The Athlete’s Advantage in the Ivy League

Princeton Athletes, Ivy Athletes, Ivy League Athletics
Princeton University reserves slots in its incoming class for recruited athletes (photo credit: Alfred Hutter).

Do recruited athletes have an advantage in the Ivy League admissions process? Oh come on, Ivy Coach, don’t dumb it down for us — of course they do! During the Early Decision / Early Action round (depending on the school’s policy), a significant percentage of seats in an incoming class is reserved exclusively for recruited athletes: from squash players to baseball players to rowers and just about every sporting specialist in between. And are these recruited athletes held to the same standard as other admits?

Princeton’s President Suggests Recruited Athletes Are Held to Same Standard

According to some, the answer is a definitive yes. As reports Liam O’Connor in an editorial published yesterday in which Ivy Coach is cited in The Daily Princetonian, the newspaper of Princeton University, “‘I can guarantee that all of our students are held to an equal standard,’ President Chris Eisgruber told CBS This Morning last year. ‘It’s tough to get into Princeton. It’s tough to get into our other Ivy colleges, regardless of what group you’re from. But everybody gets a fair shake.'”

But Recruited Athletes Are Certainly Not Held to the Same Standard

But of course Princeton’s president’s answer would be worthy of inclusion in one of David Letterman’s old “Top Ten Lists.” Of course recruited athletes aren’t held to an equal standard to non-recruited athletes. Of course recruited basketball players have an edge in the admissions process to Princeton over a violin playing thespian. Any suggestion to the contrary is frankly preposterous.

We appreciate Mr. O’Connor’s editorial in which he questions why highly selective colleges, like the Ivy League colleges, value masters of sport over masters of, say, pottery. But we also appreciate the value-add of recruited athletes to college campuses. As an example, a winning football team inspires a sense of school pride off the gridiron; it also happens to inspire donations. But we would urge college leaders, like Princeton’s president, to tell it like it is because the suggestion that recruited athletes are held to the same standard as every other applicant to Princeton simply isn’t the case. Princeton’s motto focuses on serving humanity. President Eisgruber, with respect, you’d better serve humanity by speaking more candidly.

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