During last summer as schools struggled for the right strategy on college athletics, there was veiled criticism of the Patriot League as being Ivy followers, seemingly because it was perceived the League would follow the “Ancient Eight,” wherever they would go!! The exception was the service academies, who struck out on their own, citing that athletics was central to its educational mission and they would, as best as possible, carry on, playing full schedules.
Those who follow this blog know I favor the approach of the service academies and see competitive athletics as part of the educational offering and opportunities that schools like Lafayette should be committed to. As a senior officer in my company, I would always, all things being equal, favor the student athlete applicant over the applicant who led a more monastic existence at a college. A study executed by a faculty committee when Lafayette was considering adding athletic scholarships revealed, students athletes received higher paying job offers than non-student athletes. In fact, since the addition of scholarships, student athletes on average outperform non- student athletes in the classroom. I can’t think of any “under water basket weaving majors” at Lafayette.
The Patriot League broke with its Ivy League brethren ( wisely), and opted to return to competitive sports this winter and will offer a modified spring schedule for the fall sports and almost a full schedule of spring sports this semester, while returning most students to on campus living.
The Ivies on the other hand, have embraced a modified on campus living arrangement while many are at home enjoying the “University of Phoenix,” style of higher education. All the while, collecting hefty tuition fees and earnings on their 11 figure endowments. One member of the Yale community called the on-campus experience at Yale, “Yale Jail.” There are some who think the Ivy League will continue its stoppage of athletics into the fall, reckoning that the powers that be have already decided, but are afraid to admit it to its student and applicant populations.
In an article in the Wall Street Journal it is reported, “Athletes are in limbo. Sports are so important to some of them that they are unenrolling from their Ivy League schools to prolong their athletic eligibility.” The Ivy League has been reluctant to restart competition despite scientific evidence that indicates the biggest risks for viral transmission do not occur on the field. The Journal points out, that out of 357 division one men’s basketball teams, 347 are playing, the Ivies represent 8 of the 10 not playing.
Prominent Ivy alums are beginning to stir. Bob Warden who oversees private equity at Cerebus, stated, “The Ivy League should be on the forefront of developing ways to reopen…They certainly have the experts and money to make it happen.” Offers to help, at least monetarily, have been rebuffed.
Meanwhile, rosters for more than 23 Ivy League teams have contracted by at least one half. Women’s ice hockey at Harvard went from 24 to 3 players. One baseball coach told me he is down to 12 players, not enough to field a team this spring. Yale’s highly ranked men’s Lacrosse team went from 48 players to 8 this spring.
Again in the Journal article, Jack Starr, Yale’s lacrosse goalie said, ” Online learning is frustrating and tough. Zoom fatigue is real….. I didn’t want a shadow of Yale…I wanted the rich, unabridged version of the school I experienced the first two and a half years.”
In a recent study by the University of Wisconsin-Madison concluded that there has been nearly a 70% increase in serious mental depression in student athletes on the sidelines. I applaud the Patriot League for not being a “follower.” Do I wish the spring season ( especially) for field hockey was more robust?? Sure I do. But breaking from the supposed ” smartest people in the room,” was a right and brilliant decision.