity” that Janes talks about can also apply to coaches here. I am not an athlete, but I consider myself to be an avid sports fan and have a good understanding of most sports (and a great understanding of a few). This year, Yale students flooded to see the H-Y men’s basketball game, where, in my opinion, the players didn’t get as vastly outplayed by Harvard as James Jones got completely outcoached by Tommy Amaker (who I would argue is one of the best coaches in the country). Our defense was almost as sloppy as our offense was stagnant. I doubt the players are the only cause of this. James Jones stood on the sideline without saying much, just letting his players commit turnovers and running an atrocious offense without moving the ball through passes, but rather handing it off in an incredibly predictable manner. Tommy Amaker taught his kids to be composed and collected, resulting in a 30-point blowout on our home court, after which the basketball excitement fizzled out as quickly as it initially grew. Also, how has GM not put on any weight since freshman year, when he is looking to be an NBA big man, but he’s out there getting bossed by Harvard kids who are six inches shorter than him? How can RW still not shoot after 4 years? Maybe part of it can be attributed to the individual willpower of the players, but the coach’s abilities to motivate definitely contribute.

    That is just one example. Women’s hockey and others also spring to mind. Of course, there are great coaches here too (Keith Allain, Chris Gobrecht, Pam Stuper, etc.) and I don’t mean to generalize.

    Yale holds its underperforming coaches to incredibly low standards. It seems as if only a negative public event (like in the case of Tom Williams) can get a coach fired. Otherwise, as long as we’re not finishing dead last in the Ivy League, the spot is secured until that coach’s retirement.

    • Justine

      Across the NCAA, coaching jobs are like a revolving door. Many only stay a year or two or three. In fact, the Athletic Director position should be held to the same criteria.

      No one should be allowed to hold a position for 5, 10, 15, 20 years and not win Ivy Championships at a minimum or penetrate into the NCAA rounds at a maximum.

      People perform to the metrics they are measured against. Its like you get hired in Athletics and get immediate tenure. Never have to do a thing, no publish or perish akin to academics, just sit back and underperform. Nice job in today’s economy for sure.

  • willowlewis71

    The university is holding its standards in the coaches. Look at the new football coach. Seems like a real academician.

  • Justine

    Check out Ivy League Championship History the past 10 years at http://www.ivyleaguesports.com/history/championships/IvyLeague/BySchool

    Yale has only 36 Ivy Championships across both men and women’s sports since 2000.

    Leading the Ivy League is Princeton with 122 followed by Harvard and Cornell with 68 each. Bottom of the barrel is Dartmouth with 27, Columbia with 25 followed by Brown with 24. Penn bests Yale with 43.


  • bobsemple

    This is an excellent piece but I share one question that others have raised: what is Rick Levin’s rationale for what is undeniably a discriminatory policy. Has anyone interviewed him on the subject? I agree that part of the problem is coaching, which reflects on the top guys in the athletics department. But the buck stops with Levin. Bob Semple, YC, 1959 (and former News Chairman).

    • morse_14

      All due respect, but how is this discriminatory? If anything, the current policy discriminates in favor of athletes!

  • Justine

    More stats that will take your breath away. Per Yale Athletics website, marvel at the tenure of the years on the job for the men’s teams’ head coaches:

    Fencing – 30
    Squash – 29
    LTWT Crew – 22
    Baseball – 19
    Tennis – 19
    Soccer – 16
    Basketball – 12
    Sailing – 10
    Lacrosse – 8
    Ice Hockey – 6
    Golf – 3
    HW Crew – 2
    Track & Field – 1 (as head; 16 as assistant)
    Swimming/Diving – 1 (as head; 12 as assistant)
    Men’s XC – 1
    Football – 1

    The performance is poor vis-a-vis other Ivy programs in past 10 years, but they get to keep their job no matter what. And we’re not even talking about competing at the NCAA level, just the Ivy League. Hmmmm….

    • yalengineer

      Our fencing, squash, and LTWT Crew programs at least win titles…

      • Justine

        Fencing won 1 in 2001 in women’s; Squash won 3 in women’s in 2003, 2004 and 2010; Squash won 2 in men’s in 2009 and 2010; Lightweight Crew won 2 back in 2000 and 2001.

