With the Yale basketball team posting its first postseason victory ever this year and the men’s lacrosse team knocking off No. 8 Princeton for the first time in 12 years, Yale varsity athletics have jumped into the national spotlight and have attracted renewed fan interest.
Yet, according to a study by U.S. News and World Report released March 18, Yale sports — especially their win-loss records — lag behind the majority of Ivy League schools.
Brown, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard and Princeton all recently made the magazine’s honor roll of the 20 best Division I sports programs. Yale did not make the list, which also included big time sports schools like Duke, Stanford and the University of Maryland.
Yale came just short of making the list, said Robert Morris, who is the director of data research for the magazine.
“I was surprised that there were five [Ivy League] schools listed and that we weren’t one of them,” Yale Athletics Director Tom Beckett said. “At first glance, it was surprising that Yale was not there.”
The study sought to rank college sports programs in the broadest manner possible by counting all sports equally — placing big-time sports like football and basketball on the same plane as all others.
In making this assessment, the study’s creators equally weighted factors like team records, number of total varsity sports, gender equity, graduation rates of athletes and cleanliness of programs in terms of avoiding NCAA sanctions.
“The Ivy League schools generally offer a lot of sports and their gender equity scores are high,” said Gordon Witkin, the executive news editor of U.S. News and World Report and co-author of an article that accompanied the rankings. “Their graduation rates are excellent, and a number of the Ivy League schools had solid win-loss numbers.”
Witkin added that the general success of Ivy League schools came as a surprise and that Yale was hurt by its performance in the win-loss column.
Although Morris refused to disclose Yale’s overall standing, he said Yale’s win-loss record finished 178 out of 321 schools. Harvard for example finished 84th in this category.
“There’s only one area where you can improve on, which is win-loss and getting into tournaments,” Morris said. “But I’m not sure how easy it is to do.”
Yale sports officials were surprised by the rankings and contacted Morris to discuss them.
“When we saw it, we were concerned and wanted to know immediately why we stood where we stood,” Director of Sports Publicity Steve Conn said.
Conn added that some numbers used in the magazine for other schools may have been distorted and that the study left room for interpretation. The magazine relied on colleges to supply many of their own numbers, and many of the Ivy League athletics departments had considered not participating — but all eight schools did.
“It carries concern every time you do this,” Conn said. “We don’t want anyone else to have an unfair competitive advantage over us in recruiting.”
Harvard’s Athletics Director Bob Scalise said he did not plan to read too much into the report and added that Yale’s absence on the list was surprising.
“Yale does some things better than us,” Scalise said. “In a sense, we look to Yale to see how we can improve some of the things we’re doing, so to not see them up there was definitely a surprise.”