Stanford Cutting 11 Varsity Sports Programs

SoxJox

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Stanford is not unique as it joins other colleges cutting sports programs, but for a university that has won 25 consecutive Learfield / IMG Athletic Directors Cups, it's pretty remarkable.

Gone after the 2020-2021 academic year are men’s and women’s fencing, field hockey, lightweight rowing, men’s rowing, co-ed and women’s sailing, squash, synchronized swimming, men’s volleyball and wrestling.
 
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InstaFace

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I don't know what to make of this. Stanford is the country's premier college sports university, if you're counting across all of the NCAA sports.

Maybe it's a response to them losing money on them (But they've always lost money on them)? Or seeing the athletic-scholarship program corrupted through Lori Loughlin and the like, where it's regressive and sprays money at the already-wealthy? Maybe they're lessening the importance, in the President's mind, of winning a bunch of titles by having the #1, I dunno, synchro swim team in the country? Maybe the alumni don't care? I do like that among the criteria for selecting these sports, they list gender equity and diversity, since obviously the scholarships being given out for top athletes in high-cost-of-entry sports was pretty regressive.

The letter discusses "financial challenges", and says they'll continue as club sports. But Stanford has the 3rd highest endowment of any university at almost $28 Bn, behind only Harvard and (within spitting distance of) Yale. They cry poverty at length here in almost farcical terms, bemoaning the voluntary staff pay reductions in Athletics (but let's not ask them about administrative staff bloat around the rest of the university).

The letter also compares their own budget to that of other "peers at the Power Five level", which makes me think this is all about being able to better-fund the football program. If so, that's terrible. It seems they want to make the athletic department "self-sustaining financially", but what that's going to mean in practice is that it'll be run like a business rather than as an activity being offered to help students lead a more well-rounded life. Well, more than it already is, I suppose. Congrats, kids - you're no longer The Customer, you're now fully The Product. Good thing we don't have to pay you while you're doing it!

Their FAQ addresses the question of funding and endowments, but viewed in the fuller picture I find it disingenuous:
20. Why doesn’t the university use some of its endowment to keep these sports?

While Stanford may be perceived to have limitless resources, the truth is that we do not. In general, athletics has been a self-sustaining entity on our campus, and we are striving to preserve that model in a time when budgetary support for our academic mission is already under significant stress. Academic and administrative units across the university already have been planning budget cuts of up to 10% in response to the university’s constrained resources as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The vast majority of Stanford’s endowment is directed toward specific long-term uses, including need-based financial aid for students, and is not available to backfill an ongoing structural budget deficit in a specific department. In addition, the endowment is meant to last in perpetuity, providing for future generations of Stanford scholars and faculty members.

21. Athletics has its own endowment and a number of generous donors. Why not tap into that money to keep these sports?

While it is true that Stanford Athletics benefits from a robust community of generous supporters, their philanthropy simply could not cover the escalating costs of ensuring excellence across the board in our 36-sport model any longer.

Similar to the university’s endowment, the vast majority of the Stanford Athletics endowment is directed toward specific long-term uses, including scholarships for student-athletes. Even with those endowments and their annual proceeds, Stanford’s varsity athletics budget is smaller than that of many of our athletic peer institutions, most which will still offer fewer varsity sports than will Stanford.

22. Why didn’t Stanford launch a fundraising campaign to fund these sports before making these decisions?

Stanford Athletics benefits from a robust community of generous supporters, but their philanthropy simply cannot cover the escalating costs of ensuring excellence across the board in our 36-sport model any longer.

We have calculated that the total incremental funding needed to permanently sustain these 11 sports at a nationally-competitive varsity level exceeds $200 million. In fact, even after recognizing the full expense savings resulting from this decision, closing the remaining athletics structural deficit and ensuring the continued success of our remaining 25 varsity sports will itself require garnering resources that exceed that amount, and we are fully committed to that endeavor.

23. Did inflated coach salaries and excessive spending in football and men’s and women’s basketball lead to these decisions?

Stanford is competitive in the marketplace for its coaches, but it does not set the market. We are fortunate to have a tremendous roster of coaches across the board, regardless of their level of compensation. Several of them, including our football, men’s basketball and women’s basketball head coaches, took voluntary salary reductions beginning in May.

We will always strive to be prudent and frugal when it comes to our resources and have much to offer coaches beyond compensation. However, failing to remain competitive in the coaching salary market, especially in the expensive Bay Area, would be tantamount to opting out of national-level excellence in athletics.

Most importantly, we will always strive to provide our student-athletes with all of the resources they need to excel academically and athletically. To do so, we have historically needed to stretch our dollars further than many of our peers, especially in the competitive national landscape of intercollegiate football and basketball.
Question 23 there is particularly hilarious since they basically don't answer the question.
 

BaseballJones

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If they took the .7 off the 27.7 billion, that's $700 million. That would fund the deficit for a couple of decades.

And then their endowment, earning just 4% on the remaining $27 billion, would earn $1.08 billion (or $380 million more than the $700,000,000 they'd spend over ten years) over just ONE year.

So yeah, not buying that a school with these resources couldn't fund athletics, even at the kind of deficit they're talking about, rather easily. That they choose not to is different. They easily could. Like....without breaking a sweat.
 

mauf

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If they took the .7 off the 27.7 billion, that's $700 million. That would fund the deficit for a couple of decades.

And then their endowment, earning just 4% on the remaining $27 billion, would earn $1.08 billion (or $380 million more than the $700,000,000 they'd spend over ten years) over just ONE year.

So yeah, not buying that a school with these resources couldn't fund athletics, even at the kind of deficit they're talking about, rather easily. That they choose not to is different. They easily could. Like....without breaking a sweat.
Well, it’s always a matter of choices. If I were a Stanford alum, I’d rather see that $700 million spent on more faculty (provided they actually teach) and financial aid than on athletics. And when you look at the sports they’re cutting, the point about diversity makes sense — wrestling and volleyball aside, those sports must be overwhelmingly upper-class and white.
 

Joe D Reid

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Yeah, several of these sports have very recently proven embarrassing from an admissions perspective. It’s hard to argue that they’d be better off with these sports than they would giving the money to public school kids with equal grades.
 

BaseballJones

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Yes but there’s something to be said for being the premier athletic university in the world. Cutting 11 sports really works against that. And these students are still quality students worthy of Stanford.
 

Doug Beerabelli

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Well, it’s always a matter of choices. If I were a Stanford alum, I’d rather see that $700 million spent on more faculty (provided they actually teach) and financial aid than on athletics. And when you look at the sports they’re cutting, the point about diversity makes sense — wrestling and volleyball aside, those sports must be overwhelmingly upper-class and white.
What if the sport in question has a strong Asian or foreign presence?Would that change your mind?

I think they used the pandemic as a cover to get rid of the sports as varsity sports. What if normal finding comes back in 2 years? Is this still a good decision? All that being said, these programs could still thrive as club sports.
 

SoxJox

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I don't know what to make of this. Stanford is the country's premier college sports university, if you're counting across all of the NCAA sports.

Maybe it's a response to them losing money on them (But they've always lost money on them)? Or seeing the athletic-scholarship program corrupted through Lori Loughlin and the like, where it's regressive and sprays money at the already-wealthy? Maybe they're lessening the importance, in the President's mind, of winning a bunch of titles by having the #1, I dunno, synchro swim team in the country? Maybe the alumni don't care? I do like that among the criteria for selecting these sports, they list gender equity and diversity, since obviously the scholarships being given out for top athletes in high-cost-of-entry sports was pretty regressive.

