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Ephs Win 12th Directors Cup (so decrease tips)

Williams (as reported for weeks at EphBlog) has won its 12th consecutive Director’s Cup.

And one makes a dozen. A dozen in a row.

The National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics (NACDA) has announced that the Williams College Ephs have won their 12th consecutive NACDA/Learfield Sports Directors’ Cup and 14th out of the 15 awarded in NCAA Division III history.

Congratulations to all the Ephs involved, students and coaches both, in this impressive performance! Read the whole article for various accounts of team/individual success.

Points in the national Directors’ Cup competition are awarded based on an institution’s finish at NCAA postseason championship team events. A maximum of 18 sports (9 men and 9 women) may be counted in compiling institution’s total points. The Ephs actually had 20 teams advance to and score points at NCAA postseason championship events this year.

Could some Director’s Cup expert give us a breakdown of the exact scoring? I have read (accurate?) claims that women sports are the major reason for Williams dominance. True this year? True in the past? Also, I have vague memories that the scoring used to give much more weight on national championships, that the top team used to get 100, the second place 50 and so on. Now, I think, the points are much more evenly spread. True? We need a Director’s Cup expert to join us as an author.

During the 2009-10 academic year the Williams Ephs established a Division III record with a grand total of 1,292.25 points, 386.5 points ahead of runner-up Amherst (905.75). The Ephs’ margin of victory was the largest in the 15 years of the NCAA Division III Directors’ Cup competition, eclipsing their previos record margin of 379.5 back in 2002-03.

The Ephs established the previous high point total in NCAA Division III back in 2002-03 when they racked up 1158.25 points.

The overall athletic success of the Ephs is further heightened when viewed against the backdrop of the admission standards at Williams, which are among the highest in the nation.

Well, are they the “among the highest in the nation” for the sorts of athletes that propel Williams to Directors Cup glory? In some sports (e.g., womens crew) “Yes” and in others, “No.” But thanks to sports information director Dick Quinn for providing an excuse for me to Segway into an admissions discussion!

1) Former baseball coach Dave Barnard was wrong to worry 6 years ago that “if Williams unilaterally reduced athletic priority slots while eliminating low band admits it would “simply be a matter of time before our [traditional mens]teams are significantly less competitive.”” Incorrect! Mens basketball came in second in the nation and mens soccer tied for third despite the admissions changes instituted by Morty. Does anyone know why Barnard was wrong? Did Williams not really raise admissions standards as much as he feared? (I am fairly certain it did.) Did others schools do so as well? (Certainly not outside NESCAC and not, as best I can tell, insider NESCAC either.) Did it just turn out that, given the right incentives, coaches were just as able to recruit outstanding athletes with 1400 SATs as it was for them, in the old days, to find applicants with 1200s? That is my guess.

(Another possibility is that, in the last 10 years, it has become much easier for Williams coaches to accurately identify the best athletes. Informed commentary welcome.)

2) We should continue on this path. We should have fewer tips — the 64 admissions slots reserved for athletes who would never have been admitted otherwise — and the standards for tips should be higher. The Cassandras (Harry Sheahy?) who warned that increasing admissions standards would harm athletic success have been proved wrong.

3) We will continue on this path. Since Adam Falk is taking dictation from EphBlog (kidding!), you can be sure that Williams will continue decreasing admissions preferences for athletes. Recall the recommendation from the 2009 Athletic Committee Report:

Since the MacDonald report was presented, the academic standards for admission of athletic “tips” within NESCAC and at Williams have been raised. These changes are likely to be largely responsible for the narrowing of the academic performance gap between varsity athletes and non-athletes. It is our understanding that the admissions standards for “tips” are continuing to rise, and the recruited athletes in future entering classes are likely to be more similar, in their academic credentials, to their non-athlete peers. Although we note that this may affect the success of Williams College teams, we unanimously support the continuation of this trend.

In the same way that legacies have, over the last 25 years, moved into parity with the rest of the class with regard to academic rating, the same will happen with regard to athletes, at least until Williams loses a Directors Cup or two.

And that is a very good thing.

4) President Falk told the Boston Alumni meeting that he is a fan of transparency. Here is my simple suggestion for transparency on athletic admissions standards.

Williams could make public the average college GPA (and SAT scores) of its sports teams, both raw and weighted by playing time. Williams would do this unilaterally, but with an eye toward making this a NESCAC standard. Since the data would be for last year’s teams, you would have some disconnect between the numbers and the Ephs on the field this year. No data for any individual student would be released, only team averages.

This plan has several features. First, it makes (mostly) transparent the amount of admissions preference that Williams provides in athletic admissions. Second, it makes coaches care directly about the academic performance of their teams, especially their star players.

The great thing about the Williams community is that its values are my values and your values. Make the data more available and the community as a whole will push the College in the correct direction.