Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Must-Read Article On The Ivy League

Yesterday over at the Big Green Alert blog Bruce released a riveting Q&A with Chris Lincoln, author of the riveting book "Playing The Game" about the cutthroat world of Ivy League recruiting. It's a highly recommended read.

They talk about a plethora of subjects: the "Amaker Affair", next year's retirement of the executive director of the Ivy League, Jeff Orleans, and the new aid policies being put in place by Harvard and Yale.

Of most interest to followers of the Patriot League is this juicy question:

Whether it's a love-hate thing is debatable, but The Patriot League and Ivy League definitely have a relationship. Will this give the Ivies the clear upper hand and if so, would you anticipate the Patriots would finally add football scholarships?
Adding football scholarships is expensive. At $45,000 a year per student-athlete, that’s $1.8 million a year for 40 players, $2.7 million a year for 60 players. How will Lehigh alumni feel about that? What about talented engineering students who need financial aid? Would spending all that money on football make any Patriot League school a better educational institution? Do you want 40-60 students on campus enjoying a different status than everyone else?

There isn’t a single Ivy League board of trustees enacting these new aid policies to make their sports teams more competitive. The motivation at Princeton, where this trend began back in 2001, was to help its students graduate without the burden of loan debt, so they could have a wider variety of career options, including public service and teaching, rather than feeling forced to seek high-paying jobs in order to pay off their loans. In the case of these other schools, I have read that their motivation is less altruistic and based more on a fear of Congress forcing them—and other wealthy non-profits—to spend a percentage of their endowment or risk losing government funding. “Spread the wealth” appears to have been the message. The bottom line is the same for students: schools can now attract a broader group of talented students to their campuses, from a wider economic spectrum, and relieve more of their graduates of loan debt.

You know, in light this financial aid issue, and looking at the current Harvard basketball recruiting controversy and the realities of competing Division I athletics today, you have to wonder why the Ivy League remains a Division I athletic conference. To what end? How is this improving your educational mission?

And, if the Ivy League wants to remain a Division I athletic conference, then everyone who’s not working at Harvard, Princeton and Yale needs to stop whining about their lack of money to spend on aid for athletic recruits—because the bottom line is that your academic institutions are enjoying the benefits of being associated with the top academic brands in the country. Your school’s reputation is being lifted by being in the Ivy League. Where would you be without Harvard, Princeton, and Yale?

All interesting questions. And in terms of the Patriot League and scholarships, he's right: it would be expensive. But to me it signifies an important shift in the debate. Last year, this type of question might have been dismissed as "against the principles of the Ivy (and Patriot) League". Now, in light of the academic aid largesse of Harvard and Yale? It becomes more of a question of economics.

Could it be that the principle of football athletic scholarships being taboo is a thing of the past - and now it's all about the money?

2 comments :

ngineer said...

The money being spent would not have to differ. It's the manner in which it is awarded.

MC said...

http://acropolisreview.com/2007/10/congratulations-to-harvard.html