The letter discusses "financial challenges", and says they'll continue as club sports. But Stanford has the 3rd highest endowment of any university at almost $28 Bn, behind only Harvard and (within spitting distance of) Yale. They cry poverty at length here in almost farcical terms, bemoaning the voluntary staff pay reductions in Athletics (but let's not ask them about administrative staff bloat around the rest of the university).

The letter also compares their own budget to that of other "peers at the Power Five level", which makes me think this is all about being able to better-fund the football program. If so, that's terrible. It seems they want to make the athletic department "self-sustaining financially", but what that's going to mean in practice is that it'll be run like a business rather than as an activity being offered to help students lead a more well-rounded life. Well, more than it already is, I suppose. Congrats, kids - you're no longer The Customer, you're now fully The Product. Good thing we don't have to pay you while you're doing it!

Their FAQ addresses the question of funding and endowments, but viewed in the fuller picture I find it disingenuous:
20. Why doesn’t the university use some of its endowment to keep these sports?

While Stanford may be perceived to have limitless resources, the truth is that we do not. In general, athletics has been a self-sustaining entity on our campus, and we are striving to preserve that model in a time when budgetary support for our academic mission is already under significant stress. Academic and administrative units across the university already have been planning budget cuts of up to 10% in response to the university’s constrained resources as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The vast majority of Stanford’s endowment is directed toward specific long-term uses, including need-based financial aid for students, and is not available to backfill an ongoing structural budget deficit in a specific department. In addition, the endowment is meant to last in perpetuity, providing for future generations of Stanford scholars and faculty members.

21. Athletics has its own endowment and a number of generous donors. Why not tap into that money to keep these sports?

While it is true that Stanford Athletics benefits from a robust community of generous supporters, their philanthropy simply could not cover the escalating costs of ensuring excellence across the board in our 36-sport model any longer.

Similar to the university’s endowment, the vast majority of the Stanford Athletics endowment is directed toward specific long-term uses, including scholarships for student-athletes. Even with those endowments and their annual proceeds, Stanford’s varsity athletics budget is smaller than that of many of our athletic peer institutions, most which will still offer fewer varsity sports than will Stanford.

22. Why didn’t Stanford launch a fundraising campaign to fund these sports before making these decisions?

Stanford Athletics benefits from a robust community of generous supporters, but their philanthropy simply cannot cover the escalating costs of ensuring excellence across the board in our 36-sport model any longer.

We have calculated that the total incremental funding needed to permanently sustain these 11 sports at a nationally-competitive varsity level exceeds $200 million. In fact, even after recognizing the full expense savings resulting from this decision, closing the remaining athletics structural deficit and ensuring the continued success of our remaining 25 varsity sports will itself require garnering resources that exceed that amount, and we are fully committed to that endeavor.

23. Did inflated coach salaries and excessive spending in football and men’s and women’s basketball lead to these decisions?

Stanford is competitive in the marketplace for its coaches, but it does not set the market. We are fortunate to have a tremendous roster of coaches across the board, regardless of their level of compensation. Several of them, including our football, men’s basketball and women’s basketball head coaches, took voluntary salary reductions beginning in May.

We will always strive to be prudent and frugal when it comes to our resources and have much to offer coaches beyond compensation. However, failing to remain competitive in the coaching salary market, especially in the expensive Bay Area, would be tantamount to opting out of national-level excellence in athletics.

Most importantly, we will always strive to provide our student-athletes with all of the resources they need to excel academically and athletically. To do so, we have historically needed to stretch our dollars further than many of our peers, especially in the competitive national landscape of intercollegiate football and basketball.
Question 23 there is particularly hilarious since they basically don't answer the question.
Great post. And you're right on Q23.

You do cite the letter's reference to gender equity and diversity, but on the former, I don't think Title IX gives them much choice.

What I found interesting is that I think most casual observers of NCAA sports presume there is a population numbering in the thousands of scholarship athletes at major / P5 schools. As an alum, I am most familiar with Penn State, and this article places the number of scholarship athletes, even at a school with 50K+ main-campus students, at only 800+. I imagine that Stanford is probably in the same neighborhood. So cutting the cited 240 student-athletes is a fairly sizable chop
 

Joe D Reid

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I think they used the pandemic as a cover to get rid of the sports as varsity sports. What if normal finding comes back in 2 years? Is this still a good decision? All that being said, these programs could still thrive as club sports.
For most of them, yes. Apparently 12% of the Stanford undergrad population played a varsity sport. That's like a high-school level of varsity participation. I'm sure the academic folks would rather admit some of the many, many academically elite students who don't get into Stanford in a given year because they don't know how to fence. Much of the list is low-hanging fruit in terms of eliminating one back door for lesser-qualified students from wealthier families, which many universities would like to do if possible without pissing off donors. Plus some of those sports require unique facilities or equipment that makes them disproportionately expensive. (WTF is the boat budget for the sailing team? Can you imagine what marina space costs in the SF area?)

That said, some of the choices are odd. Field hockey and volleyball are widely played, have minimal equipment, and are comparatively financially accessible. So I'm not entirely sure what is going on there.
 

Ale Xander

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For most of them, yes. Apparently 12% of the Stanford undergrad population played a varsity sport. That's like a high-school level of varsity participation. I'm sure the academic folks would rather admit some of the many, many academically elite students who don't get into Stanford in a given year because they don't know how to fence. Much of the list is low-hanging fruit in terms of eliminating one back door for lesser-qualified students from wealthier families, which many universities would like to do if possible without pissing off donors. Plus some of those sports require unique facilities or equipment that makes them disproportionately expensive. (WTF is the boat budget for the sailing team? Can you imagine what marina space costs in the SF area?)

That said, some of the choices are odd. Field hockey and volleyball are widely played, have minimal equipment, and are comparatively financially accessible. So I'm not entirely sure what is going on there.
Field Hockey is travel cost-related.
(Stanford competes in the America East conference as a point of reference. Other than Berkeley and UC Davis, they don;t have anyone close to play)


 

cgori

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So, um, yea. Mega-multi-quote reply incoming.

Maybe it's a response to them losing money on them (But they've always lost money on them)?
They pretty clearly say this in the statement.

Maybe the alumni don't care?
I assure you that's not the case. I've been hit with 3 petitions so far (because of my friend group, mostly related to men's volleyball).

The letter discusses "financial challenges", and says they'll continue as club sports. But Stanford has the 3rd highest endowment of any university at almost $28 Bn, behind only Harvard and (within spitting distance of) Yale. They cry poverty at length here in almost farcical terms, bemoaning the voluntary staff pay reductions in Athletics (but let's not ask them about administrative staff bloat around the rest of the university).
I don't read that as bemoaning, I read that as, "everyone is tightening their belt here" and demonstrating it with pay cuts. If they were overpaid to begin with, that's perhaps a separate issue.

The letter also compares their own budget to that of other "peers at the Power Five level", which makes me think this is all about being able to better-fund the football program.
It's not, from all that I can see. What you are missing is that the vocal sports-focused alumni see Stanford as competing at the P5 level. Even though Stanford is TINY compared to almost any other program (definitely smallest undergrad population in the Pac-12). Which is one of many reasons why our "big football stadium" is also small (and still doesn't fill most of the time). The university is going through a pretty big change in status/attitude - the heavy donor group, alums from 50s/60s, were part of a very very different Stanford, much more of a "country club" vibe (with all the country club sports), with huge % of enrollment coming from California - Stanford's real ascendance as a (national/international) powerhouse came later, along with a much bigger focus on diversity. (See the war to change the mascot in '72 - older alums get Stanford Indians stuff printed up and walk around with it at the tailgates.)

