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Cass on Tips

Oren Cass ’05 has lots of interesting things to say on the topics of tips. Just keep scrolling. Cass asks:

But why do we admit people who are good at sports? Wouldn’t it be better to let our brilliant “academic admits” fill up all those varsity rosters and benefit from the experiences? Absolutely… if that’s what they were good at.

I guess it all depends on what you mean by “good.” I don’t see Cass, or any other defender of tips, squarely confronting one of the most important — and immutable — aspects of athletics at Williams: there are only so many spots on a given team, there are only so many minutes of playing time to go around.

How would Cass feel about tips if he hadn’t made the baseball team, if all the wonderful experiences that he correctly ascribes to varsity athletics at Williams were not available to him?

There are people like that out there of course. Cass might even know their names. Baseball coach Dave Barnard certainly does. There are 32 spots on the baseball roster. What about the 33rd, 34th, and 35th best baseball players at Williams? Where are they now?

Answer: They didn’t make the team. They were cut. They, presumably, were not tips and got into Williams without reference to their speed on the bases. They don’t get to go to Florida with the team. They don’t get to play Amherst. They don’t get to talk about varsity athletics at their job interviews. They never wear the purple.

How would Cass feel if he were in their shoes? How does he explain to them — good high school baseball players who love the game and who would get as much out of the experience of playing for Dave Barnard as he does— that the tips policy makes sense?

I don’t think that he can.

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#1 Comment By Aidan On April 15, 2004 @ 10:47 am

this analysis, predictably, is incomplete. Kane, in his haste to castigate “tips” ignores the existence and utility of the JV system. My entry, freshman year, there was a lady soccer player, 4 years in high school, whatever, who didn’t train adequately to make the team (competitive, no?) freshman year, and ended up playing JV. Well, this could have started the slide towards WUFO, but the lady in question felt her pride was slighted, trained extensively in the off season, and moved up to varsity her sophomore year.

what’s wrong with the “decent high school athletes might no longer be playing” argument is that there are myriad reasons “decent high school athletes might no longer be playing.” There’s sloth, beer, girls, boredom, to name a few. But the whole concept of “baseball acuity” is dreadfully arbitrary to begin with–why not take kids who had never had a chance to play baseball? Or kids who only warmed the bench, because we should attempt to build their athletic skill?

Reading Oren’s blog, which everyone should, it is exquisitely clear that the great elephant in the room is not varsity athletics–and we only have to look back so far, David, to find you luxuriating in the superior accumen and perspecasity of folks like Harry “Basketball” Sheehy or Dave “#1” Paulsen–but affirmative action. These are all of a piece, the ways Williams builds a diverse student body. There’s nothing wrong about admitting a basketball player because, in addition to his other skills, he’s also stellar at basketball. As I’ve said before, without such students, this school would be a measurably poorer place.

#2 Comment By David Kane On April 15, 2004 @ 11:11 am

I am pro-athletics and anti-tip. I think Sheehy and Paulsen (and Barnard and Farley and . . .) are marvelous coaches, but that hardly contradicts my claim that Williams would be better off without tips. There would be the same *number* of players being coached by Paulsen et al, but they would be different (smarter and less-skilled) players.

I am also a fan of the JV system. But, as always, there are only so many spots on the team. Things roll downhill. Who were the last 2 or 3 guys cut from men’s JV soccer this fall? Without tips on varsity, it is quite possible that a couple of thhe better players on the JV would have made the varsity, thereby providing more room on JV.

At least we are in agreement on the (high) quality of Oren’s blog.

#3 Pingback By Tipped Off » EphBlog On March 3, 2008 @ 8:23 am

[…] Whatever you call these individuals, Nate Foster ‘01 was one: I think you hit the nail on the head with your last blog post on tips. […]