Though many students and alumni hoped for immediate change in the field of athletic recruitment when new University President Peter Salovey took office this year, they may have to keep waiting.

Since Salovey was announced last spring as Yale’s next president, some members of the Yale community have voiced desires for Salovey to reverse former President Richard Levin’s downsizing of the number of recruited athletes accepted to Yale. But administrators interviewed said that the current levels of athletic recruits at Yale will likely remain constant for the near future, though there is potential for future change.

At the moment, Dean of Undergraduate Admissions Jeremiah Quinlan said, Salovey and Athletics Director Tom Beckett — along with the Admissions Office — are comfortable with the number of student athletes on campus. Quinlan added that the number of student athletes at Yale is comparable to those of Yale’s peer institutions.

“The number of student athletes on each Ivy League campus is managed by each Ivy League school and then distributed among the teams,” Quinlan said, adding that none of the eight schools actually fills all of the 230 recruited athlete seats that the Ivy League allocates to each school.

Athletic recruitment numbers have been a heated topic of discussion at Yale since Levin cut the number of slots eight years ago, creating an in-house cap on the number of recruited athletes that can be admitted to Yale — 180 each year — that is lower than the Ivy League quota of 230 per year.

Yale administrators did not speak to the precise number of athletic recruits at other Ivy League schools. But Chuck Hughes, president of college admissions consulting service Road to College and a former admissions officer at Harvard who worked closely with the Harvard athletic department, estimated that Princeton and Harvard each recruit roughly 200 to 205 athletes every year.

Students interviewed said they believe that raising Yale’s recruitment numbers to match Harvard and Princeton’s numbers could lead to a more accepting environment for athletes on campus, in addition to more success on the field.

“Frankly, there are some sports where, if you don’t have the numbers, then you just can’t compete,” said Andrew Sobotka ’15, who compiled a recommendation on athletics last spring for a Yale College Council report to Salovey and has actively called for Yale to develop a more welcoming environment for athletes. Sobotka added that swimming and track and field are two sports that seem to be particularly disadvantaged by having significantly fewer members than teams at Yale’s peer institutions.

Though the University’s recruitment caps have not significantly impacted Yale’s football team, Beau Palin ’14, the captain of Yale’s football team, said he believes that tight athletic recruitment policies in general can handicap the progress of a sports program and prevent it from reaching a level of excellence that Yale expects in every field.

Throughout Levin’s presidency, some alumni attributed Yale’s lack of success in athletics to Levin’s recruitment changes.

Neal Brendel ’76, who was a member of the wrestling team during his time at Yale, said that he believes the University has not made the same serious commitment to finding athletically and academically gifted students as other schools like Princeton, where his son now wrestles. Brendel added that he thinks the Levin administration overlooked student athletes’ tendency to be loyal alumni and donate to the University after graduation.

Though the Yale administration will not raise the number of athletes at Yale in the immediate future, William Morse ’64 GRD ’74, a former Yale hockey player and former Yale admissions officer, said Salovey may decide to raise the number in a few years. Morse — who sat on the board of directors of the Yale Alumni Fund last year — said Salovey may look favorably upon raising Yale’s in-house athletic quota if athletes on campus demonstrate more leadership at Yale and contribute more to campus outside of their teams.

Recalling a March 12 conference call, Morse said Salovey indicated to the alumni on the call that he would potentially raise the recruitment number if current athletes become better integrated with the broader Yale community and respond well to the leadership initiatives implemented by the athletic department. According to Morse, Salovey brought up the fact that athletes are currently four times more likely than the typical Yale student to appear in front of a disciplinary committee as one metric by which athletes can improve.

Yale has already begun rolling out leadership opportunities for athletic teams — an initiative that Salovey emphasized in his inaugural address this weekend. The Kiphuth Leadership Academy, which was founded in 2005 and has expanded in recent years, trains sophomore and junior athletes to become better leaders in their communities. Stanley McChrystal, a senior fellow at the Jackson Institute and a retired army general, also holds leadership sessions with the football team’s rising seniors.

In April, Salovey told the News that he was still grappling with the question of how to promote better integration between athletes and non-athletes.

When looking at applications from student athletes, Quinlan said, the Admissions Office not only considers the candidate’s athletic and academic abilities, but also their potential contributions to Yale’s larger social and intellectual life.

“One of the things I’m looking for when I’m looking at athletes is [if they will be] somebody who is going to contribute outside their teams,” Quinlan said. “Are they going to be living in the colleges, will they be a freshman counselor, will they be great roommates? Athletes can and should contribute more to Yale’s broader environment.”