I had to go look to see who the other P5 program was with similar number of varsity teams - my guess is that it's Ohio State - 35 varsity squads in 2015. Everyone else on that list is either Ivy, D3, or a service academy, until you get to BC/Michigan. (EDIT: whoops, I missed Cal. Shocker.)

20. Why doesn’t the university use some of its endowment to keep these sports?

While Stanford may be perceived to have limitless resources, the truth is that we do not. In general, athletics has been a self-sustaining entity on our campus, and we are striving to preserve that model in a time when budgetary support for our academic mission is already under significant stress. Academic and administrative units across the university already have been planning budget cuts of up to 10% in response to the university’s constrained resources as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The vast majority of Stanford’s endowment is directed toward specific long-term uses, including need-based financial aid for students, and is not available to backfill an ongoing structural budget deficit in a specific department. In addition, the endowment is meant to last in perpetuity, providing for future generations of Stanford scholars and faculty members.
I actually have heard this discussion about lack of flexibility in the endowment even 15-20 years ago - I know many people who work in alumni relations and development (fundraising). So I don't think it's (totally) made-up. Is there probably some slush in there, yes. But a running joke is the construction rate at Stanford. And these aren't cheap buildings.

21. Athletics has its own endowment and a number of generous donors. Why not tap into that money to keep these sports?

While it is true that Stanford Athletics benefits from a robust community of generous supporters, their philanthropy simply could not cover the escalating costs of ensuring excellence across the board in our 36-sport model any longer.

Similar to the university’s endowment, the vast majority of the Stanford Athletics endowment is directed toward specific long-term uses, including scholarships for student-athletes. Even with those endowments and their annual proceeds, Stanford’s varsity athletics budget is smaller than that of many of our athletic peer institutions, most which will still offer fewer varsity sports than will Stanford.
This is also for sure true. I know people whose names are on scholarships. There just aren't enough of them (again, see the "smallest enrollment" problem) to actually be able to fund something as big as the program we have with 36 varsity sports. And it's way easier to get an alum to fund a football scholarship than squash, almost for sure.

22. Why didn’t Stanford launch a fundraising campaign to fund these sports before making these decisions?

Stanford Athletics benefits from a robust community of generous supporters, but their philanthropy simply cannot cover the escalating costs of ensuring excellence across the board in our 36-sport model any longer.

We have calculated that the total incremental funding needed to permanently sustain these 11 sports at a nationally-competitive varsity level exceeds $200 million. In fact, even after recognizing the full expense savings resulting from this decision, closing the remaining athletics structural deficit and ensuring the continued success of our remaining 25 varsity sports will itself require garnering resources that exceed that amount, and we are fully committed to that endeavor.
This $200 million seems like a key figure. I honestly cannot figure out if that is on an annual basis (gulp) or what. But what they are saying, is if we're doing this, we're going to try to win, and we need to know what that will take. Which is very much a Stanford mindset.

Question 23 there is particularly hilarious since they basically don't answer the question.
I did find it a little humorous. I also know that they aren't paying Shaw top of "market" rate - (he made $4.1m in total comp in 2014 - a lot for a private school, but #21 on list of comparables - probably about where he should be, given the results, and the cost of living in Palo Alto.)

If they took the .7 off the 27.7 billion, that's $700 million. That would fund the deficit for a couple of decades.

And then their endowment, earning just 4% on the remaining $27 billion, would earn $1.08 billion (or $380 million more than the $700,000,000 they'd spend over ten years) over just ONE year.

So yeah, not buying that a school with these resources couldn't fund athletics, even at the kind of deficit they're talking about, rather easily. That they choose not to is different. They easily could. Like....without breaking a sweat.
I had a sarcastic point here, but I'll leave it out. If that $200m/year cited above is real, then this is wrong. I suspect they could fund the short-term shortfalls ($25-70m) and keep things as-is for quite a while, yes.

Well, it’s always a matter of choices. If I were a Stanford alum, I’d rather see that $700 million spent on more faculty (provided they actually teach) and financial aid than on athletics. And when you look at the sports they’re cutting, the point about diversity makes sense — wrestling and volleyball aside, those sports must be overwhelmingly upper-class and white.
Men's volleyball is (was?) overwhelmingly white as well.

Yeah, several of these sports have very recently proven embarrassing from an admissions perspective. It’s hard to argue that they’d be better off with these sports than they would giving the money to public school kids with equal grades.
Sailing, most notably. Not surprised to see it go, given the cost profile and the negative reputation hit it brought.

Yes but there’s something to be said for being the premier athletic university in the world. Cutting 11 sports really works against that. And these students are still quality students worthy of Stanford.
There is definitely a different standard for athletic (or other "talent" - musical, artistic, etc) than raw academic admits. I distinctly remember a conversation with a women's volleyball player who asked us if we got a "pink envelope" to submit our applications - i.e. something that put her application in a different pile/bin than the normal applications. The athletes I know from Stanford are all very smart, but many of the non-athletes are off in another galaxy. I really enjoyed having the mix during my time there.

What I found interesting is that I think most casual observers of NCAA sports presume there is a population numbering in the thousands of scholarship athletes at major / P5 schools. As an alum, I am most familiar with Penn State, and this article places the number of scholarship athletes, even at a school with 50K+ main-campus students, at only 800+. I imagine that Stanford is probably in the same neighborhood. So cutting the cited 240 student-athletes is a fairly sizable chop
For most of them, yes. Apparently 12% of the Stanford undergrad population played a varsity sport. That's like a high-school level of varsity participation. I'm sure the academic folks would rather admit some of the many, many academically elite students who don't get into Stanford in a given year because they don't know how to fence. Much of the list is low-hanging fruit in terms of eliminating one back door for lesser-qualified students from wealthier families, which many universities would like to do if possible without pissing off donors. Plus some of those sports require unique facilities or equipment that makes them disproportionately expensive. (WTF is the boat budget for the sailing team? Can you imagine what marina space costs in the SF area?)

That said, some of the choices are odd. Field hockey and volleyball are widely played, have minimal equipment, and are comparatively financially accessible. So I'm not entirely sure what is going on there.
Combining response to these two - the Stanford undergrad enrollment is just over 17k students (see link above) EDIT - I used the wrong table, it's 7000 undergrads, 17k was total grad+undergrad (17k did seem awfully high to me!). Being generous (because "played" means at any time during studies, I suspect) - 12% of that is ~2100 (EDIT: 840 if you use the right number), and for sure not all of them are on scholarship. (I actually have a hard time believing that there are only 800 scholarship athletes at PSU?! EDIT: ok, with the corrected numbers I can believe it now.)

