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The New Realities: Part III

This is going to still be Part III of my "New Realities" series exploring the Academic Index (or AI) for the Patriot League and football, but I won't be making any recommendations just yet to improve the AI. But I will share with you some of the thoughts I've been having while attempting to tackle this debate that has been raging pretty much ever since the inception of the Patriot League.

Two comments on Part I and Part II really stood out to me which made me re-evaluate some of what I had written about this topic.

The first (paraphrasing) was: "Your commentary on the AI was all well and good, but what does it have to do with Georgetown?" It caused me to reread my postings on this, and he's absolutely right. On this blog I talk about issues that impact Lehigh football, so frequently I slip into a Lehigh mindset when it comes to Patriot League issues. My original posts did try to talk about a league-wide issue from Lehigh's point of view -- the truth is it really needs to be looked at from all angles.

While trying to look at the issues, it dawned on me exactly how different each school really is within the Patriot League. If you look closely, the Patriot League is not nearly as homogeneous as the Ivy League in terms of history, membership or even in terms of selectivity. This excellent article printed in September of '06 by the Lafayette Alumni magazine, a member of Lafayette's athletics working group sums up the differences perfectly:

“You have schools coming and going and joining for maybe one sport and maybe not another, and that’s completely different from the Ivy League,” says Eric Ziolkowski, Dana Professor of religious studies and another member of the athletics working group. “Ivy League membership has not changed in fifty years. And all the Ivy institutions compete in the same sports. If you look at the history of the Patriot League, the frequent changes in membership are actually quite remarkable.”
In football, this is less true since the last team to drop from the Patriot League in football was Davidson in 1989 -- there's less of a sense of coming and going rather than incremental additions (associate members Fordham and Georgetown joined in 1990 and 2001). Yet there are still significant differences in all our members that are worth talking about.

1) Selectivity is different. As detailed in Part II, Lafayette, Lehigh, Bucknell, Colgate and Georgetown are considered "most selective" by US News & World Report, while Fordham and Holy Cross are considered "more selective".

2) Associates have different wants and needs. Fordham and Georgetown don't have to worry about the effects on the AI model in all sports since it only applies to them in football. They don't care about a "slippery slope" leading to scholarships since they already have full scholarship sports in other leagues, while other full-members may care.

3) Size of football budget. This runs anywhere from Georgetown's $1.7 milllon to Lehigh's $3.2 million. Think about that: Lehigh spends just about twice as much as Georgetown on football, and we're in the same league.

Although the Ivies do have differences in football budgets as well, the Ivy League have no issues with associate members or differences in selectivity - and these two factors make the importance of seeing the AI from all angles even more important.

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There was one other comment that also made me feel like I was only scratching the surface on this debate. This one considered endowments. Paraphrasing, "What is the effect on overall institution endowments and athletic aid? Many Ivy institutions have such large endowments they could afford to accept all who apply and are more generous with all forms of aid than the Patriot League." He's right too - and was another aspect of the debate that deserves close scrutiny. However, I don't have that answer yet. Still, there's no doubt that this is an excellent point.

It could very well be that the Ivies also get an advantage in recruiting the same athletes not only due to academic or prestige issues. It honestly could come down to good old dollars. That really makes the debate interesting - you could make a case that we're not only getting squeezed by scholarship schools offering full rides, but Ivy League schools that can afford to give more aid.

Let me close this posting and say that there will be a Part IV of this series, and some sort of talk about "Where do we go from here?" It may be posted on CollegeSportingNews.Com as it's becoming quite a huge topic - a bigger topic than the big topic I initially envisioned.

Comments

The Last Engineer said…
Don't forget that Towson was also a football-only member of the PL from 1997-2003. Their addition to the PL was far more controversial than Georgetown. Towson is a public school with 14,000+ undergrads and an academic reputation that falls well short of the other PL institutions.

I doubt that their inclusion in the PL helped the league's reputation, but it did bring in more money and add a then-unique Southern presence to PL football.

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