Thought this column at the Huffington Post last week was quite interesting. Apparently Jonathan Cole's piece on recruited student-athletes in the Ivy League is the third in a series, but I missed the first two. Nevertheless, this one was enlightening.
While I knew that the Ivies do not give out athletic scholarships, I did know that many recruited student-athletes are "taken care of." What Cole notes is the high attrition rate on teams. After being recruited and accepted and maybe playing a year (or not) some athletes decide to stop playing sports and focus their attention elsewhere. Because there are no scholarships or aid given based on athletic team participation, they do not experience a financial loss. I am not saying--and I don't think Cole was implying this either--that these students are working the system; getting into an elite school based on their athletic abilities and then ditching athletics for a great education. And Cole also notes that while some athletes have SAT scores lower than their class average, they are still higher than scores at other DI schools.
What was really surprising was that roughly 20 percent of any class is comprised of recruited student-athletes. Compare this figure to Pac-10 schools where only 5 percent of the entering class is recruited for athletics.
Cole offers other eye-opening facts and then offers some suggestions, like leaving only a few elite sports to compete at DI and dropping others down to DIII, cutting ties with the NCAA, reducing the number of recruited athletes, and cutting sports. The Ivies carry significantly more teams than other schools. Even after making cuts this past year, Harvard has over 30 intercollegiate teams.
Cole correctly notes that teams do not make money for the schools and that alums who are former athletes are not any more likely to donate money to their alma maters (though they are more likely to make a lot of noise when teams get cut). But he also notes that the reasons athletics were established and valued at the Ivies were because of that whole sound mind/sound body philosophy. So does it matter how much teams cost? It should matter only how athletics are being executed at these schools (and all schools, I would argue). And Cole's suggestions for managing intercollegiate athletics are good. (Though I don' think the Ivies would be able to so easily bid adieu to the NCCA--especially if they want to keep a couple of their sports at the elite level).
But definitely some good information and points to ponder--you know as the college bowl season is upon us and coaches' contracts are up for negotiation and next year's first years are being actively recruited...