They did address some of the specific sport issues in the FAQ, btw:

For example, in simply looking at sponsorship of the sports at a national level as one consideration:
  • Of the 11 sports being discontinued, six (lightweight rowing, men’s rowing, co-ed and women’s sailing, squash, synchronized swimming) are not NCAA-sponsored championship sports.
  • All 11 sports being discontinued are sponsored by less than 22% of the more than 350 Division I institutions, and nine (men’s and women’s fencing, lightweight rowing, men’s rowing, co-ed and women’s sailing, squash, synchronized swimming, men’s volleyball) are sponsored by less than 9%.
  • There are only two other Division I field hockey programs and one fencing program on the West Coast, and there are no other lightweight rowing, sailing, squash or synchronized swimming programs on the West Coast.
I remember from going to games that the men's volleyball team didn't used to compete in Pac-12 (it's wasn't a sponsored sport in the Pac-10 at the time), but rather the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation - it looks like that changed to be both Pac-12 and MPSF, but I have no idea when that happened. MPSF is also where sports like water polo, indoor track, and men's gymnastics are competing. And Stanford is a member of a specific conference just for Field Hockey - the Northern Pacific Field Hockey Conference. That seems... excessive. Also, the travel costs for some of these conferences have to be pretty high, since they are spanning a much much larger region than the east coast, just to get enough schools to have viable competition.

TL;DR: it sucks, but I think it was coming for a while, and they decided to rip off the bandaid now rather than wait. Alums aren't happy, petitions are flying around. I've read almost all the material, probably there is a shift in priorities (academics vs atheletics) happening here, but I think there legitimately were some constraints in terms of how they were going to fund some of these programs.
 
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SoxJox

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I actually have a hard time believing that there are only 800 scholarship athletes at PSU?!
And just what do you think the real numbers are?

The numbers I mentioned are those quoted in the linked article from Penn State AD Sandy Barbour. I have no reason to doubt that number - especially since it approximates Stanford's reported numbers. But, even if it's 1,000 or 1,200, the %ages against a 50K+ student body don't change much. And, as I mentioned, I don't think Penn State and Stanford are that much different, as they are always in the top tier of the Learfield competition.

Edit: the "disparity" between # scholarships and # student-athletes is, of course, ascribed to the assignment of "counting" and proportional scholarships for "non-counting" scholarships. For the most part, only football ad basketball are "counting".
 
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Ale Xander

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I remember from going to games that the men's volleyball team didn't used to compete in Pac-12 (it's wasn't a sponsored sport in the Pac-10 at the time), but rather the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation - it looks like that changed to be both Pac-12 and MPSF, but I have no idea when that happened. MPSF is also where sports like water polo, indoor track, and men's gymnastics are competing. And Stanford is a member of a specific conference just for Field Hockey - the Northern Pacific Field Hockey Conference. That seems... excessive. Also, the travel costs for some of these conferences have to be pretty high, since they are spanning a much much larger region than the east coast, just to get enough schools to have viable competition.

TL;DR: it sucks, but I think it was coming for a while, and they decided to rip off the bandaid now rather than wait. Alums aren't happy, petitions are flying around. I've read almost all the material, probably there is a shift in priorities (academics vs atheletics) happening here, but I think there legitimately were some constraints in terms of how they were going to fund some of these programs.
The NPFHC disbanded in 2014
 

Joe D Reid

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Field Hockey is travel cost-related.
(Stanford competes in the America East conference as a point of reference. Other than Berkeley and UC Davis, they don;t have anyone close to play)

Well, there you go then. Good info, thanks.

 

The Needler

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I had a sarcastic point here, but I'll leave it out. If that $200m/year cited above is real, then this is wrong. I suspect they could fund the short-term shortfalls ($25-70m) and keep things as-is for quite a while, yes.
Do you really think 11 minor sports might cost net $200 million a year? Seriously? The very same paragraph states the school will save about $8 million a year with these cuts. The $200 million is an estimate of the amount of future funding required to sustain the programs indefinitely, not an annual amount (and there’s every reason to suspect that estimate is inflated for justification). The entire athletic department’s (including football and basketball) *gross* expenses aren’t even 3/4 of $200 million.

You can look this stuff up.

 
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mauf

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Do you really think 11 minor sports might cost net $200 million a year? Seriously? The very same paragraph states the school will save about $8 million a year with these cuts. The $200 million is an estimate of the amount of future funding required to sustain the programs indefinitely, not an annual amount (and there’s every reason to suspect that estimate is inflated for justification). The entire athletic department’s (including football and basketball) *gross* expenses aren’t even 3/4 of $200 million.

You can look this stuff up.

You know, you can make your point without being a dick.
 

The Needler

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You know, you can make your point without being a dick.
Perhaps. But it seemed apropos for a “so, um yea” thousand-word post defending these cuts at of all places, Stanford Corp., under the pretense of all things, COVID, when based on an obviously incorrect financial figure. Eight million bucks a year. For Stanford.
 

Devizier

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As a UCSD alum, I’m of the mind that moving sports from collegiate/varsity to intermural/club isn’t the worst thing in the world.
 

cgori

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And just what do you think the real numbers are?

The numbers I mentioned are those quoted in the linked article from Penn State AD Sandy Barbour. I have no reason to doubt that number - especially since it approximates Stanford's reported numbers. But, even if it's 1,000 or 1,200, the %ages against a 50K+ student body don't change much. And, as I mentioned, I don't think Penn State and Stanford are that much different, as they are always in the top tier of the Learfield competition.

Edit: the "disparity" between # scholarships and # student-athletes is, of course, ascribed to the assignment of "counting" and proportional scholarships for "non-counting" scholarships. For the most part, only football ad basketball are "counting".
Yea, see my edit above - I can believe it, I was looking at the wrong numbers when I first wrote that because something didn't make sense. When I look at the undergrad-only population numbers it seems (very) plausible.

(To be really clear, what I was having a hard time with when I wrote that at first, was the idea that Stanford had ~2000 student athletes, using that 12% of 17k, and PSU only 800-850 with a much much bigger campus - but that was because I did the same thing as you and used 17k instead of 7k/8k undergrads. If they both have 800-850ish, then it sort of makes sense just in terms of fielding a similar # of teams.)
 
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cgori

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Perhaps. But it seemed apropos for a “so, um yea” thousand-word post defending these cuts at of all places, Stanford Corp., under the pretense of all things, COVID, when based on an obviously incorrect financial figure. Eight million bucks a year. For Stanford.
-That piece in the Nation is about as axe-grindy a thing as I've read in a while. Good luck finding an alum that is fond of the Hoover Institute, outside of (maybe) the Stanford Review/Paypal-mafia set (and a chunk of the Stanford-Indian-garb-wearing alums I made reference to). Ioannidis deserves all the shit he is getting for his pre-print (but I do enjoy Jeet Heer considering a non-peer-reviewed pre-print as a "major black mark against Stanford" - it's almost like there's a process to weed out shit science and it worked.)

-The 1000 words were because the prior 7-8 posts were (IMO) pretty content-free and high on speculation, so I figured some data and counterpoint might help. I was also trying to give some context to the actual debate between the older and younger alums, and how the university has really had some identity crisis about what it wanted to be (Power5 or otherwise).

-I also think it's a gross misrepresentation of the university's statement to say this is under the pretense of COVID, it literally says "a structural deficit emerged several years prior to the COVID-19 pandemic" - I think that's pretty clear. They certainly claim COVID is making it worse, but would anyone expect that to be untrue?

-You see where I said "(gulp)" when citing the $200m? It's because this statement is (probably deliberately) unclear: "We have calculated that the total incremental funding needed to permanently sustain these 11 sports at a nationally competitive varsity level exceeds $200 million." - total over how many years is what I want to know? (Looking at that section again, it's clearly not annual - mea culpa, and it's more than 3 years, because they already are claiming $25m shortfall in one year, and $70m in three). Also you see where I said "If that $200m/year cited above is real" - not really sure how much more deference I could give my (mis)understanding/uncertainty.

