At Yale University, James Jones is the Joel E. Smilow 1954 Head Coach of men’s basketball. Alex Dorato is the Cary Leeds Head Coach of men’s tennis. Dave Talbott is the Brooks G. Ragen Director of Squash. You may be starting to notice a trend. These coaches are not simply labeled the head coaches — they’ve got fancy names before their respective positions. And why? Because their positions at Yale are endowed…typically by the very people listed in the coaching position title.
Many of Yale’s Coaching Positions Are Endowed
As Beth Healy, Nicole Dungca, and Patricia Wen report in a terrific piece for The Boston Globe entitled “Ivy League coaching endowments raise ethics questions,” “It’s right there on the Yale University website: For a cool $2 million, donors can endow a coaching position, essentially supporting the coach’s salary forever. The endowments for the top jobs in baseball, volleyball, gymnastics — they are all for sale. Perks for donors include a plaque in the sports office, and the chance to name the endowment after one’s family, or to honor someone else, including the current coach. ‘The possibilities are endless,’ touts Yale’s athletic department site. There may be other benefits, too. A Globe review found that in at least a half-dozen cases at Yale, families endowed coaching positions or programs shortly before their children went on to attend the highly competitive Ivy League school.”
The Children of Certain Donors Who Endow Yale Coaching Positions Can Benefit
But of course our readers aren’t particularly surprised by these findings. Not one bit. Nor is Yale alone in endowing coaching positions or subsequently offering admission to recruited athletes who happen to be the progeny of these very donors, though the reporters for The Boston Globe do assert that Yale may do it even more than its Ivy League peers. As they write, “Still, within the Ivy League, Yale stands out, with numerous examples of donors’ children securing admission in the wake of endowment gifts, including athletes who would play on the endowed coach’s team, or within the endowed program.”
Muggsy Bogues is an Exception, Not the Rule
Again, we call for increased checks and balances. An outside reviewer for the athletic department should scrutinize the athletic profiles of the children of these donors (in addition to every recruited athlete). If the donor endowed the men’s swim team head coaching position and the donor’s child shows up two years later on the swimming recruiting list with a time of :58 in the 100-yard back, that independent reviewer won’t have to go through too many heat sheets to realize that a :58 100-yard back shouldn’t be impressive to any Ivy League swim coach.
If a 5’6 point guard who happens to be the child of the donor who endowed the basketball coach’s position ends up getting recruited the next year for basketball, that independent reviewer should scrutinize the player’s high school boxscores and game footage. Muggsy Bogues, Spud Webb, and Isaiah Thomas are exceptions — remarkable, big-hearted point guards who happen to be 5’8 or below. They are not the rule. In the world of college recruiting, exceptions should always raise red flags.