With the opening of two new residential colleges in the fall of 2017 will come an increase in the undergraduate student body by 15 percent. Among the 800 new students will be singers, engineers and poets. But whether or not this figure will include additional student-athletes has yet to be determined.
Coaches and students interviewed, however, contend the expansion poses an opportunity to increase the size of athletic rosters.
“Although the Yale Corporation has had a preliminary conversation about the composition of the expanded class entering in fall 2017, we will not settle on a strategy for some time,” University President Peter Salovey said in an email. “However, I look forward to the opportunities presented by being able to admit about 200 more undergraduates per cohort.”
Salovey said such decisions on athletic recruitment involve conversations with Yale College Dean Jonathan Holloway, Dean of Undergraduate Admissions Jeremiah Quinlan and Director of Athletics Thomas Beckett, all of whom, Salovey said, are in agreement about the University’s present recruiting and admissions strategies. Salovey added that the number of recruited athletes changes from year to year and that questions surrounding athletic recruitment are revisited annually, and will continue to be deliberated upon going forward.
Salovey said a school’s maximum number of recruited athletes depends on the number of teams and their allowed squad sizes, not the size of the undergraduate student body as a whole.
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“I believe that no school in the Ivies enrolls its maximum number of allowed athletes,” Salovey said.
Beckett added that season-ending and career-ending injuries are reasons that this number can fluctuate, and that the final decision on recruiting slots rests with Salovey and the Yale Corporation.
For the class of 2015, the last class for which Beckett disclosed recruitment statistics in 2012, 177 students, or 13.1 percent of the class population, were recruited as student-athletes. With approximately 200 additional students matriculating at Yale in 2017, the University could maintain this percentage by recruiting 26 additional athletes.
Salovey added that just as Yale’s fellow Ivy League institutions do not release their numbers of recruited athletes from year to year, the University sees little reason to make its numbers public. However, Salovey said all Ivy League schools use the same fixed number of recruiting slots for football annually. According to Yale football head coach Tony Reno, that number is 30.
Women’s crew coach Will Porter, whose roster is currently tied for the smallest in the Ivy League, said that if the Admissions Office maintains a balanced student body by accepting more students with many different interests, he hopes that it will include athletes in this mix.
“Athletes, like any other group at Yale, if they have to be classified, have a passion,” Porter said. “There are a lot of groups at Yale that have passions — musical groups, science students, people who are interested in the arts, and so many different things that people are passionate about. I think for athletes, their passion is no less important than any of those other passions.”
Women’s soccer coach Rudy Meredith said the number of recruitment slots is the main restriction facing his recruiting strategy. He noted that one additional slot over four years amounts to four additional roster spots for a team, which can have a major impact on a team’s performance.
Particularly in the Ivy League, Meredith said, additional recruiting slots also play the role of taking academically strong players away from the teams Yale faces every year. Meredith noted multiple examples of players he was unable to recruit who went on to earn Rookie of the Year or all-Ivy League honors for another school.
“Especially the kid that you really wanted, now that kid is mad at you, because you didn’t take them at your school, and when you play against them, they have the game of their life,” Meredith said.
Both Meredith and Porter, however, said that they while they are hopeful for a future increase in recruits, they are comfortable with the current relationship between the Athletic Department and Admissions Office, which work together alongside Salovey to determine the number of recruitment slots each year.
The women’s crew and women’s soccer teams both saw a slight increase in recruitment slots for their team two years ago.
Paul Harkins, Yale men’s cross country, middle distance and distance coach, said the track and field teams’ slots have remained relatively constant since he joined the team in 2011.
He added that in last weekend’s Ivy League Heptagonal Championships, in which the Yale men’s team finished last by 34.5 points, the Elis did not enter a long jumper or triple jumper because they have decided to use their recruitment slots for other events. Princeton’s men’s team, which won the meet, has 63 athletes on its roster, compared to Yale’s 50.
Andrew Sobotka ’15, co-founder and former president of the Whaling Crew, a student fan group, said he would expect to see backlash from the athletic community if the number of recruitment slots did not increase in 2017. In February 2013, Sobotka wrote the athletics section of the Yale College Council Report to President Salovey addressing athletic department issues such as recruiting, coaching evaluations and student-athlete health.
“Yale is well known to have the toughest kind of recruiting standards, quantitatively and academically, within the Ivy League,” Sobotka said. “If there were 800 students added and not a single one was a student athlete, I think that would definitely come as a surprise.”
Chuck Hughes, president and founder of the admissions consulting service Road to College, said universities like Yale, which is smaller than Harvard and the University of Pennsylvania, tend not to push the upper limits of the Ivy League’s allowed recruitment slots — that simply would comprise too high a percentage of the overall student body.
But when asked about whether an expanded Yale College would be reason to approach those thresholds, Hughes said it is important to consider other categories of students that could benefit from a place at Yale, namely international students and those from traditionally underrepresented geographical regions. Once room is made for these types of students, Hughes said it would be nice to see 10 to 15 slots added for recruited athletes.
Hughes, who graduated with a degree in psychology from Harvard College in 1992 and was a goaltender for its 1989 NCAA Men’s National Championship Ice Hockey Team, contends there is no reason athletes cannot be successful students.
“I am a firm believer that you can do both and do both well,” Hughes said. “I think it’s more about asking the question of why can’t Yale athletes be good students and be good athletes? If admissions does its job in terms of bringing the right kids and coaches do the right thing in scrutinizing the right character … players don’t need to be segregated from the undergraduate experience.”