But I do appreciate the link to the DoE/EADA site, that was quite informative to me. (@SoxJox - looking at the EADA site shows 850 unduplicated participants @ Stanford, and 852 @ PSU - awfully close for two schools with ~6x ratio of undergrads attending, but I'm guessing this is more a function of "how many people do we need to field this many teams" than anything else.)
 

RIFan

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Dartmouth also announced this week that they are cutting several varsity sports. Brown did the same last month. There will be many more schools to follow, especially among the elite academic institutions. The reality is that the majority of varsity athletics are sports that bastions of privledge. Either they are sports that are generally primarily played by people of means such as sailing, fencing, squash or they have been monetized at the junior levels so that to get on the recruiting radar you must pay huge amounts to get on premier teams. Hockey certainly falls in that category and I imagine it it becoming increasingly true of baseball, softball and soccer. Good luck getting a coach to see you if your primary playing outlet is a public school.

Top schools don't need a wide variety of sports to attract students. They'll fill every seat regardless. It starts to become incongruent with how they claim they want to do build a diverse student body because much of the admitted athletic base is going to be white people of privilege. Whether that is 5% or 10% is irrelevant because every slot is extremely competitive. That's not saying that everyone who makes it into an elite school as an athlete is not otherwise on equal academic footing with non-athletes, but a good portion of them would almost certainly not make the cut without that hook. Combine that with the realization that tuition is rapidly approaching $100k per year and schools are beginning to believe the days of an open checkbook are coming. Most of these sports are subsidized to some degree by tuition paying students who are going to demand higher levels of financial aid as tuition goes up. Covid-19 and to a lessor degree Varsity Blues have certainly accelerated this reckoning.
 

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Dartmouth also announced this week that they are cutting several varsity sports. Brown did the same last month. There will be many more schools to follow, especially among the elite academic institutions. The reality is that the majority of varsity athletics are sports that bastions of privledge. Either they are sports that are generally primarily played by people of means such as sailing, fencing, squash or they have been monetized at the junior levels so that to get on the recruiting radar you must pay huge amounts to get on premier teams. Hockey certainly falls in that category and I imagine it it becoming increasingly true of baseball, softball and soccer. Good luck getting a coach to see you if your primary playing outlet is a public school.

Top schools don't need a wide variety of sports to attract students. They'll fill every seat regardless. It starts to become incongruent with how they claim they want to do build a diverse student body because much of the admitted athletic base is going to be white people of privilege. Whether that is 5% or 10% is irrelevant because every slot is extremely competitive. That's not saying that everyone who makes it into an elite school as an athlete is not otherwise on equal academic footing with non-athletes, but a good portion of them would almost certainly not make the cut without that hook. Combine that with the realization that tuition is rapidly approaching $100k per year and schools are beginning to believe the days of an open checkbook are coming. Most of these sports are subsidized to some degree by tuition paying students who are going to demand higher levels of financial aid as tuition goes up. Covid-19 and to a lessor degree Varsity Blues have certainly accelerated this reckoning.
I completely agree. And if that's Stanford's real motivation, then that'd actually be a positive, something worth bragging about - we have more money than god, and we're going to start directing that to admitting more students at our academic level rather than at our athletic level, and give fewer free passes into our halls (via high-cost-of-entry sports) for the children of the privileged. We're going to convert, whatever it is, $8M / year, to give that in financial aid to underprivileged brilliant kids, rather than using it to pay the salaries of the coaches and trainers necessary to sustain sailing and squash as varsity sports.

But if that's the case, then that'd make this entire show over financial stability and an 11-factor test and whatnot incredibly disingenuous, even by academic-administrator standards. Yes, they have to protect the dignity of their current students playing the sport, they're sponsoring another year of varsity competition as it is. And there are a few alums probably pissed that, say, field hockey is going to revert to club status. But these are the kind of self-important institutions that never miss an opportunity to claim they're on the right side of history and doing the right thing and look at us leading-from-the-front. So if that's what's really going on, why tiptoe around it?

(btw, @cgori, this is what I was getting at by saying "they claim it's about finances...". I don't need you to tell me that was their stated position, they wrote 1000 words about just that and I read them, but I wrote my post because it just felt like something didn't add up, and maybe RIFan's theory is what that something is.)
 

Doug Beerabelli

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It’s doesn’t have to be either/or. There can be high quality/competitive educational institutions that have limited sports investment (MIT) that focus more resources toward students/education, and ones with large sports programs that add that aspect of things (Stanford etc). The “market” can decide which ones do better with getting the best students , and the schools can adjust accordingly - maybe that’s what these cuts indicate. I could see a school that marketed the fact it has no varsity sports, but focuses its resources on all students have success.

FWIW, I think a lot of these so called privilege sports are more about $ privilege than skin color privilege, and that assuming they are sports of the “white privileged” is not always accurate. An example: the hugely successful Trinity College squash team. The 2020 roster is 2/3s non Americans. My limited knowledge of fencing is that it have similar large amount of non-Caucasian participants. Here’s link to Stanford’s fencing rosters.

https://gostanford.com/sports/fencing/roster

What kind of message does that send if sports with a large makeup of non-caucasians are eliminated, while sports with larger Caucasian rosters are kept as varsity (baseball and softball would be good examples off top of head)? And do we, or should we, care about that?
 

Ale Xander

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It’s doesn’t have to be either/or. There can be high quality/competitive educational institutions that have limited sports investment (MIT) that focus more resources toward students/education, and ones with large sports programs that add that aspect of things (Stanford etc). The “market” can decide which ones do better with getting the best students , and the schools can adjust accordingly - maybe that’s what these cuts indicate. I could see a school that marketed the fact it has no varsity sports, but focuses its resources on all students have success.

FWIW, I think a lot of these so called privilege sports are more about $ privilege than skin color privilege, and that assuming they are sports of the “white privileged” is not always accurate. An example: the hugely successful Trinity College squash team. The 2020 roster is 2/3s non Americans. My limited knowledge of fencing is that it have similar large amount of non-Caucasian participants. Here’s link to Stanford’s fencing rosters.

https://gostanford.com/sports/fencing/roster

What kind of message does that send if sports with a large makeup of non-caucasians are eliminated, while sports with larger Caucasian rosters are kept as varsity (baseball and softball would be good examples off top of head)? And do we, or should we, care about that?
Given the amount of sports that MIT offers, I wouldn't call it limited. They have mens water polo (which they're very good at and host an annual tournament iirc) and Rifle for both genders, for example.
 

jon abbey

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My limited knowledge of fencing is that it have similar large amount of non-Caucasian participants. Here’s link to Stanford’s fencing rosters.

https://gostanford.com/sports/fencing/roster

What kind of message does that send if sports with a large makeup of non-caucasians are eliminated, while sports with larger Caucasian rosters are kept as varsity (baseball and softball would be good examples off top of head)? And do we, or should we, care about that?
The thing is that Stanford fencing has never been very good, there are only probably 20 or 30 genuine programs in the NCAA and Stanford hasn't finished higher than 8th in the NCAAs since 2006. What you're maybe talking about more is that Peter Westbrook (13 time national sabre champion, the best in the US when I started in 7th grade and still when I quit after college) started the Peter Westbrook Foundation in 1991 which has recruited inner-city black kids and turned many of them into Olympic-level athletes, it's incredible.

