This week, the Orient published the first in a three-part series about athletic recruiting at Bowdoin and across the NESCAC. The conference adopted a system in 2002 that standardized the admissions process for these recruits, placing them into one of three categories based on the academic strength of their applications. A-band athletes are those who fall in line with the academic performance of the average accepted student, while B-band athletes fall just below those standards and C-band candidates dip even lower. Schools must report how many admitted students fall into the B- and C-band categories each year to ensure that they do not exceed the prescribed limit. Additionally, admissions offices at NESCAC schools conduct “early reads” for applicants who are recommended by coaches. This system was established to ensure that each institution fields teams whose academic achievements do not deviate dramatically from the rest of its student body.

The bulk of this information came to the Orient through Amherst’s dean of admissions, Thomas Parker, who openly acknowledged that his college recruited 66 B- and C-band athletes this year. The athletic department and admissions office at Bowdoin declined to speak candidly about specifics at the College and how B- and C-band spots are distributed among Bowdoin’s 31 varsity sports. According to Parker, NESCAC-wide policy dictates that member colleges are allotted 14 spots for having a football team and two additional spots for every other varsity sports team, with a few exceptions. These total slots can be distributed among coaches as they see fit.

The adoption and reinforcement of this standard is laudable, and we appreciate the effort that goes into maintaining its integrity. It distinguishes the NESCAC from other collegiate conferences. However, this process was established to provide transparency between college officials, and we think the same level of transparency should be afforded to the student body. A 2005 New York Times article exposing the system quoted Parker saying that a lack of open information about recruiting “engendered a corrosive cynicism.” We agree. With over 70 student-athletes supported in admissions each year at Bowdoin, roughly 15 percent of an incoming class receives preferential treatment. This is a large portion of the College and it is in the interest of our student body—and applicants to the College—to understand how they are selected.

The administration might worry that providing specific numbers about athletes aided in admissions could create a stigma against all student-athletes. But as the Orient reported in April 2013—and as the third section of this series will discuss—statistics show that Bowdoin’s student-athletes had a negligible .01 GPA difference from non-athlete students. Any stigma is unfounded. Yet even those statistics have not been updated since 2005, and we deserve to know if this number has changed. 

With approximately 15 percent of our peers granted an edge in admissions, we would like to see the parameters of recruitment bands, not to mention more open discourse about the process. Like any other applicant, an athlete is entitled to a degree of confidentiality, but we feel that in a system built to standardize admissions within the NESCAC, we should standardize transparency too.

The editorial represents the majority view of the Bowdoin Orient’s editorial board, which is comprised of Erica Berry, Nora Biette-Timmons, Garrett Casey, Ron Cervantes, Marisa McGarry, Sam Miller and Kate Witteman.