Coaches question NESCAC report's findings
In a statement accompanying the "Academic-Athletic
Divide" report released last week, the NESCAC presidents wrote, "While
we admire the achievements and talents of our student athletes and reaffirm
the educational value of athletic competition, we are concerned that the
competitive pressures of intercollegiate athletics
the place and purpose of athletic participation in our institutions."
According to the statement, the presidents' goal is to fully
conform to the values of the NESCAC conference, as well as to the educational
missions of individual schools.
The statement and report are a result of athletic vs. academic
concerns that were raised after the publication of the book The Game of
Life, written by William Bowen and James Shulman.
According to the report, athletes have an admissions advantage
over non-athletes, even though athletes tend to have lower academic scores.
In addition, many athletes tend to be ranked lower in their class and
perform under the level of non-athletes.
However, the report, though, has received mixed reactions
among administrators, coaches, and students.
Director of Athletics Jeff Ward said, "There are certainly
things in it that I think I disagree pretty strongly with
it is very hurtful to coaches and athletes for people to say, 'Do you
Several coaches also expressed their skepticism of the findings
of the report.
Caputi pointed out several areas in which he thought the
report was misleading. He said that the report failed to completely acknowledge
that coaches screen athletes for their academic qualifications before
they are ever placed on an admissions list. Caputi said that this caused
the statistics relating to the admissions preference given to athletes
over non-athletes to be inaccurate.
Caputi also mentioned his concern for the recruited-athlete
data, since all schools recruit in different ways. He said that he believed
that the report didn't give answers, but rather raised more questions.
"I'm fearful of any schools making changes in policy
based on a report," he said.
Gil Birney, head coach of the men's and women's crew teams,
said, "If the problem identified by the report is that athletes aren't
working up to potential, I wonder if that is particularly peculiar to
I suspect the larger potential problem raised by the report
is a sense of antagonism or suspicion about groups of people, rather than
an appreciation of what people have to offer the community."
Terrence Meagher, coach of the men's ice hockey team and
the men's and women's golf teams, was also skeptical of the report.
Meagher said, "It is my hope that an objective person
or group will thoroughly analyze the material to make sure that the conclusions
are accurate and fairly represent the role of intercollegiate athletics
in the NESCAC conference."
Administrators, though, did not express concern with the
validity of the report.
He said, "In a sense, it's unusual and rather courageous
for a group of colleges to examine themselves and expose themselves seriously
on issues that are highly sensitive and difficult
I think until The
Game of Life was published, we were probably individually and collectively
less self-aware of the trade-offs that might be involved in those choices."
Dean of Student Affairs Craig Bradley said that since he
had already read The Game of Life, he wasn't surprised by the report.
He said, "The principle thing is the academic experience,
and we need to always remember that. We certainly don't want people coming
into the place who are unprepared to thrive within the classroom here
and contribute to the place in all respects."
The NESCAC presidents have begun looking into several different
paths to possible reform. The presidents at Amherst, Williams, and Wesleyan
are looking into admissions and recruiting; the presidents at Colby and
Bates, along with President Barry Mills, are looking into the allocation
of financial resources to athletic departments. In addition, Mills and
the presidents at Trinity and Middlebury are talking with the president
at Carlton about possibly moving into division IIIA or IV.
Mills said that the presidents hoped to reconvene in December
to talk about the different areas and then to meet again in May to discuss
some actual proposals.
Mills said, "I think it was a good start for the presidents
to sit around the room and acknowledge that we were committed to these
principles, and I assume everyone is acting in good faith and is serious
about this, and so I am cautiously optimistic that people will do a rigorous
analysis of this and figure out what's best for the league. And then,
we've got to figure out what's best for Bowdoin."
Bradley said, "The whole conference can say, 'We're
going to place greater emphasis on academic qualification at the expense
of athletic talent across the board in some systematic way,'
at the end of the day, you're not sure if everybody's going to play along."
Caputi also said that there was a need for more of a league-wide
commitment to "numbers," and said, "Everybody we're playing
with isn't playing by the same rules."
Mills said that without complete NESCAC cooperation, "it
would be very hard for Bowdoin to take drastic steps and then still have
an expectation that we're going to be able to compete in a league that
hasn't made such drastic steps."
Ward said, "The Bowdoin student athletes that I know,
the quality of education was incredibly important to them in making their
decision of where to go to college, and I am really proud of them, and
I think they represent the College well."
Birney said, "That academics comes first is clearly
understood and broadly supported by our coaches."
Timothy Gilbride, coach of the men's basketball team, did
not think that there was a necessary tradeoff between academics and athletics.
He said, "The academic mission of the College is paramount in all
we do. However, there is no need for athletic performance to suffer in
order for students to perform well in the classroom
detracting from the academic mission of the College, I feel strongly that
athletic participation enhances this mission."
The NESCAC schools include Bowdoin, Williams, Amherst, Bates,
Colby, Connecticut College, Hamilton, Middlebury, Trinity, Tufts, and
Copies of the report "Academic-Athletic Divide" are available on reserve in Hawthorne-Longfellow Library.