What you're linking above with the current Stanford roster there looks very different, a ton of Asians but I am guessing basically the whole team is unexceptional, maybe with a couple of exceptions. Stanford had Nicky Bravin just after my day (I was the co-captain of both the 87 and 88 undefeated NCAA champ Columbia teams) and Alex Massialas more recently but usually they are a non-factor nationally from what I can see. Also there is only one other West Coast team, I'm not even sure how Stanford filled a whole schedule, but I know we never faced them in four years.
 

Gdiguy

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Dartmouth also announced this week that they are cutting several varsity sports. Brown did the same last month. There will be many more schools to follow, especially among the elite academic institutions. The reality is that the majority of varsity athletics are sports that bastions of privledge. Either they are sports that are generally primarily played by people of means such as sailing, fencing, squash or they have been monetized at the junior levels so that to get on the recruiting radar you must pay huge amounts to get on premier teams. Hockey certainly falls in that category and I imagine it it becoming increasingly true of baseball, softball and soccer. Good luck getting a coach to see you if your primary playing outlet is a public school.

Top schools don't need a wide variety of sports to attract students. They'll fill every seat regardless. It starts to become incongruent with how they claim they want to do build a diverse student body because much of the admitted athletic base is going to be white people of privilege. Whether that is 5% or 10% is irrelevant because every slot is extremely competitive. That's not saying that everyone who makes it into an elite school as an athlete is not otherwise on equal academic footing with non-athletes, but a good portion of them would almost certainly not make the cut without that hook. Combine that with the realization that tuition is rapidly approaching $100k per year and schools are beginning to believe the days of an open checkbook are coming. Most of these sports are subsidized to some degree by tuition paying students who are going to demand higher levels of financial aid as tuition goes up. Covid-19 and to a lessor degree Varsity Blues have certainly accelerated this reckoning.
Yeah, I think that's a big part of it

The other thing I do wonder is how bad their non-athletic budget projections look as well. I'm sure that a huge fraction of their tuition revenue comes from overseas students, which may be way down in the next couple years for obvious Trump-y issues (and keep in mind - Stanford already has free tuition for parents with incomes less than $125k (https://news.stanford.edu/2018/12/04/stanford-expands-financial-aid-middle-income-families-trustees-set-2019-20-tuition/); on top of that they just rebuilt the Packard Children's Hospital, and the debt service on that may not be pretty.

On top of that - I can say anecdotally that a LOT of private funding is drying up; for example, many organizations that fund research (cancer societies, etc) have terminated grant applications for the next year. So a place like Stanford may be bracing for the reality that come 6 months or a year from now, they may suddenly have to support a significant number of additional graduate student stipends, provide bridge funding to research labs, etc - and that could easily be more in the $50M+ range (even if it's $500k per lab, there's a lot of labs). It's hard for them internally to claim poverty in terms of providing funding to support ongoing research projects, but then drop $3M to prop up the sailing team.
 

Shelterdog

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My conspiracy theory as an alum is that admissions gate is a lot worse than went public--maybe not in terms of criminality but in terms of abuses they found. I have no evidence for this except for the public facts that they did a massive department wide internal investigation the fact that the men's swimming and crew coaches retired within about a week of each other with little fanfare last year; per the new york times the crew coach was fired; the public results of the internal investigation into admissions gates revealed that at least 7 coaches were asked to participate in the admissions fraud and none reported it to the athletic department. If a bunch of non revenue sports coaches were doing nothing illegal but were cutting corners and doing favors and giving prized admissions slots to people for untowards(but not criminal) reasons that could leave a pretty bad flavor in the school's mouth. At the end of the day do you want to accept 50-100 kids a year, mostly rich kids with lesser academic credentials, in a class of 1700?

Of course sometime the scandal isn't what's unknown but what's out in the open. And athletic preferences, especially for athletes in country club sports, are a scandal of sorts. The analysis of Harvard that's been going around lately-that 43% of white harvard student are athletes, legacies, or close big donors and only 25% of that cohort would have been admitted if they were not in special categories--holds true for Stanford. I remember an admissions officer telling me that football recruiting class was great, and he was impressed that _one_ incoming football player was such a good student that he might have even gotten in if he wasn't a football player. Some of the athletes were great students--a star basketball player when I was there is a computer science professor--but many were distinctly unimpressive relative to the school as a whole.

Given the relatively small size of the school and the huge number of athletes it really influence the class as a whole. If 12% of the school were athletes I'd estimated that 15-18% of each incoming close were recruited athletes-there ends up being a remarkable level of attrition among recruited non scholarship athletes, particularly in the country club sports. My freshman dorm of a hundred had, no fewer than 15 recruited athletes and while one become a professional athletes; one never went to a single practice on the crew team, the golfer and swimmer quit before winter break, and five or six more quit their sports before their sophomore year. If you're not an elite scholarship athlete NCAA sports aren't a particularly appealing way to spend four years of college; getting up at 5 am every day to be be the 15th best swimmer on a college swim team seems to just suck. (An exception that proves the rule is an acquaintance who did stick with tennis thought he might get some run in '97 playing doubles; he didn't because they signed the Bryan brothers who are maybe the greatest doubles team in tennis history and still fucking playing pro tennis at 42 or 42 years old).

Between what we do know about the admissions issues, what we might infer, and what we actually know about athletic admissions being a massive largely unjustified factor in admissions the move makes a lot of sense. Of course I'm pissed because I have kids and was hoping that quidditch becomes a d-1 sport....
 

RIFan

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FWIW, I think a lot of these so called privilege sports are more about $ privilege than skin color privilege, and that assuming they are sports of the “white privileged” is not always accurate. An example: the hugely successful Trinity College squash team. The 2020 roster is 2/3s non Americans. My limited knowledge of fencing is that it have similar large amount of non-Caucasian participants. Here’s link to Stanford’s fencing rosters.
It's not only about over representation of Caucasians. Elite schools also typically over represented by Asians, so it would not surprise me that sports that are both heavily Caucasian and Asian were on the cut list for those reasons.
Of course sometime the scandal isn't what's unknown but what's out in the open. And athletic preferences, especially for athletes in country club sports, are a scandal of sorts. The analysis of Harvard that's been going around lately-that 43% of white harvard student are athletes, legacies, or close big donors and only 25% of that cohort would have been admitted if they were not in special categories--holds true for Stanford. I remember an admissions officer telling me that football recruiting class was great, and he was impressed that _one_ incoming football player was such a good student that he might have even gotten in if he wasn't a football player. Some of the athletes were great students--a star basketball player when I was there is a computer science professor--but many were distinctly unimpressive relative to the school as a whole.
When my son was in the college application process I took some time to dive into the acceptance data for a few of the Ivies. Part of it was curiosity, part of it was to get him understanding of the long odds of getting accepted. Without going back and relooking at the data, it usually came down to a white, middle class male competing for 1 of about 200-300 unhooked slots against several thousand applicants. Acceptance rate might be 7% overall, but probably less than 2% for that group. The very worthy hooks of 1st generation students and under represented minorities really didn't impact that acceptance rate. It was primarily athletics and a higher acceptance rate legacies that minimized the slots for that group. The 43% number you cited was very similar for other schools I looked at. As I told my son, no one should or will be throwing a pity party for him if the acceptances didn't come his way. Diversity goals are a legitimate and worthwhile goal for schools to build their student body. They would probably be able to be even more economically diverse if they didn't tie so many slots up athletics and legacies. I think they were becoming too stratified in having the class primarily being at the opposite ends of the income spectrum. I will say that anecdotally, it did appear that some schools did de-emphasize the legacy hook. Legacies that do get in probably have the academic record to justify acceptance without that hook at a lot of schools.
 

