Former Williams Director of Athletics Harry Sheehy ’75 gave a too-honest interview to The Dartmouth last month. We are (mostly!) fans of Sheehy and were sad when he left Williams for Dartmouth a decade ago. (Relevant discussions here, here, here, here and here.) Sheehy is now very much in the tell-it-like-it-is stage of his career, so this interview is filled with gems. Let’s discuss for a week.

The key information — which we only know because of Sheehy’s IDGAF attitude — is that this decision was driven “Dartmouth’s goal of decreasing student-athlete admissions by 10 percent.” Relevant quotes:

Because of what President Hanlon desired to have us give back to the admissions process, even without the budget problem, we might very well be sitting here today having done the same thing.

Some people will look at this and go, “Jeez, it’s just one kid a year per team. Or two kids a year.” That’s not the way to look at it. The way to look at it is this is a four-year impact. So at the end of the year, we have between four and eight and 12 less qualified, talented student-athletes on our rosters to compete against teams in our league that have not given that up.

Remember this: With two supported student-athletes a year over four years, that’s eight. That’s more athletes than play in a match. So, they didn’t actually need walk-ons. Let’s say that the teams we eliminated get no slots, no athletic support. Then, what you’ve done is what I just talked about — you’re a NESCAC team. There’s no sense that that would be a Division I student-athlete experience, and there’d be no chance of any relative competitive success. I’m just not willing to create that.

Look, I get it. We’re taking away what I consider to be a potential transformational experience in terms of friendship, competition and growth. But we weren’t willing to create second class citizens in our department that weren’t able to compete on an Ivy League level. That’s what would have happened to half our programs.

But, number two, no matter how much money the alums give, it doesn’t solve our admissions problem. No matter what they give, that 10 percent reduction in admissions slots is still there. And so we would still have to do the same thing if we wanted to maintain a competitive, Division I, Ivy League student-athlete experience. There’s the crux of the decision.

1) The exact numbers are a little hazy to me. Dartmouth undergraduate enrollment is 4,417. There were 110 students on the discontinued teams. Sheehy claimed that this change decreased athlete admissions slots by 10%. So, call it 1,110 total athletes, or about 25% of the student body, meaning about 275 athlete slots in each class. This means that there will be 27 or so extra slots next year.

2) Yesterday, 89’er wrote “Athletics preferences detract from other priorities only to the extent those tips under-perform in other important ways.” No. That’s wrong. Admissions slots are the ultimate zero-sum game. By not admitting those 27 athletes, Dartmouth can fill those slots with non-athletes who fulfill other priorities: Blacks, Legacies, First Generation, Donors, Whatever. Even if every athlete did as well academically (and otherwise) as non-athletes, that fact would not answer the demands from other constituencies.

3) Falk Land wrote:

Then is it about increasing the overall quality of the classes they bring in? If so, then the teams should be cut based on their average GPA, with the academically weakest sports being cut first. I am almost certain this is not what happened, as this was not a mentioned reason and I find it hard to believe that these sports have the lowest average GPAs.

Correct. This change has nothing to do with the average academic quality of athletes, or lack thereof. Dartmouth wanted more students in category X. The only (easy) way to do that is to accept fewer students in category Y.

Sheehy‘s and Dartmouth’s attempts to make it about anything other than that, and outright slandering D3 and NESCAC sports in particular in the process, is laughable.

Agreed. What the hell is wrong with being “a NESCAC team?” Why couldn’t Dartmouth have a golf team which received no admissions slots, which was filled with students who got into Dartmouth purely on the basis of academic excellence? What would be so bad about that? They would play schools in New England at their level. They would try as hard and enjoy their Dartmouth athletic experience every bit as much as the current players do.

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