Addressing concerns about the quality of life of athletes in the Ivy League and the favored admission status athletes receive, the Council of Ivy Group Presidents adopted three changes to leaguewide athletic policy this summer.
In its spring meeting on June 17, the council, made up of the presidents of the eight Ivy League schools, approved new policies limiting mandatory and supervised practices, reducing the number of football recruits by an average of five per year, and changing the makeup of football coaching staffs.
“These didn’t come out of the blue,” Yale President Richard Levin said. Ê”These were questions we asked — over the course of the last academic year.”
The discussions over athletics policy were in part sparked by the 2001 publication of “The Game of Life,” in which authors James L. Shulman and William G. Bowen questioned the role of varsity athletics in higher education, especially at academically selective schools.
“[The book] has made us recognize that there is a fairly substantial number of admission opportunities given to recruited athletes,” Levin said. “I think there is a general consensus among the presidents — that some trimming of the numbers might be appropriate.”
Beginning with the Class of 2007, the maximum number of recruited football players at an Ivy school over four years will drop from 140 to 120, reducing the average annual recruiting class from 35 to 30 players. The last time the league reduced the amount of football recruits per year was in 1993, when the number was cut from 50 incoming players to 35.
And more cuts to recruiting could be on the horizon, as well as other policy changes, as the council also voted to undertake further review of the current state of Ivy athletics.
“This year some further attention will be given to other possibilities for reducing the overall number [of recruited athletes] without harming the quality or integrity of the programs,” Levin said.
Many members of the Yale athletics community said the changes enacted this summer already promise to damage the quality of Ivy League athletics.
The most immediate of the council’s actions mandates that, beginning this year, all sports must establish a period of seven weeks — which need not be consecutive — during the school year without any required athletic activity or voluntary activity supervised by coaches. The rule will limit coaches’ abilities to have supervised off-season conditioning programs and other off-season practices, a move some say will hurt teams’ preparation.
“You are taking seven weeks of opportunity away,” Yale head football coach Jack Siedlecki said. “The rationale is the ‘balanced student,’ but I really think the ‘balanced student’ is somewhat of a myth at Yale. There are a tremendous amount of people focused on one aspect of life outside of their academics.”
The new rule, which goes beyond NCAA restrictions, raises concerns about the ability of Ivy League teams to compete nationally, as well as the league’s overall commitment to its athletic programs.
“I think it is pretty closed-minded,” basketball player Ime Archibong ’03 said. “Take for instance Ivy League basketball, which consistently beats teams on a national level. Seven weeks is crucial — I think that it wasn’t the answer to getting athletes a better ‘Ivy League experience.'”
Levin said he did not think the change was that drastic because most of the seven-week moratorium falls during finals and at the beginning of semesters.
It is also unclear as to how effective it will be in limiting the amount of time athletes devote to their sport.
“The athletes will find a way to train despite the fact they’ve been told they can’t have any direction from the coach,” men’s ice hockey coach Tim Taylor said.
The last of the policy changes gives Ivy football teams an extra full-time coaching position, while they forfeit three part-time assistants, a move Siedlecki said will benefit his players. Currently, Ivy football teams can have six full-time and six part-time paid coaches, but beginning next season, teams will be able to have seven full-time and three part-time coaches.