Despite the upcoming 15 percent increase in Yale’s undergraduate student body, it remains unclear, a year removed from the formation of a steering committee designed to address the potential impact on campus culture, whether Yale’s student-athlete population will see a similar increase, or any at all.
With an increase of roughly 800 more undergraduate students beginning with the class of 2021, various Yale athletic coaches and administrative staff see a potential for increasing the pool of student-athletes recruited each year. For the class of 2015 — the last class for which recruitment statistics have been disclosed by Director of Athletics Tom Beckett — 13.1 percent of the student body, or 177 out of 1,351 students, consisted of recruited student-athletes.
In the fall of 2017, approximately 200 additional Yale undergraduates will arrive in New Haven. If the University were to maintain that same percentage, the number of student-athletes would increase by about 26. However, at this time the administration is still in the process of determining if and how Yale’s recruitment policy will change in accordance with the uptick in the student population.
“Currently no decision has been made about how the expansion of Yale College will impact the number of recruited athletes on campus,” Dean of Undergraduate Admissions Jeremiah Quinlan said.
The steering committee, led by Yale College Dean Jonathan Holloway and composed of four undergraduate students, four staff members, four recent alumni and four faculty members, includes Beckett. Beckett, Holloway and Quinlan each confirmed that potential changes to Yale’s recruitment policy are among the multiple issues regarding student life that the committee will continue to asses.
Holloway said the number of recruited athletes cannot grow at the exact same rate as the increase in the student population due to the new colleges, but recognized that the current cap for student-athletes set by Yale President Peter Salovey is lower than the absolute cap of the Ivy League. Holloway added that there is potential for a few — “maybe half a dozen” — extra spots for athletic recruitment when the two colleges open.
According to an Oct. 2013 article in the News, Yale had a cap of 180 student-athletes at the time that could be admitted to the college each year.The Ivy League-appointed quota for the number of recruited Yale athletes currently stands at 230, though Quinlan said in that same article that no Ivy League school fills all its possible slots. Beckett added that the number of recruited athletes are very similar across the eight colleges.
Under former President Richard Levin, Yale admitted fewer student-athletes than the cap and fewer student-athletes than other Ivy schools due to what Levin described as an increasingly selective applicant pool as well as a higher “opportunity cost” for each admitted student, according to a Sept. 2012 article in the News.
“The more spots you have the better the chances you have of succeeding during recruitment,” Yale women’s soccer head coach Rudy Meredith said. “If the policy changes, it would help us because we would have more chances to recruit more athletes.”
Meredith added that more recruitment slots provide coaches with a larger margin for error, explaining that athletes sometimes do not adapt to their team or suffer season- or career-ending injuries. More athletes on the roster, he said, could significantly decrease the possibility of such circumstances having a negative impact on the teams.
Meredith added that if Yale were to increase the number of its recruitment slots, that would also mean plucking athletes away from other Ivy League schools.
“If I have seven spots, I will recruit seven kids,” Meredith said. “If I only had six spots, that [seventh] kid is going to go play for another Ivy League [school], and we will probably end up playing against that very good player.”
Women’s soccer has a defined number of recruitment spots each year, according to Meredith, which tends to vary between five and seven. However, that number may vary for other teams.
Women’s fencing, for example, has very few recruitment spots and depends to a large extent on walk-ons, according to head coach Henry Harutunian. Despite this lack of recruited athletes and resulting reliance on walk-ons, Harutunian, like other coaches, also saw the completion of the two new residential colleges as a beneficial factor for his team’s development.
“I think the expansion of the colleges will be positive,” Harutunian said. “It might mean slightly more recruits, but it also means a larger pool of potential walk-ons.”
Although no decision has yet been made, Beckett recognized that it would make sense for the University to consider increasing the number of recruited student-athletes each year. He added that he hoped to see increased flexibility in the numbers that Yale provides for its varsity teams, something which would advantage the athletic department, the teams and all of its coaches.
Over the coming months, recruitment policy will be discussed between Salovey, Holloway and Quinlan, among others, Beckett said. He was unable to provide a specific timeline for when any decision will be made.