I am busy searching for more information on athletics at Williams. As always, pointers are appreciated. Anyone more interested in seeing information about our class and reunion activities should send in an Eph Blurb. We publish everything we get.
In any event, there was a Williams Record editorial on athletics last year. The editorial notes that:
The Ad Hoc Faculty Committee on Athletics has just released a detailed, thoughtfully considered analysis of the status of athletics at the College. Although it is open to interpretation, it appears that the report finds, in general, that there is not a major problem with the athletic program at Williams, but rather with a small number of athletic teams.
I would love to find a copy of that report, but no success so far. The most disturbing paragraph in the editorial was:
The report finds, in general, that female athletes on campus do not suffer from these tendencies. However, particularly in two men’s teams whose members predominantly (78 percent) major in Division II subjects, this is not the case. The greatest concern of faculty in the two departments within division two “is evidence of anti-intellectualism, of clear disengagement and even outright disdain, on the part of varsity athletes…in particular sports,” the report states, referring to two specific men’s teams. Division II faculty feel that often they have athletes who only want the bare minimum grade, which forces them to “dumb down” courses or structure courses around menial assignments that check whether or not students are doing their work.
Two men’s teams? Let me guess: squash and skiing? The Record provides an overview article about the report here. The discussion of “tips” is interesting.
This year, Williams has cut down the number of athletic “tips” it gives from 72 to 66. The term “tip,” according to the report, is misleading. Rather than tipping the scale for an athlete when all else is equal, the report says that tips “more accurately should be seen as ‘coaches’ preferences.’ Coaches are allocated a certain number of choices per year, depending on the sport,” which must be ratified by the admissions department. The athletics department, according to Sheehy, is getting close to the point where it cannot remain competitive given the few slots it is allowed.
“We have really come to the point where our coaches can’t make any mistakes,” Sheehy said. “The school has to decide how competitive it wants to be.”
Perhaps the Record has mischaracterized Coach Sheehy’s position here. Over the last decade, Williams has had, far and away, the most successful Division III athletic program in the country. What would happen if the college cut the number of tips in half, to around 30? I am certainly ready to believe that this would prevent us from winning the Sears Cup. But it is hard to believe that we wouldn’t still be “competitive”. Surely most of our teams would still be win 1/2 their games. Surely some of our teams would be Little Three champions. How horrible a world would that be?
The Record also had an article this past fall that described the inception of a new standing committee on athletics. Nothing in it is that interesting, but the following quote is priceless.
Though the members of last year’s ad hoc Faculty Committee on Athletics frequently said they were appointed because of their publicly neutral opinions towards athletics, several members of the new committee have been outspoken about their views.
Sheehy has been a vocal supporter of athletics at faculty meetings and in other public forums, while Shanks has represented the opposite end of the spectrum. In 2001, she told the Record “of course, this isn’t a college. It’s a Nike Camp with enrichment classes” (“Some faculty voice concerns about athletics,” March 13, 2001).
If only this blog could come up with lines like that . . .