All Things Bubba

Because how can you not love a baseball player named "Bubba"?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Case Against College Athletic Recruiting

Fascinating article on college recruiting at Newsweek. Why is it that colleges are so keen on athletics? Sure, top football teams can bring in money, but for most schools, it's a money-loser. Never mind all the obscure sports supported by colleges: crew, squash, wrestling, lacrosse, etc.

Turns out, it started out as a way to keep Jews out.

Equally strange, you would discover that some academically elite schools that do not give athletic scholarships—because they are nominally committed to academics over athletics—give away a large portion of their highly competitive admissions slots to athletes, even in the most obscure sports, such as squash. For instance, Williams College, which admits only 17 percent of applicants, recruits 66 athletes per year. That’s 13 percent of the incoming freshman class that is dedicated to third-rate (literally, as Williams plays Division III sports) athletes over first-rate students. Take a look at the NEWSWEEK College Guide and you will find Williams, along with its small-school rivals Middlebury and Bowdoin, and Ivy League members Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Dartmouth, and Cornell, on our list of the top 25 schools that are “Stocked With Jocks.” You probably would conclude that these American institutions of higher learning have their priorities weirdly out of whack. And you would be right.

To understand our peculiar tradition of wasting academic opportunities on the basis of who can best smack a rubber ball with a racquet, you must first understand how such a system came about. As Jerome Karabel explains in The Chosen: The Hidden History of Admission and Exclusion at Harvard, Yale, and Princeton it was a scheme to exclude Jews. In 1905 Harvard College adopted the College Entrance Examination Board tests as the principal basis for admission. By 1908 the freshman class was 7 percent Jewish, and by 1922 Jews made up more than a fifth of Harvard’s freshman class. This influx of public-school students from modest backgrounds made the WASP elites uneasy, but so did the outright bigotry of imposing Jewish quotas. So they concocted a system of judging applicants based on the subjective criteria of “manliness,” to be demonstrated through interviews and extracurricular activities, especially activities such as obscure preppy sports, which Jews and other undesirables did not get to play in urban public schools.

How bizarre. I never knew that.

posted by BubbaFan, 6:06 AM


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