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.

Will other elite schools be cutting sports? Sheehy thinks so!

HS: The only one that I talked to personally was the Brown AD, but I will tell you that I know the discussions are going on at other campuses for sure. And I think when Brown and Dartmouth act, you can’t stop those conversations on other campuses. They’re going to happen.

It’s kind of a domino effect.

HS: Yeah, it is, unfortunately. That’s the way it works. I think, when the Ivy League acts on something, that can embolden a whole different group of schools to think about what they’re going to do. As tough as the world is for Dartmouth’s budgets, we’re not nearly as in bad shape as most of the world. A lot of schools’ athletic departments rely much more than we do on revenue generation.

Again, I love Sheehy’s IDGAF attitude, telling us about his private conversation with the Brown DA, hinting that this is where the Ivy League is heading. Note, however, how Brown spun its cuts:

Through the new initiative, the University will maintain its current operational budget for varsity athletics, with operating funds made available by the reduction in varsity teams being allocated strategically within the Department of Athletics. Brown will continue to recruit the same number of varsity athletes so that rosters can be right-sized, and the smaller number of varsity teams will support stronger recruiting in the admissions process, allowing for deeper talent on each team.

Is Brown telling us the truth? I have my doubts! The reason that sports team X is not good at Brown is not because they don’t recruit enough athletes. The cause is an inability/unwillingness to recruit better athletes. Brown doesn’t need more 1500-SAT but not so good football players. It has enough of those! It needs some guys who can play, but who only scored 1200. Extra slots don’t do anything meaningful.

Anyway, the real question is what this portends for Williams and for the Ivy League.

1) I don’t know, at least with regard to Williams. DA Lisa Melendy has never responded to my emails before. You think she is going to start now? My guess would be that nothing changes at Williams. Then again, I never would have predicted team-cuts at Stanford.

2) Sheehy may be talking out of school, but he is an insider. I doubt that he would spout of about “the Ivy League act[ing] on something” unless there were discussions at the highest level about more Ivy League changes. The most obvious would be for the league to just give up on Division I by dramatically raising admissions standards for athletes and joining NESCAC and similar, less-competitive leagues. Is there really a chance that might happen?

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