Coaches face own early decisions

by Abigail Johnson | 11/22/00 6:00am

With all the College's early decision applications in, prospective students now anxiously anticipate the decision from their top-choice school. When those students are also top athletes, their coaches must wait just as nervously.

Although the Admissions Office makes the final decision on every applicant, recruited athletes have an advantage of being named by coaches as potential contributors to the Dartmouth athletic program. Coaches make lists of athletes they are interested in for the Admissions Office to note.

Each year, the Admissions Office gives a general allotment figure to the Athletics Department with how many athletes it can list.

The Athletics Department then decides how many athletes each coach can submit on their own lists to the Admissions Office based on the individual team's needs such as team size, numbers of athletes who will be graduating from the team, and open positions.

The number of athletes on these lists varies from year to year and exact figures for each team are confidential.

The lists submitted by coaches become important towards the end of the decision-making processes, in December for early decision and March for regular decision candidates.

A recruited athlete must adhere to high academic and personal standards for admittance, but the "recruit" status can give a competitive edge to the athlete's application as the Admissions Office tries to assemble a well-rounded class.

Recruited athletes are hardly guaranteed admission. According to Dean of Admissions Karl Furstenberg, "All applicants, athletes or not, go through the same admissions process."

Athletic Director Dick Jaeger told The Dartmouth he is generally satisfied with Admissions treatment of recruited athlete applicants, stressing the need for good communication between Admissions and the Athletic Department about each team's needs and unfilled positions.

"They have been good about considering those factors," Jaeger said. "Although not everybody you would like gets in, we have a productive relationship with Admissions."

According to Jaeger, there has been a trend in recent years for coaches to encourage athletes to apply under the Early Decision plan because it allows admissions to focus in on athletes who really want to attend Dartmouth.

"Some teams get three or four [athletes] in early; others aren't as lucky." Jaeger said. Indeed, some coaches have been quite successful in having their athletes admitted Early Decision. For Men's Cross Country Coach Barry Harwich, roughly 90 percent of his recruited athletes applying Early Decision were admitted in 1999.

"Nationally, the recruiting process has gotten earlier and earlier," according to Bob Ceplikas, who serves as a liaison between the Athletic Department and Admissions Office.

"The best way our coaches can compete for the best student athletes is to have as many as possible formally commit to Dartmouth through early decision" Ceplikas said.

According to Track and Field Coach Carl Wallin, the academic standards for admission have been steadily increasing over the past three to four years. Wallin, in his 32nd year of coaching at Dartmouth, has contact with roughly 100 potential athletes every year. "I'm never sure who is really going to get in," Wallin said, citing this uncertainty as a difficulty in recruiting athletes for Dartmouth. This year, the men's track and field program had four field event athletes apply Early Decision.

"We're going after a small percentage of the top athletes in the country. If I know about them, all of the other schools know about them too," Wallin said, noting that some of these other schools have good academic programs and offer athletic scholarships, which Dartmouth does not.

There are a limited number of good athletes with good academic performance that schools like Dartmouth try to attract. Dartmouth coaches are challenged to compete for athletes with other prestigious Division I schools that can offer scholarship monies, like Stanford. Given the high cost of attending Dartmouth, athletes offered scholarships from other high-caliber schools are sometimes lured away from Dartmouth, according to Wallin.

Although the College cannot offer scholarship money to the athletes, Dartmouth hopes that good financial aid packages are competitive with the scholarships athletes are offered at other schools. Unlike scholarship money, financial aid packages do not hold stipulations for an athlete who gets injured or quits the team.

Year round, coaches actively seek out athletes who could potentially matriculate at Dartmouth. They are bound by NCAA Division I rules to adhere to strict guidelines for the recruiting process, such as only being able to telephone an athlete one time per week.

Katie Crawford '04 sent the diving coaches a videotape of her performances. During her senior year of high school, she visited Dartmouth and met some of the women on the Swimming and Diving team.

"Having contact with the coach definitely encouraged me to apply early decision. The diving program and the school as a whole were a good fit," Crawford said.

Academics are a large aspect of Dartmouth's appeal to athletes. Many like the fact that Dartmouth can provide an excellent athletic and academic experience.