From: The Dartmouth Online
We reprinted this article to let you have an inside look at not
just Dartmouth recruiting -- But recruiting at all the "Ivies" and
Patriot League schools. As non-scholarship members of the NCAA Division I
things are very different when it comes to athletic recruiting at these institutions
Recruiting and signing high school athletes is perhaps the most
important part of a college coach's job. Without talented players,
even the greatest coach can't consistently win.
Nationally, recruiting has become so prominent that dedicated alumni
watch closely to see what high school stars will sign with their
beloved alma mater.
The NCAA literally has thousands of rules dealing with recruiting to
restrict coaches from breaking the rules and to keep alums out of
recruiting. In addition, coaches in the Ivy League face numerous other
rules and the prospect of luring top athletes without scholarships,
something most major athletic programs depend on. It's a very
complicated process, and one that remains largely a mystery to those
who aren't intimately involved in it.
For coaches here at Dartmouth and throughout the nation, recruiting
has been refined into a very complicated system of data compilation
and contact with the high school athlete. Although the NCAA forbids
direct contact with a prospect until the athlete's junior year in high
school, the process can start as early as freshmen year. Coaches are
often contacted by freshmen and sophomore athletes interested in
Dartmouth, although they cannot officially communicate with them.
In addition, many coaches travel about the country scouting talent
during the off-season, watching talented players of all ages.
The recruiting process "is more hectic than the regular season,"
admits Chris Wielgus, coach of Dartmouth's successful women's
basketball team. "Myself and my two assistants spend the whole
month of July watching basketball games all day full time…you have
to plan every day or you lose recruits."
Head baseball coach Bob Whalen concurred. Coming off of one of the
Big Green's most impressive seasons to date, the baseball coaching
staff "saw kids from around 26 different states last summer," the
Big Green headman said. Reaching out to lots of recruits is important
because "it's a numbers game. You don't know who will be admitted and
who will commit."
Wooing the Future
Because of the massive nature of the task, coaches compile enormous
databases containing information on high schools prospects, their
coaches, their high schools, their test scores and academic info,
and the regions they play in and level of competition. The track
coaches have access to booklets containing the results of every state
cross country and track championship in the country. From there they
send out letters to coaches and ask for information on prospects.
Whalen has a recruiting coordinator generate a list of underclassmen
that fill the needs of the baseball team. A computer program takes
the hometowns of every Ivy League football and baseball player and
shows patterns of which areas and states are producing the most
Although every coach has different methods of compiling the necessary
data, the goal is the same -- get the athletes into the program who
will help win championships. At Dartmouth, the coaches emphasize that
these athletes will also be individuals who will contribute in the
classroom and to the campus as a whole. Recruits are asked to fill
out pre-applications that list their scores, class rank, activities,
and other relevant academic information. Even if these coaches wanted
athletes instead of student-athletes, they couldn't have them. Ivy
League policy demands that athletes be able to produce off the field
as well as they do on it.
Although the time table varies slightly with each sport, talented
high school juniors will be inundated with mailings from interested
programs throughout the school year and, beginning the following
summer, head and assistant coaches will begin telephoning and giving
desired athletes the sales pitch. If a recruit is particularly
desired or fills a definite need, the coaches will make home visits,
trying to convince the athlete and his family that Dartmouth is the
best place for them.
Generally in late September and early October, recruits who have a
high level of interest in attending Dartmouth will take one of their
NCAA maximum allowed five official visits. The visits take place
over a weekend and cannot exceed 48 hours in length. Recruits stay
with a current member of the team who takes them around and shows
them life at Dartmouth. Depending on the sport, part of the visit
will take place on a Friday or a Monday so that the recruit can
attend a class and meet a professor.
The official visit serves two purposes for the coach -- to try to
gain personal information on the recruit and to sell the idea of
competing and learning at Dartmouth.
When it comes to learning about the prospect, coaches have to know
not only what kind of person and student is but also how interested
the prospect is in Dartmouth.
"I have to look at three things in a prospect," said men's track
and cross-country coach Barry Harwick. "Good academics, athletic
skills, and is he going to come here? It's the most frustrating
thing in the world when you try to get a kid to come here and in
April he says 'Thanks coach, but I'm going Princeton.'"
At some point over the weekend the interested recruit will meet
with the coach of his or her respective sport. Almost every coach
interviewed listed similar ideas they try to convey to their
recruits about Dartmouth and why this is the place to spend the
best four years of their life.
"The fact that they're going to get the good education, the alumni
benefits," women's track head coach Sandy Ford-Centonze listed.
"Does the student want to look at the benefits after graduation?"
All of the coaches interviewed are the heads of very successful
athletic programs; the tradition is used as a part of the sales
pitch to recruits.
Reeling Them In
Following the visitation period, coaches try to get commitments
from players in the form of Early Decision applications. By far
the hardest to convince are those who are offered scholarships at
other institutions. Dartmouth's generosity with undergraduate
financial aid alleviates some of the strain, but convincing a
recruit to turn down money at another school is a difficult sale.
Some sports, such as men's track, do not have to compete with many
scholarship offers because Title IX has reduced the number of
scholarships available in men's athletics. This makes the lure
of an Ivy League education that much more appealing.
For women's basketball and track, Title IX has increased the
number of women's scholarships, making women's coaches' jobs
that much harder. It is surprising therefore, and a testament
to Dartmouth and its coaches that the Big Green routinely competes
for and wins scholarship athletes away from other schools.
"Every player we have turned down a scholarship to play here,"
At this stage in the recruiting game, the Admissions office comes
into play. When a recruit applies to Dartmouth, coaches supply his
or her name to the admissions office via a liaison. Every sport
has a different liaison and a different number of recruits it can
list, and there is no guarantee that any of them will get in. The
coaches therefore try to supply a list of well-qualified athletes
who will contribute to the Dartmouth community.
"We look for kids who are very achievement and leadership oriented,"
Whelan said. "If a kid is highly motivated and has a high class rank
with difficult classes, then that type of approach will carry over
to the athletic field."
While coaches are universal in their praise of their athletes and
Dartmouth, they also concede that stringent academic standards and
a lack of scholarships hurt recruiting.
Although Dean Karl Furstenburg and the rest of the admissions
officers offer no guarantees, there are generally a fairly consistent
number of recruits who are offered admission. Once again, the number
varies with every sport. Football is allowed somewhere around a four
year average of 35 players. Women's basketball starts with a database
of around 1,000 players and ends up "signing" around four every year.
It is truly a monumental and refined undertaking.
Although all the coaches admitted that Ivy League recruiting is a
difficult process, they did not feel that it resulted in a watering
down of talent, at least not in all sports. Whelan, who sent two
players to the Major Leagues last season, emphasized that he and
his staff were trying to offer the "best experience in every way;
that experience should include success on the playing field."
This whole process ends in when the recruits are, ideally, offered
admission in December or April depending on when they elected to
apply. For the coaches, this only means one thing -- the start of a
new recruiting season. And the whole process begins anew.
Bob Note: Next year (2001), for the first time,
Princeton is giving grants and eliminating the loan portion of their
financial aid packages which makes their financial aid much more
attractive than any of the other Ivies (more Ivies -
i.e.. Harvard, will probably follow
suit because they will lose the top athletes to Princeton since no
one wants to have to come out of college with loans). This is still
based on financial need of athlete.