Shelterdog

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It's not only about over representation of Caucasians. Elite schools also typically over represented by Asians, so it would not surprise me that sports that are both heavily Caucasian and Asian were on the cut list for those reasons.
There's a lot of evidence (most recently and clearly revealed in the Harvard Asian discrimination suit) that while Asian students are overrepresented relative to the population as a whole, Asian students are massively _under_represented relative to objective metrics of academic achievement.

That aside, there have historically been a vanishingly small number of asian athletes at Stanford and the Ivies. That's been changing with fencing, golf, and swimming to some extent, the athletic departments are actually whiter than the student body as a whole, especially so if you remove football and basketball. Sports like water polo, volleyball, women's lightweight crew often remain 90% or more white. (It's particularly preposterous in men's rowing where Cal/UDub/Harvard/Yale and some other schools are in arms races that escalated from trying get the best kid from Exeter to trying to recruit half a dozen of more international rowers a year, often very wealthy people from schools like Eton).
 

coremiller

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My conspiracy theory as an alum is that admissions gate is a lot worse than went public--maybe not in terms of criminality but in terms of abuses they found. I have no evidence for this except for the public facts that they did a massive department wide internal investigation the fact that the men's swimming and crew coaches retired within about a week of each other with little fanfare last year; per the new york times the crew coach was fired; the public results of the internal investigation into admissions gates revealed that at least 7 coaches were asked to participate in the admissions fraud and none reported it to the athletic department. If a bunch of non revenue sports coaches were doing nothing illegal but were cutting corners and doing favors and giving prized admissions slots to people for untowards(but not criminal) reasons that could leave a pretty bad flavor in the school's mouth. At the end of the day do you want to accept 50-100 kids a year, mostly rich kids with lesser academic credentials, in a class of 1700?

Of course sometime the scandal isn't what's unknown but what's out in the open. And athletic preferences, especially for athletes in country club sports, are a scandal of sorts. The analysis of Harvard that's been going around lately-that 43% of white harvard student are athletes, legacies, or close big donors and only 25% of that cohort would have been admitted if they were not in special categories--holds true for Stanford. I remember an admissions officer telling me that football recruiting class was great, and he was impressed that _one_ incoming football player was such a good student that he might have even gotten in if he wasn't a football player. Some of the athletes were great students--a star basketball player when I was there is a computer science professor--but many were distinctly unimpressive relative to the school as a whole.

Given the relatively small size of the school and the huge number of athletes it really influence the class as a whole. If 12% of the school were athletes I'd estimated that 15-18% of each incoming close were recruited athletes-there ends up being a remarkable level of attrition among recruited non scholarship athletes, particularly in the country club sports. My freshman dorm of a hundred had, no fewer than 15 recruited athletes and while one become a professional athletes; one never went to a single practice on the crew team, the golfer and swimmer quit before winter break, and five or six more quit their sports before their sophomore year. If you're not an elite scholarship athlete NCAA sports aren't a particularly appealing way to spend four years of college; getting up at 5 am every day to be be the 15th best swimmer on a college swim team seems to just suck. (An exception that proves the rule is an acquaintance who did stick with tennis thought he might get some run in '97 playing doubles; he didn't because they signed the Bryan brothers who are maybe the greatest doubles team in tennis history and still fucking playing pro tennis at 42 or 42 years old).

Between what we do know about the admissions issues, what we might infer, and what we actually know about athletic admissions being a massive largely unjustified factor in admissions the move makes a lot of sense. Of course I'm pissed because I have kids and was hoping that quidditch becomes a d-1 sport....
One of the ironies here is that for for Stanford the football program, which has a very high African-American participation rate, functions as a massive affirmative action program for admitting African-American students who otherwise might not have the academic credentials for admission. And at Stanford, unlike most P5 football programs, everyone actually goes to class and graduates.
 

Shelterdog

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Why is it preposterous to recruit the best athletes in the world into your program?
Nothing is necessarily preposterous about recruiting the best athletes into the world. (And in many ways it's more defensible than giving admission preferences in the many sports were ivy league athletes aren't all that competitive with top NCAA programs). Giving valuable and scarce admissions preferences, roughly 8 a year, in a minor sport is something else, particularly when you're thinking about the many considerations that going into building an ivy league class at Harvard, Yale, or Brown. And the particularly high percentage of foreign athletes in that one sport stands in contrast to the composition of the schools' classes and athletic departments as a whole so that's another factor. That's just a huge amount of effort to collect 24 tall guys and 3 short ones.

Here's an interesting article on the topic by the Yale Daily News. 60% of the men's rowers at Yale are now international, which is a massive increase from even a decade ago.


If you value rowing excellence enough our views part ways; I don't really.

I'll certainly concede that rowing might be a major revenue sport for Yale and Harvard given, for example, Bill Ackman's well known loving of Harvard Rowing, and that also may be a relevant factor.
 

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Yeah, I’m much less bothered by Yale recruiting a bunch of future Olympic medalist rowers than giving admissions spots to random 8 handicappers on the golf team. The whole point of the preferential admissions is supposed to be excellence. Ivy League is the SEC of rowing and Yale is Bama. Focusing resources where you can have success seems to be a sensible way of pruning down the athletic bloat in universities.
 

Shelterdog

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Yeah, I’m much less bothered by Yale recruiting a bunch of future Olympic medalist rowers than giving admissions spots to random 8 handicappers on the golf team. The whole point of the preferential admissions is supposed to be excellence. Ivy League is the SEC of rowing and Yale is Bama. Focusing resources where you can have success seems to be a sensible way of pruning down the athletic bloat in universities.
Totally fair point and view. And perhaps absurd is the word I was looking for--I just think it's comical that Yale, Harvard, Brown, Princeton and Stanford are fighting over random German guys with sick erg times.
 
Yeah, I’m much less bothered by Yale recruiting a bunch of future Olympic medalist rowers than giving admissions spots to random 8 handicappers on the golf team. The whole point of the preferential admissions is supposed to be excellence. Ivy League is the SEC of rowing and Yale is Bama. Focusing resources where you can have success seems to be a sensible way of pruning down the athletic bloat in universities.
FWIW, speaking as a former member of the Harvard golf team, I wasn't recruited - I happened to be a decent-ish golfer who was accepted into the school before I had my first conversation with the golf coach. Things have changed somewhat since the early 90s when I started college, insofar as the scores I see being posted by Ivy League golfers at Harvard and elsewhere are *way* better than they were back in my day; I never would have sniffed making the current team, and I do wonder what has happened to the recruiting process in the interim, but I'm pretty sure there are no 8 handicappers in Ivy League golf any more. (You'd have to be pretty close to scratch.)
 

jon abbey

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I remember being pretty stunned at how dumb some of the wrestlers and football players at Columbia were back in my day, same with Harvard hockey. Personally I think it’s ok to bend admission standards a bit for impact athletes, but there was a wrestler on my freshman floor at Columbia whose sister came and did all his homework every weekend (and he was nothing special as a wrestler either).
 

Doug Beerabelli

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FWIW, speaking as a former member of the Harvard golf team, I wasn't recruited - I happened to be a decent-ish golfer who was accepted into the school before I had my first conversation with the golf coach. Things have changed somewhat since the early 90s when I started college, insofar as the scores I see being posted by Ivy League golfers at Harvard and elsewhere are *way* better than they were back in my day; I never would have sniffed making the current team, and I do wonder what has happened to the recruiting process in the interim, but I'm pretty sure there are no 8 handicappers in Ivy League golf any more. (You'd have to be pretty close to scratch.)
My family is just exploring the college recruiting process for golf for my son - a rising HS sophomore- and from what I’ve learned so far, I can confirm there are few if any 8 handicappers making the men’s golf teams in division 1 programs, and it likely the same for most division 2 or 3 varsity teams.