        For the three longest tenured coaches amassing 81 total years of coaching at Yale, I’m not sure if congratulations are in order or its a matter of the odds. The longer you are able to hang in there, eventually you will win one. The more at bats, sooner or later you will get a hit my man.

        Not saying the longer tenured coaches are better or worse than the newbies, just its incredulous that anyone is given that long term job security short of nationally recognized Hall of Famers.

        See source for 2000-2010 stats http://www.ivyleaguesports.com/history/championships/IvyLeague/MensSports

        • LtwLimulus90

          Lightweight Crew also won in 2011.

        • LtwLimulus90

          And in 2005

        • LtwLimulus90

          and it has placed in the top three programs in the country with Much more frequency as well

  • Amuseme77

    It seems to me that Yale’s administration possesses an academic inferiority complex in all things when speaking of Harvard. I detected it as a student in the 1970s, and it still seems to exist in the obsequious attempts of the Levin regime to chip away at the characteristics of the university that allows for the balanced development of the student as a healthy human being.
    What has become of the ancient notion:*Emphasis* A healthy mind in a strong, healthy body.
    Studying at Stanford demonstrated to me that an academic institution every bit as good as Yale, can be a strong innovator in the modern world along with having strong athletics in a number of men and women programs.
    Yale’s chief problem is its hide-bound, east coast provincialism in academic and administrative leadership. Until this aspect of Yale culture changes for the better, its fate may be similiar to that of the Republican party in New England.

    • Justine

      Amen brother! In deference to Title IX fairness, check out the tenure and I mean, tenure, of the women’s team’s coaches’ years on the job:

      Gymnastics – 39
      Fencing – 30 (double duty, same as men’s coach)
      Squash – 29 (double duty, same as men’s coach)
      Soccer – 17
      Softball – 14
      Crew – 14
      Sailing – 9
      Volleyball – 8
      Basketball – 6
      Field Hockey – 6 (plus 8 as assistant)
      Tennis – 5
      Golf – 5
      Lacrosse – 3
      Track and Field – 1 (plus 16 as assistant0
      XC – 1
      Ice Hockey – 1
      Swimming/Diving – 1

      Please stay another year and we will look the other way. Mediocrity at its finest.

    • ldffly

      I’ll issue the second amen to your comment.

      “It seems to me that Yale’s administration possesses an academic inferiority complex in all things when speaking of Harvard” I was a student back in the 70s myself. You do not know how many times I heard faculty make the same statement when I was a grad student. It’s amazing that things never change. “We’re only number 2 and have no money so we have to try harder. If only we had social science programs that gained us influence in the federal government. If only we had a business school that gained us access to top management of the major corporations.” [No envy of Harvard’s science programs, though.] Yes, Harvard envy is alive and well and it continues its pernicious life on the Yale campus.

      • Justine

        It is clear that Yale Athletics follows the direction given by Yale’s President. Ready for more statistics, check out the tenure of Ivy League Presidents in which Yale heads the list with 19, yes 19 years and going…. uncontested…

        Yale – Richard Levin – 19
        Princeton – Shirley Tilghman – 11
        Brown – Ruth Simmons – 11
        Columbia – Lee Bollinger – 10
        Penn – Amy Gutmann – 8
        Cornell – David Skorton – 6
        Harvard – Drew Gilpin Faust – 5
        Dartmouth – Jim Yong Kim – 3

        Well, Yale leads the Ivy in something…Hmmm…


  • The Anti-Yale

    **It is TRIUMPHALISM which is so repugnant in sports. And in the militia and Christianity and Hollywood and Wall Street for that matter; Victory Victory, Victory —- at all costs,
    Colleges and universities should do to the intercollegiate athletic associations what Kissinger told Nixon to do in Viet Nam: Declare ‘victory’ and withdraw. We don’t need to be cultivating a world of Paternos and Sanduskys.
    M. Div. ’80, blah blah**

    • Motiv8or

      Does anyone really care what you think? Does your own family listen. I guess not, that’s why you are always on all these blogs. Trust me, you’re the outsider. The biggest loser I’ve seen on the internet in a logn time. Make a valid point and shut up. No one is impressed by your atheism or your pessimistic spirit. That’s not intellect, it’s just negative.

