Yale’s next president will have the chance to reevaluate an athletic recruitment policy that has sparked controversy and frustration among many members of the University’s athletic community.
During University President Richard Levin’s tenure, the percentage of athletic recruits at Yale has decreased from 18 percent in the class of 1998 to 13 percent in the class of 2015. Following his direction, the University has recruited fewer athletes in recent years than the maximum number allowed by Ivy League regulations.
Athletes, coaches and athletic alumni alike have criticized the University’s recruiting strategy under Levin, claiming it significantly hinders Yale’s ability to compete in the Ivy League. Athletics Director Tom Beckett said in a Wednesday interview that he disagrees with the policy and strongly believes Yale should recruit its full allotment under League regulations.
“[Levin] certainly knows there are, at times, people who disagree with him, and I would be one of those who disagree with him on the limits we have on student athletes to this great place,” Beckett said.
While Beckett said Levin reevaluates the recruitment policy each year through discussions with students and coaches, Levin said in March that the number of recruits has remained low because of an increasingly selective applicant pool and a higher “opportunity cost” for each admit. For the class of 2015, Yale recruited only 177 of a total 230 athletes allowed by the Ivy League.
Levin declined to comment Tuesday on whether the University’s recruiting policy will change after he leaves, saying he would leave the choice to his successor, but 10 athletes interviewed said they believe the turnover in leadership will offer a chance to reconsider Yale’s recruiting policies.
“We won’t know exactly what will happen with the program until we see who gets the job,” softball outfielder Riley Hughes ’15 said. “But it’s definitely an opportunity for the athletic program.”
Matthew Thwaites ’13, a member of the varsity track and cross country teams, said the track team has suffered from a shortened roster since its allotted number of recruits is not enough to fill all 17 events in a track meet. The team forfeited points in three events at last year’s Ivy Championships, he said, because it didn’t “have enough bodies to put in uniform.”
Chris Gobrecht, the head coach of the women’s basketball team, said she was sad to hear the news of Levin’s resignation because she thinks his tenure has been largely beneficial for the University, but added that his recruitment policies have made it more challenging for Yale athletic teams to succeed, especially for sports that require a larger roster.
“If everyone stayed healthy and everyone [on the team] stayed all four years, [recruitment] wouldn’t be a big deal,” Gobrecht said. “But there is a lot of natural attrition, and that can present problems for you.”
Chawwadee Rompothong ’00, head coach of the women’s golf team, said she hopes to see Yale’s teams on a more level playing field with its competitors in the future.
“I think athletics will continue to do what they do right now, controlling what they can control, trying to recruit best student athletes they can get,” Rompothong said. “Hopefully there will be more spots available for all the athletic teams so that we’re at least competitive with other teams, and we can put a little more emphasis on winning on the field.”
Yale won two Ivy League Championship titles in the 2011-’12 school year, while Harvard and Princeton won 10 each.