The problem with Ned Fulmer ’09 is that he is not a student-athlete.
We would not dare to call into question the talents or qualifications of drama, music or art students simply because we have faith in Yale admissions standards and admit to knowing nothing about what it takes to be successful in these fields. One thing we have learned in our time at Yale is that sometimes the most important lessons are outside of the classroom. The most unlikely people and the most unexpected circumstances often are the best teachers. Ned, here is your opportunity to learn a lesson.
In Tuesday’s edition of the News (“Either go big, Bulldogs, or just go home,” 4/15), Fulmer made the grossly negligent assumption that Yale does not purport to officially recruit student-athletes. He also claimed athletes gain acceptance to Yale based upon a “substandard” admission profile. The reality, however, is very different. Yale readily admits to recruiting athletes and the process is designed to attract individuals who are remarkable both as students and as athletes. Fulmer ignored the Ivy League’s “Academic Index.” This is the Ancient Eight’s guard against admitting academically unqualified individuals. According to the AI system, recruiting classes are forced to be proportionally representative of the freshman class based on the major factors of SAT/ACT scores and high-school GPA.
Fulmer also insisted that Yale’s student-athletes are more likely to be “apathetic toward collegiate academia.” We have found the opposite to be true. By virtue of our decision to attend Yale, we all made the commitment to balance both school and athletics. Maintaining this balance is more demanding than functioning as an average non-athlete student. Rare is the non-athlete who experiences 6 a.m. conditioning, 8 a.m. meetings, full class schedules crammed in the middle of the day, 3 p.m. weight lifting, 4 p.m. practices, evening sections and a part-time job, as well as other academic, professional and extracurricular responsibilities. Athletes possess unique talents and contribute to this college in ways that others do not. Their ability to be successful student athletes at Yale is what makes them qualified.
Given the current campus climate toward offensive speech, it is surprising that Fulmer ignorantly buys into generalizations about student-athletes. We doubt that administrators at numerous New Haven elementary and middle schools would call us “disrespectful” or “disruptive.” Rather, the hundreds of athlete volunteers at these schools are role models for their students.
While Fulmer considers our non-scholarship status as indicative of mediocrity, the stunning successes of Yale’s athletes and teams presents an entirely different picture. In our four years at Yale, we have seen 12 teams become Ivy League champions. Currently, Bulldog rosters are filled with academic/athletic All-Americans, national champions, Olympic qualifiers and potential professional athletes, as well as many athletes who turned down scholarships to attend Yale on their own dime.
Fulmer’s argument is quick to point to Stanford as a model school. Examining this comparison more closely, we found that during our time here Stanford ranked 52nd in football attendance, while Yale ranked an impressive third in our respective subdivision, surpassing fellow FCS school Appalachian State, recent victors over Michigan at the Big House. This year, the Yale Bowl has been more crowded than Duke’s Wallace Wade Stadium.
To call us mediocre is to insult each and every student-athlete who has graduated from Yale. These alumni are leaders in society and continue to foster and uphold the great traditions of this University.
Consider a few dumb jocks who were once “barely surviving gut classes” as student athletes at Yale: Kurt Schmoke ’71, football/lax, former mayor of Baltimore, dean of Howard Law School; former President George Bush ’48, baseball captain; Laurie Mifflin ’73, field hockey, editor for the New York Times; President William Howard Taft 1878, wrestler; Stone Phillips ’77, football, NBC news anchor; Richard P. Cooley ’44, lost an arm in WWI but returned to win a squash national championship, retired CEO of SeaFirst Corp.; Anne F. Keating ’77, field hockey/basketball/lax, managing director of CornFerry International.
In the conclusion of his piece, Fulmer raised the interesting issue of the future of Ivy athletics. On one hand, we stand to represent the values of sportsmanship, true scholarship and amateur sports. We also strive to achieve a level of success worthy of this world-class, academic institution. At this point, Fulmer gets lost in a maze of ignorance, stereotypes and cluelessness. While he was in his suite, wondering where all the athletes were, we were solving his Ivy League sports dilemma.
In order to improve the state of Yale’s athletics and its perception by non-athletes, Yale should approve post-season play for ALL sports, including football, and a conference tournament for basketball; second, it should eliminate the eight-semester rule that forces injured athletes to withdraw from the Yale community to retain their rightful eligibility; thirdly, someone needs to invite Ned Fulmer to a Yale Varsity Parents’ Tailgate, a Student-Athlete Community Outreach Event or an Alumni-Athlete Career Night so he can appreciate the diverse backgrounds of Yale athletes, who hail from every corner of the globe, inhabit every tax bracket, embrace every major and go on to achieve greatness in the name of Yale.
Yale is a place filled with extraordinary people who are characterized by a multitude of talents and skills. Rather than waste time focusing on our differences or divisions, let us unite and channel our energy toward solving the larger issues in society and around the globe. We are all privileged to be Yalies. We should disregard any differences that might exist and celebrate our gifts and achievements together.
Stephen Schmalhofer and David Silberstein are seniors in Jonathan Edwards and Ezra Stiles colleges, respectively. They are members of the Yale football team.