In a statistical comparison of the College’s 2011-2012 athletics rosters and student enrollment, the Orient found that a large number of Bowdoin’s sports teams are lagging in attracting out of region athletes. Among some sports teams on campus, athletes are 10 percentage points more likely to hail from the New England or Mid-Atlantic regions compared to the overall population of the College.
The rosters of the men’s and women’s basketball, soccer, hockey and lacrosse teams, as well as baseball, softball, field hockey and football, were figured into this analysis, based on the likelihood of those teams to recruit new players. Seventy-three percent of students from these teams hail from New England or the Mid-Atlantic, while the same is true of 64 percent of the total student population. If all sports teams are taken into account, the geographic diversity of the athletic program closely mirrors that of the College at large, with 67 percent of all athletes hailing from these two regions.
Multi-sport athletes are even less likely to live outside the Northeasts. Seventy-two percent of all athletes on more than one sports team are from the New England and Mid-Atlantic regions, but a whopping 90 percent of the ones just from the included sports are from those regions.
Increasing geographic diversity is a major focus for the College, which is measured in part by the number of different high schools that send the College at least one applicant each year. Dean of Admissions Scott Meiklejohn declined to comment on the findings of this article.
Interim Athletic Director Tim Ryan recognized the challenges that recruiting poses to increasing geographic diversity among students.
“In the recruiting process, our coaches proceed with the intent to bring students to campus that will excel academically, in the Bowdoin community and in their chosen sport,” said Ryan. “We hope to assist the College in attracting students from across the country, but we do not place geographic quotas on teams. There are many factors that influence the geographic make up of our teams, such as the proliferation of certain sports in different areas of the country, but our primary goal is to recruit exceptional people, regardless of where a prospective student resides.”
Speaking of geographic diversity more broadly, Meiklejohn said that “the College aspires to have a class that represents the country, not just a part of the country with a few exotic individuals thrown in,” said Meiklejohn. “I think the best measure for how well Bowdoin is doing, how much the College is accomplishing, and what’s important for its future is the high school number.”
Admissions received applications from 3,065 high schools last year, a six percent increase from the previous year.
Some of the College’s athletics teams, however, do not appear to be contributing to this growth.
Ryan cited NCAA limitations that hinder the College’s ability to attract athletes from out of region areas.
“Our recruiting efforts in the NESCAC are limited to being over the phone and going to see student athletes at camps or games as opposed to visiting people at their homes which D-I schools can do,” said Ryan. “The guidelines of the conference also limit recruiting budgets so you’re generally only able to go a certain distance from campus and you’re generally only able to do that every so often.”
Ryan would not go into detail about the recruitment budget, but did remark, “we’re talking about hundreds of dollars, not thousands.”
Dave Caputi, Head Coach of Football, considers the challenge of getting prospective student athletes from outside New England and the Mid Atlantic to embark on one or more campus visits is a serious obstacle.
“We don’t go on the road to recruit kids, nor can we pay for them to visit,” said Caputi.
As a Division III school, all visits to Bowdoin by prospective student athletes are considered unofficial. Under NCAA guidelines, these visits are financed by the prospective student, unlike the official visits that a Division I school may provide, which are financed either entirely or partially by the institution.
New technologies, however, have helped to level the playing field. However, Caputi feels that while film is helpful, there is no complete substitute for watching a player first-hand.
“Everybody is on an equal footing when it come to evaluating films but where they’re not on an equal footing is when we go see those kids at camps. In the end, you still want to see kids—if possible—in person… seeing a kid run around, move around, change direction,” said Caputi.
Ryan said the Athletic Department’s strategy for increasing the geographic diversity of athletes consists of talking to high school and club coaches, subscribing to online recruiting databases and contacting out of region prospective athletes earlier in the process.
“One of the key components for a student having an interest in Bowdoin is the ability to get here and come to campus,” said Ryan. “Just by the nature of someone coming from far away that becomes more difficult if it is later in the process. Reaching out to students earlier in the process during their junior year helps to make it easier for the family to plan that visit to campus.”
For football, Caputi keeps track of the geographic information for all the football rosters in the NESCAC, Ivy League and Patriot League in search of good academic areas, attends football camps such as ones held at Stanford and Northwestern, and contacts by phone the top 50-75 schools in certain out-of-region states like Florida, Georgia, and Texas.
“It’s simple, and it’s complicated all at the same time. We spend more time out of the region, we try to find kids that other schools don’t know about and they’re [other schools are] out there trying to do the same thing.”
Although these numbers point to a discrepancy between the geographic origins of recruits versus those of the general student body, Ryan said distinction might be due to a functional, not an ideological, difference.
“The Northeast and New England is known for having very strong public high schools and preparatory schools and by the nature of the academic profile of Bowdoin that naturally ends up being a good fit,” Ryan said. “We want the people who are the best fits for Bowdoin and where Bowdoin is the best fit for them, but it’s our responsibility and our coaches’ responsibility to make sure we are casting a wide net identifying people who may be a good fit.”