Nice article about lacrosse goalie Michael Gerbush ’09. Read the whole thing but note this section on admissions.

Lacking prep success and with a 5-foot-8 frame, Gerbush didn’t get a lot of attention on the recruiting trail. But McCormack received a tip that there was a kid on the Island who was taking his lumps, but could contribute at the collegiate level. The fact that he could get into Williams on his academics alone certainly did not hurt.

“I got a phone call from a coach who said there is a really good goalie. If you saw him in person, you might not think much of him because he’s a little guy, but you should take a look at him,” said McCormack. “So he didn’t come in with a lot of [hype], but once he got here, we were really impressed with him. And we certainly felt as though, with his consistency and demeanor of being calm and cool regardless of the situation, he was someone who could lead us to more victories than losses.”


1) Smart observers do not trust completely a coach’s claim about who could have gotten into Williams on “academics alone,” but, with a double major in computer science and physics, it is almost impossible to believe that Gerbush is a “tip” or even a “protect.” (Useful background on terminology in this thread.)

2) Note the second order effects that Morty’s increase in admissions standards for athletes has on the process. In the old days, the unnamed high school coach might never have mentioned Gerbush to men’s lacrosse coach George McCormack. Why bother when McCormack is just going to use his large number of tips and extensive leeway to just find the best possible goalie, without worrying too much about high school academics? But McCormack no longer has as much freedom as he did in the pre-Morty era. He has fewer tips/protects and the standards for them are higher. So, he is desperate to find at least a few players who don’t require admissions help. The tipster knows this (and, I assume that McCormack tells everyone what he is looking for, like any good college coach) and so mentions Gerbush. Presto! Williams now has one more varsity athlete with academic credentials in the mainstream of the rest of the student body.

3) Note, again, how former baseball coach Dave Barnard predicted that high profile mens sports like lacrosse would never win another NESCAC championship because of the rise in admissions standards. Turns out, he was wrong. Baseball, basketball and lacrosse have all won championships in an era when their athletes include more students like Gerbush and fewer (what is the polite term?) lunkheads. Good stuff! It is still unclear (to me) why this is happening. Isn’t it almost tautological to predict that, if Morty raises admissions standards for Williams athletes, then Williams sports teams will do less well? And, yet, that does not seem to have happened.

Possible explanations: First, it could be that other schools have raised their standards as well. (Contrary opinion on the “Nesbitt Net” here.) Second, this could just be some random luck. Third, it could be that Williams coaches are not that good at identifying athletic talent, at least within narrow bounds. So, back in the day, Coach McCormack looked at a few goalies and picked the one that he thought best, even if that goalie had suspect academics (or, at least, what Morty would consider suspect academics). Now, McCormack is “stuck” with someone like Gerbush, but, it turns out, Gerbush is just about as good as the lunkhead that McCormack would have picked if Morty had not raised the standards. Fourth, it could be that the sort of second-order effects that have brought applicants like Gerbush to Williams (when, in the pre-Morty era, coaches weren’t even aware of them) have allowed Williams to maintain its athletic standards, on average, while raising the academic profile of its athletes.

Your thoughts? And, yes, there is a great senior thesis to be written on this topic.

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