A woman 8 handicapper could be a different story, especially at non top tier programs.
 

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FWIW, speaking as a former member of the Harvard golf team, I wasn't recruited - I happened to be a decent-ish golfer who was accepted into the school before I had my first conversation with the golf coach. Things have changed somewhat since the early 90s when I started college, insofar as the scores I see being posted by Ivy League golfers at Harvard and elsewhere are *way* better than they were back in my day; I never would have sniffed making the current team, and I do wonder what has happened to the recruiting process in the interim, but I'm pretty sure there are no 8 handicappers in Ivy League golf any more. (You'd have to be pretty close to scratch.)
If anything, I think we should probably see more of this, or revert back to seeing more of this: people admitted on academic / intellectual merit, who happen to play a sport, and then commit to join it and compete in it and get the benefit of having a chance to compete at the intercollegiate level. Let them hack around, have fun, make friends, get better, get some exercise - and if they lose to some future Olympians, well, that's a good story for job interviews one day.

The arms race in trying to win all the championships, in all the sports, requiring us to bid up the salaries of the best coaches and have staff bloat galore, is probably the real culprit here. If elite schools want to pick a few sports to really stake their claim in and be truly nationally competitive so that every so often they can tell the alumni about some championship, well, great. For your proverbial top-10 schools, a handful of such sports is probably a worthy cost-benefit decision.

But by and large, the allocation of hooked admits is just poisoning the overall quality of the class. There are a TON of them. And for what? So you can go .500-ish rather than below .500 in squash? Maybe?

Coaches should have to show up to the admissions office and make an argument that "this kid is a difference-maker for the program, world-class, check out these videos, check out these stats", like present a case. And if it's the Bryan Brothers, or Tiger fucking Woods, well then, sure. You'd admit world-class athletic talent in the same way that you'd admit world-class musical talent, or world-class volunteering or entrepreneurial talent. Clear the academic bar, have some things that make you stand out from the pack, and you can find your way into a top school. But the whole "convince the coach, get a free pass" thing is not only begging for corruption, it's making a farce of your admissions standards while gaining your university almost no benefit.
 

jon abbey

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That seems basically correct but slightly too far IMO, 'world-class' seems a notch strong. It's a complicated topic like most. Did our core group of fencers at Columbia starting an eight year run of top 2 NCAA finishes (5 titles, 3 runners up, 1986-1993) get more people to apply? Even if it did (eh), does that help the school much with already such a low percentage being accepted? Am I bringing this up mostly to brag? Heh.

My freshman thesis in fall 1984 was that division 1 athletes should be paid and classes should be optional, kind of affiliated semi-pro teams, still feeling good about 17 year old me's thoughts there (in general, I sadly do not have it). That way among other things you would open up a lot more spots for students wanting to actually study and learn, although I feel like kids should start college a few years later on average, but that is a whole additional discussion. If kids had to do something for a year or two in between high school and college, I think they would appreciate college much more, or maybe I am just speaking from my own experience. I went to the bare minimum of classes, a true miracle that I graduated in eight semesters as well as another example of how hard it is to get into the top schools (and way way harder now) but how relatively easy it is to get a degree once you do.
 

Joe D Reid

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Jan 15, 2004
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It's hard. The average academic qualifications at top-tier schools are so much higher than they were 50 years ago (and there are so many more students vying for seats) that the athletes stick out in a way they might not have back then. But you also don't necessarily want an entire campus of weenies.

That seems basically correct but slightly too far IMO, 'world-class' seems a notch strong. It's a complicated topic like most. Did our core group of fencers at Columbia starting an eight year run of top 2 NCAA finishes (5 titles, 3 runners up, 1986-1993) get more people to apply? Even if it did (eh), does that help the school much with already such a low percentage being accepted? Am I bringing this up mostly to brag? Heh.
If you were starting from scratch I think you'd set the tipping point for admitting primarily on athletic talent about where you would set it for oboe talent or macrame art talent or whatever. But of course the universities aren't starting from that point, and are having to balance conflicting institutional imperatives involving commitment to tradition and alumni/donors on the one hand, and academic standards and a desire to move away from country club sport admits on the other.
 

Doug Beerabelli

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If anything, I think we should probably see more of this, or revert back to seeing more of this: people admitted on academic / intellectual merit, who happen to play a sport, and then commit to join it and compete in it and get the benefit of having a chance to compete at the intercollegiate level. Let them hack around, have fun, make friends, get better, get some exercise - and if they lose to some future Olympians, well, that's a good story for job interviews one day.

The arms race in trying to win all the championships, in all the sports, requiring us to bid up the salaries of the best coaches and have staff bloat galore, is probably the real culprit here. If elite schools want to pick a few sports to really stake their claim in and be truly nationally competitive so that every so often they can tell the alumni about some championship, well, great. For your proverbial top-10 schools, a handful of such sports is probably a worthy cost-benefit decision.

But by and large, the allocation of hooked admits is just poisoning the overall quality of the class. There are a TON of them. And for what? So you can go .500-ish rather than below .500 in squash? Maybe?

Coaches should have to show up to the admissions office and make an argument that "this kid is a difference-maker for the program, world-class, check out these videos, check out these stats", like present a case. And if it's the Bryan Brothers, or Tiger fucking Woods, well then, sure. You'd admit world-class athletic talent in the same way that you'd admit world-class musical talent, or world-class volunteering or entrepreneurial talent. Clear the academic bar, have some things that make you stand out from the pack, and you can find your way into a top school. But the whole "convince the coach, get a free pass" thing is not only begging for corruption, it's making a farce of your admissions standards while gaining your university almost no benefit.
Does this "high academic standard bar clearing" requirement apply only to athletes' admission, or for the general student body? If it's the former, is that really fair? If it's the latter, there's risk of limiting the diversity of the school considerably.

I have doubts that the merely-mediocre-but-still-college-level-competitive athletes that are admitted to there bastions of education excellence are really that far off from the academic bar you reference, at least overall. I'd think the egregious cases would be those world class level athletes. There are no shortage of qualified students applying to these top schools, and there's quite a few student athletes who have gotten really good at what they do from years of specialization and top notch instruction--with the hope and dream of improving their undergrad choice, or making it cheaper or free. There's bound to be some adequate college level talent athletes that hit the academic numbers for these comparatively limited slots on these college teams. I could be wrong about this, of course.

I think there's more egregiousnessly below-standard admits in the nepotism/legacy/spawn of important people than the athlete admits. That's a topic for a different forum and thread, however.
 

VORP Speed

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Apr 23, 2010
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The Ivies use a target “academic index” for each sport, which is basically an average of the GPA/SATs of an incoming recruiting class. There is some absolute minimum bar that each individual has to clear, but basically recruiting strong academic athletes can help you bring in some knucklehead studs. It’s why coxswains usually have off the charts academics—they’re fungible so they’re used as makeweights for the guys you really need. The admissions have gotten so competitive that it’s a crapshoot for even off the charts smart kids, so quite a few athletic recruiting spots end up used on kids who are completely academically qualified. The recruit slot gives them certainty that would otherwise be lacking if they had to go through regular admissions.