  • dsk100

    It wasn’t Kissinger who suggested that (hardly), but Sen. George Aiken from Vermont.

  • The Anti-Yale

    Another reason for me to be a proud Vermonter! This place is am iconoclast’s paradise !

    Thanks for the correction.


    Blah blah ’80, etc.

  • The Anti-Yale

    The Oscars are on as I write, an example of kitsch triumphalism if there ever was one.

    There are few –very few –things in my 67 years we have a right to feel triumphant about:

    Winning WW II

    Discovering Polio vaccine

    Creating Interstate highway system

    Achieving the manned Moon landing

    Civil Rights Laws and the election of Obama took such an ocean of blood and hatred and suffering to achieve over the last 150 years since the Emancipation Proclamation that “triumph” seems the wrong word entirely—it almost makes me nauseous to think of it in relation top the race disgrace in America.

    The tinsel triumphalism of sports and entertainment and business achievements and the hollow triumphalism of a country-club Christianity all seem
    cheap and vulgar in comparison with the real triumphs of the last seven decades.


    • River_Tam

      Paul, are you really opposed to people celebrating the little things in life?

      • The Anti-Yale

        I’m not opposed to any celebrations.

        I’m opposed to WINNING!!!!!! (and to thinking that losing is failure.)

        In a world where everyone exits via the cemetery, WINNING is a stupid notion.

        Losing, on the other hand, is a a life-long apprenticeship (for the Big One).


        M. Div. ’80, etc.

    • Motiv8or

      Do you like anything? Tell the world what you are positive about Mr. “TheAnitYale”. What do you promote that makes others feel good about life? I’m guessing nothing. Loser.

  • Bouchet

    Shouldn’t the new colleges help here? Yale is shrinking the % of students that are recruited athletes, but by increasing the size of the student body, you should be able to counteract that. It’s no accident that the schools that do the best in athletcis (Harvard, Penn, Cornell) in the Ivy League are the bigger schools.

    EDIT – I just looked at it, Yale is basically only bigger than Dartmouth at this point in terms of undergraduate student body. Princeton, which expanded recently, basically now has the same student body size and cares much more about athletics from an administration standpoint. Brown and Columbia are bigger but don’t focus on it as much. If Yale is going to compete in the Ivy League, the school has to get bigger…

  • ldffly

    Though I am in favor of a strong athletics department, expanding the college to suit athletics would be a corrupt move taken at the expense of academics. Yale College is too big now considering the facility capacities. If athletics suffers because the college is still too small compared to Ivy competitors, so be it. However, let’s be clear. If the college were to double in size, that in itself would be no guarantee that athletics would improve. 15% increase in enrollment doesn’t mean 15% increase in athletes.

    • Branford73

      Actually an increase in enrollment, if the percentage of recruited athletes stays the same, SHOULD improve the athletic team results, though there is no guarantee in any competitive endeavor. The size of the teams stays the same but the actual number of recruited athletes increases.

      The two new colleges are expected to increase the undergraduate population by 750. 13% of that would mean there would be 97 additional recruited athletes. If football takes 1/5 of those, and you reasonably assume that most of your recruited athletes are ones you expect to compete for starting positions within two years, the improvement could occur pretty quickly.

      Of course, the article’s suggestion that Levin wants to decrease the percentage further below 13% probably means he wants to keep the actual number of recruited athletes to a fixed number, about 680. By my number crunching the percentage would drop to 11%.

      Stanford’s athletic site says it offers 300 scholarships a year and this year’s freshman enrollment was 1,704, for a 17.6% recruited athlete figure.

  • Goldie08

    I’m late to the party, but this needed to be said. Also Harvard sucks.

  • jamesdakrn

    So mad that Harvard made it into the Tourney. I want Yale to be an athletic powerhouse. Forget the Academic Index. We have the $$$. We should just go full John Calipari and recruit Derrick Rose/Kevin Durant/D-Wade of the future.

    Same for football. I want us to have someone like Andrew Luck or RGIII. I want a football program that will bring everyone together, that will ensure that many show up to tailgates, that will make us the number one in both academics and sports.

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