During Levin’s presidency from 1993 to 2013, the number of recruited athletes at Yale declined from 18 to 13 percent of the student body.”

Ashton Wackym contributed reporting. 

  • ldffly

    Disappointing, but not surprising.

    “Quinlan added that the number of student athletes at Yale is comparable to those of Yale’s peer institutions.” Why is that normative?

  • lakia

    Athletes should not be recruited.
    White people should not be recruited.
    People of “color” should not be recruited.
    Poor people should not be recruited.
    Wealthy people should not be recruited.

    Well qualified, well rounded, and well adjusted/recommended people should be recruited.

    • blahh

      “Well qualified, well rounded, and well adjusted/recommended people” = boooooooooooring

  • C.H.

    It’s also true that “many students and alumni” would prefer that there be fewer recruited athletes at Yale. Indeed, “some members of the Yale community have voiced desires for Salovey” to maintain Levin’s policy.

    • undergrad_14

      And some of us would like Salovey to take Levin’s policies even further.

  • Terri

    If athletes are not well integrated and four times as likely to have disciplinary actions, why not raise the standard of the recruited athlete versus just cutting the number of recruits?

    • trollalert

      Because it’s a tradeoff. Recruiting athletes who can’t perform is pointless

      • Terri

        So you are saying there are no well-behaved and academically qualified athletes??

        • trollalert

          Nope, not at all. I’m just going by what the statistics are telling me. Raising the “standard” of the athlete may very well lead to declining performance. Because if these athletes were so easy to find, Yale would only recruit them

          • Terri

            But would that declined performance be worse for the team than fewer recruits?

          • trollalert

            Absolutely. If you have 20 awesome athletes on a roster, they can easily outperform 50 uninspiring recruits. Numbers aren’t necessarily everything.

  • J Baker

    Just throw in the towel and go to Division 3. If you can’t recruit against Harvard and Princeton, just withdraw from D-1 sports. But what will happen to donations?

  • eli1

    Sports is literally one of the only things that gets alumni back to campus and to open up their wallets. Do you think Charlie Johnson (just donated $250 mil) or Joel Smilow (recently bought Yale a new cancer hospital), both former Yale football players, would be happy to see the team they played for continue to lose every year to Harvard or, as some people would like, to not exist at all. This attitude is pure lunacy by those that have some sort of elitist self-esteem issues when it comes to athletics. Whens the last time 50,000 people have come back to Yale to watch the whiffenpoofs? Or attend a chemistry lab?

  • goldenjumbo

    Because being recruited to play on a varsity athletic team at Yale doesn’t portray enough leadership as it is… nor does competing at a national-level on behalf of the University and the Ivy-League portray any sort of leadership qualities whatsoever either…

    Pathetic. The school does not even take the time nor make the effort to discover that many of its athletes are high-scholars and leaders in many other organizations on campus. I’d also like to challenge non-athletes on campus to try and balance a full academic load while also competing full-time on a varsity athletic team. But, silly me, you probably didn’t have the leadership skills to even try to in the first place…

    • 20155

      I think the sentiment is that these students should be admitted to Yale with their sport as a significant extracurricular, like writing or theater or music…

  • branford73

    A lot of people, including alums, enjoy attending college athletic events in major sports. For a long time Yale was often at or near the top in football within the Ivy League. No one expects and few aspire to have Yale be in the same athletic class as Stanford or Duke. But many wish Yale would be completive with Harvard, Penn, Princeton and Brown and the successes of those schools in sports has not lessened their academic excellence or reputation.

    With the exception of hockey, squash and polo Yale seems headed to become more like Columbia. And that school is located in a much cooler city.

    • charliewalls

      Just off hand, it seems you should include sailing and women’s crew. My main point, however: perhaps the whole lot of current students there lack spirited competition — ~60% getting “A” level grades? Perhaps your core purpose for being there is slipping away, relative to Harvard, Penn, Princeton et c.

  • theantiyale

    My photos behind the scenes at YALE/DARTMOUTH GAME two weeks ago.

    My tribute to Yale football legend, coach CARM COZZA, and the egalitarianism of PATRICIA’S Restaurant. Carm speaks of one scholar/athlete who was quarterback of Yale’s football team, ’77.

  • Steven

    Has anyone on this board ever played on a varsity team for Yale?
    The time per week is 20-25 hours for your sport.

    Please explain how we can contribute “more to campus outside of their teams.”