Despite its prominence in other athletic conferences, negative recruiting has no place in the Ivy League recruiting process, Yale coaches said.
According to the six coaches interviewed, negative recruiting — speaking poorly about another school to a potential recruit in an effort to lure him or her to the coach’s program — is seldom seen at Yale. Instead of focusing on the drawbacks of other schools, coaches at Yale tend to showcase their own team’s strengths and encourage recruits to make a choice based on the benefits of a school and its athletic program.
While some teams, such as men’s and women’s lacrosse, refrain from speaking about other schools at all, others that compete within a smaller community — like the sailing team — encourage recruits to think about the differences between each school in the selection process.
“We don’t indulge in any negative recruiting,” men’s golf head coach Colin Sheehan ’97 said. “I haven’t ever told any players what or what not to say to recruits during their visit. We generally stick to focusing on Yale and sharing the camaraderie of the team members and the realities of being a student athlete at Yale.”
According to Sheehan, the recruitment process begins when he receives unsolicited emails from potential recruits. During a prospective recruit’s junior year, National Collegiate Athletic Association regulations permit Sheehan to respond to emails and phone calls as well as share information about the program and golf facilities at Yale.
For women’s lacrosse, the process is similar. According to head coach Erica LaGrow, the lacrosse administration is also able to watch potential student-athletes at summer and weekend recruiting tournaments. LaGrow emphasized that her goal is to find women who excel both in the classroom and on the lacrosse field. She added that while Yale is not difficult to sell, she hopes to find student-athletes who believe Yale is the best fit for them and thus never talk about other schools.
“We are proud of Yale and what we have to offer,” LaGrow said. “As we go through the process, we want to get to know the student-athlete and her family. It is important to bring in recruits who have good character, morals and values.”
For sports like rowing and sailing, the recruitment process differs in that candidates are part of a smaller national athletic community.
According to heavyweight crew recruiting coordinator Sam Baum, some of the team’s competitors do engage in negative recruiting, which he does not believe is effective. Consequently, the Yale team has an official policy to not talk about other schools to visiting candidates.
“In rowing, you can only control the speed of your boat, not your opponents,” Baum said. “Our staff take the same approach in the recruitment process. I didn’t study nor do I coach at Brown or Dartmouth, and I have no idea how their program is run, so I’m not going to speak to our recruits about the experience of studying and rowing at either.”
Baum instead encourages the team to focus on what makes Yale unique on recruits’ official visits, which he described as a shopping period for a potential rower. On these visits, the team members do not stray from their daily routine for the 48 hours they have a recruit with them.
According to Baum, it is essential that a recruit’s experience is an accurate representation of what Yale is like. He said this honesty and trust in representing Yale is the beginning of trust in a recruit’s relationship with both the crew team and the coaching staff.
“At the end of the day if our boats are going fast, the mojo is flowing in the Gilder Boathouse and the prospective student athlete visits the most vibrant and beautiful campus in the world, we’re pretty confident that the hollow marketing ploys of our competitors won’t sway our candidates’ decisions,” Baum added.
Sailing head coach Zachary Leonard ’89 explained that because sailing is a very small community and thus makes recruitment a competitive process for schools, negative recruiting is very ineffective. Instead, Leonard focuses on the differences between his team and other schools’ and highlights the opportunities, including benefits of practice venues, that each school has.
According to Ivy League policy, a potential recruit can apply to one Ivy League school by the Nov. 1 deadline under Early Action or Early Decision processes.