The Ivy Coach Daily

June 20, 2023

The Advantage of Recruited Athletes 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).

Originally Published on May 9, 2019:

Do recruited athletes enjoy an advantage in the Ivy League admissions process? 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 specific 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 major and minor sporting specialist in between.

Yet are these recruited athletes held to the same standard as other admits, or is the bar lower for them than their peers?

Recruited Athletes Are Held to Same Standard, According to Princeton’s President

According to some, including Princeton University’s current president, recruited athletes are held to the same standard as other students. As reported Liam O’Connor a few years back in an editorial for The Daily Princetonian on athletic recruits in admissions, “’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.’”

In Reality, Recruited Athletes Are 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.” Recruited athletes are certainly not held to the same standard as non-recruited athletes.

Of course recruited basketball players have an edge in the admissions process to Princeton over a violin-playing thespian. Of course recruited tennis players enjoy an advantage in the admissions process to Princeton over a three-sport high school athlete who isn’t on the radar of any Princeton athletic coach.

Any suggestion to the contrary — that recruited athletes and other applicants are on equal footing — is preposterous. As of 2023, Princeton has 38 varsity athletic teams. These 38 head coaches need top athletes, and slots are reserved in admissions to meet these institutional needs!

Certain Varsity Teams Inspire Donations and School Pride

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 pottery, for instance.

But we also appreciate the value-add of recruited athletes to college campuses. For example, a winning football team inspires school pride and donations. Violin playing typically inspires no school pride and no donations.

More Candor Needed About the Recruited Athlete’s Advantage

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 defies reality. Princeton’s motto (“In the Nation’s Service and the Service of Humanity”) focuses on serving humanity. President Eisgruber, with respect, you’d better serve humanity by speaking more candidly — as would all college administrators.

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