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Sheehy ’75 Interview, 5

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 Dartmouth: Could you discuss further why, if alumni come in with donations to provide significant funding to these teams, it would not be possible to keep them?

Sheehy: First of all, I don’t think the alums have an understanding of what it would actually take. For example, in ’02-’03, when we eliminated swimming, the alumni stepped up to save the program, but they didn’t endow the program. So some of the articles have been wrong. They’ll say, “Well, the alumni stepped up to endow the team back in ’03.” Well, they didn’t. What they gave was $2 million of current use money. That means the budget every year came out of that, and that was a spend-down account. It wasn’t spinning off any income because $2 million spins off about $80,000 a year. That doesn’t pay for anything. That number has to be five times bigger to be an endowment.

Good stuff! Sheehy should be praised for his transparency. Too many members of the Dartmouth (and Williams) community don’t really understand how the money works.

A lot of people wrote in and said, “With a $5 billion endowment, how could you possibly do this?” An incredibly high percentage of our endowment are restricted funds. It’s not like our $5 billion spins off $250 million that the College can spend any way it wants. That’s not how endowments work. People give money to endow things with an expressed purpose. For example, a lot of our coaching positions are endowed. That’s what that money is used for. It can’t go to pay travel. It can’t go to pay for equipment. It has to go for the expressed purpose of the endowment. When you endow financial aid, you can’t take that money and spend it on our athletics. The endowment argument is a little bit specious because I just don’t think people understand how endowments work.

This is garbage (with a pinch of truth), and I suspect that Sheehy knows it. “Restricted funds” are every administrator’s favorite excuse for doing what he wants.

First, Buddy Teevens is the The Robert L. Blackman Head Football Coach. This is an endowed position, making use of “restricted funds.” But what would happen if Dartmouth dropped football? Would that money vanish? Would Dartmouth, without a football program, be forced to hire a coach forever? Of course not! Dartmouth, and every elite college, has moved money around from its “intended” purpose ever since the first donor left town.

Second, money is fungible. How often do we have to point this out? Every annual flow of restricted funds is always less, by design, then its intended use. If Dartmouth spends $50 million on financial aid, it does not matter if “restricted funds” for that purpose total $20 or $30 million or any number less than $50 million. The total has to come from somewhere. The discretion comes in all the money which tops off the various buckets. Dartmouth can move that money around at will, as Sheehy well knows.

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Sheehy ’75 Interview, 4

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 Dartmouth: President Hanlon offered a series of athletic alternatives for varsity athletes whose sports were cut. Do you expect that students will pursue the opportunities he suggested?

Sheehy: My heart says I’d love to see them get a Dartmouth degree, but frankly, I know what I would have done as a student-athlete. I would have looked for another opportunity, but not all of them will. To me — and this is just me, personally — having those other opportunities rings a little bit hollow.

Sheehy tells it like it is!

Question: Why are the only two choices available to Dartmouth so extreme? Sheehy acts like there are only two possibilities: full scale Division I participation (with all the admissions preferences which that requires) or club sports which receive no coaching support. Why not simply downgrade some teams from Division I to Division III, along with a decrease in travel/coaching/equipment costs? Dartmouth could (easily?) field a Division III golf program even if it provided no admissions slots and relied on local volunteers to coach.

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Sheehy ’75 Interview, 3

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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Sheehy ’75 Interview, 2

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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Harry Sheehy Interview, 1

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 biggest surprise in elite college athletics has been the decision by several schools to cut sports teams.

Last week, both the Ivy League and the Dartmouth administration made crucial announcements regarding the short- and long-term future of Dartmouth athletics. On Wednesday, the league announced the cancellation of all fall sports amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The next day, the College announced that five varsity sports — men’s and women’s golf, men’s lightweight rowing and men’s and women’s swimming and diving — would be eliminated.

Similar cuts were made at Brown and Stanford. Neither school admitted, however, the real reason for the cuts. Sheehy pulls aside the veil.

The Dartmouth spoke with athletics director Harry Sheehy for an extended one-on-one interview on Monday. During the interview, Sheehy said that College President Phil Hanlon first notified him that he was considering reducing the number of student-athletes last fall due to admissions priorities.

See below for the details. Even without CV-19, Dartmouth would have made these cuts. They, or at least President Hanlon, has decided that Dartmouth wants fewer admissions slots for athletes.

1) I never would have predicted this. Did anyone? For almost two decades, I have argued that Williams should reduce the preferences given to athletes, but I have never wanted to cut sports.

2) Will Williams do the same? I don’t think so . . . But I never would have thought that Dartmouth or Stanford would either. They are just (?) as sporty as Williams . . .

3) Williams should do the same thing that Morty did almost 20 years ago: Reduce (again) the preferences given to athletes, but still give coaches their slots. That is, the women’s golf coach Tomas Adalsteinsson, for example, still gets his two slots a year. He can pick whoever he wants, as long as they are Academic Rating 1s. You can improve the quality of the class without cutting sports. Just raise the standards. Coaches will always find the best players that they can. They will whine and complain, just as they did after the changes following the MacDonald Report in 2002.

Entire article below the break.=
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Sheehy ’75 Did Not Cut the Athletic Budget by 25%

EphBlog’s readers are everywhere.

In the interview, [Dartmouth President] Kim also responded to criticism from Williams College EphBlog about recently-appointed athletic director Harry Sheehy. In a post dated Aug. 7, EphBlog challenged claims that Sheehy had reduced the budget for Williams’ Athletic Department by 25 percent, also claiming that his involvement in choosing coaches — a significant factor in his appointment at Dartmouth — was more limited than members of the search committee claimed.

Sheehy was vetted “very carefully” by officials involved in his appointment, Kim said, pointing to Sheehy’s record as one of the winningest athletic directors in the country, despite budget reductions and cuts in the number of athletes admitted to Williams.

“There are always bloggers; we know that very well,” Kim said. “The evidence is clear: [Sheehy] has been the most successful athletic director in the country.”

Joseph Asch comments at Dartblog:

I am a big fan of Sheehy so far, and I have no position on Ephblog’s criticisms, which this space did not write about in early August when they were made. However, Sheehy did say in Hanover that he had reduced the Williams athletics budget by 25% (which does not seem to be borne out by Williams’ own figures). I heard him myself and so did The D.

Of greater moment, do notice that President Kim did not address directly the assertions made by Ephblog (and The D’s interviewer did not push him to do so). Jim Kim is clever like that.

Indeed. Anyone who claims that Sheehy cut the athletic budget by 25% at Williams is either misinformed (by Sheehy?) or a liar. Which one is Dartmouth President Kim? The D (student newspaper at Dartmouth) ought to find out. The numbers are what they are.

2004/2005: $5.2 million
2005/2006: $5.6 million
2006/2007: $6.2 million
2007/2008: $6.3 million
2008/2009: $6.4 million

See much cutting going on? No. You can say many wonderful things about Sheehy’s time as AD, but there was not a great deal of budget discipline. If Sheehy’s claim to have cut athletic spending by 25% in the last three years is true, then 2009/2010 spending should be about $4.7 million. Inconceivable.

Source.

UPDATE: Full data on spending by category at Williams available from the Provost.

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