Chapter 1Ground Rules“There is no secret, and I have no qualms about saying it, but athletic talent makes a big difference in terms of our decisions. . . . The Ivy League principles always say that athletes should be treated like everyone else, but they are not. And that’s what the presidents are sort of struggling with: ‘Here’s what the principles say, and here’s what the practice is—and how to do we get them to match.’”Michael Goldberger
Director of AdmissionThirty years ago, as a senior at Hanover High School in Hanover, New
Hampshire, I was recruited to play college soccer and hockey by a few schools in the Northeast. Coaches from Dartmouth, Middlebury, and the University of New Hampshire wrote me and called me and encouraged me to come to their schools. The UNH soccer coach offered me a full scholarship, the only one he had, saying he wanted to give it to an instate player. I held him off for as long as I could, into March of my senior year, playing a game I’d been counseled to play by my next-door neighbor, the Dartmouth men’s soccer coach, who was also recruiting me. Why, you might ask, would the Dartmouth coach have encouraged me to string the UNH coach along, when he wanted me at his school, on his team? Because he knew I might not get into Dartmouth, and he wanted me to keep all my options open. “You have to understand,” he told me, “that the coaches are playing a game. They’re telling you they want you, but they are telling twenty other kids they want them, too. They’re doing this because they won’t be able to get all of you into their schools. So you have to protect yourself. You should tell each one of them that their school is your first choice, so they will help you as much as possible. They’re playing a game, and it’s only fair that you play it back.”Much as I felt uncomfortable with the approach, I took his advice. It
turned out to be a smart move. I did not get into Dartmouth in April, despite the coach’s efforts to help me. My board scores, a combined 980, were just too low. But I did get into Middlebury, which had a better soccer team at the time, and I would never have been accepted had I not been recruited by the soccer coach and by the hockey coach, who had even more pull with Admissions. I told each of them that their school was my first choice. Along the way, I had been forced to pass up the UNH soccer scholarship in March, when the coach there forced my hand, saying he needed time to find another player if I wasn’t going to accept his offer. I told him I wanted to wait on
Dartmouth and Middlebury, and that I wanted to play both soccer and hockey, something I would not have been able to do on a full soccer scholarship. He proceeded to find a player from New Jersey, Bobby Black, who went on to be an All-American. You could say I did the UNH coach a favor.Since then, the rules of the recruiting game in the Ivy League* and in the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC**), the league to which Middlebury belongs, have dramatically evolved into an
increasingly complex procurement machine. Ivy League recruited athletes still enjoy a distinct advantage in the admission process much as they did in my day, and many continue to be admitted with lower academic credentials than their high school peers. But today...
Chris Lincoln (Author)
Chris Lincoln is a former recruited college athlete who passed up a full soccer scholarship to the University of New Hampshire to play soccer and hockey at Middlebury College. He lives in Thetford, Vermont.
Jay Fiedler (Other)
Jay Fiedler is a starting quarterback for the Miami Dolphins. He lives in Miami, Florida.