Dear Sticky Wicket,
During March whether you are a college basketball fan or not, you can hardly escape all the publicity and activity around “March Madness.” Why is it perfectly acceptable to recruit athletically talented black basketball players to wow students, fans, and alumni, yet many of those same schools fail to recruit academically talented black students to fill their classrooms?
~Irritated in Michigan
April Masini, relationship advice expert and author of the popular website, “AskApril.com,” says athletic recruiting is more of a hot button topic than ever before. She says that college competition for admission and tuition fees for many schools are so fierce that athletic recruiting is not just about getting to play for a certain team but also about educational opportunity.
“The economic argument is that athletes who create winning teams foster alumni donations and fundraising keeps schools in business,” she says. Recruitment, whether it’s athletic, academic, or community service based, is a school’s way of defining itself, Masini adds. Private schools only answer to their infrastructure.
“The private schools that recruit gifted athletes of any race, religion, or other background, are sending a message about who they are and what their priorities are,” she says.
But The Ivy League operates a little differently from the other colleges in its recruitments of athletes. It tracks and scrutinizes the academic credentials of its recruited athletes through a measurement called the Academic Index.
A recent New York Times article explains how it works:
In the Academic Index, all prospective high school recruits receive a number from 170 to 240 that’s based on a composite of their grade point averages and SAT test scores. This number is shared among member institutions so as to keep rival schools from admitting a vastly under-qualified recruit. It also allows for class-wide comparisons between athletes and the overall student body.
“It is not a secret, but it is an internal tool, Robin Harris, Ivy League executive director says from the article. “It’s a way for athletics to ensure a degree of competitive equality.”