The Colgate Scene
January 2004

A competitive solution
Colgate to offer limited number of athletic scholarships

The university's new policy of offering a limited number of athletic scholarships has enabled men's basketball Head Coach Emmett Davis (shown embracing former player Dave Hardy '03) to compete more successfully for student-athletes also being recruited by Ivy League schools. [Photos by Timothy D. Sofranko]

In five years as head coach of the men's basketball team, Emmett Davis has never had a recruit choose Colgate over an Ivy League school -- until November 12, 2003. On that day, when recruits from across the nation made their final college choice known, two students recruited by Ivy League schools committed to Colgate.

Davis was successful in bringing these students to Colgate through the offer of athletic scholarships, which had a direct impact on the caliber of student-athlete that Davis was able to talk with. "We were able to get into some homes that, in the past, we wouldn't have been able to without scholarships," said Davis.

In mid-October, the Board of Trustees approved a restructuring of athletic aid at the university. Effective with the class entering in fall 2004, Colgate will offer a limited number of athletic scholarships to be divided among selected sports. At the same time, the university will reduce by 25 percent the number of athletes awarded admission based on coach support.

Scholarship sports will include men's and women's basketball, men's and women's ice hockey, men's and women's lacrosse, men's and women's soccer, field hockey, softball, volleyball, and men's and women's swimming/diving. The university will continue to offer varsity competition for men in golf and for women and men in crew, tennis, cross country, and track and field, but athletic aid will not be awarded in those sports. Need-based aid will continue to be awarded in football, since Patriot League rules prohibit member institutions from offering scholarships to football players.

The funds for the scholarships, which will cover tuition, room, board, books and fees, will come from the same pool of money currently targeted at athletic aid. "We are not increasing our financial aid allocation to athletics; instead, we will be using our financial aid money more creatively and effectively," said David Hale '84, financial vice president and treasurer.

The athletic aid plan is one strategy within the university's strategic plan to enhance programs across the institution. "Our aim with athletic aid is to make Colgate the school of choice for students committed to making meaningful contributions both in the classroom and on the playing field," said Provost and Dean of the Faculty Jack Dovidio, who chaired the university's strategic planning process.

The concept of the plan emerged from a strategic planning subgroup focused on financial aid. Determining which sports would receive scholarships was the responsibility of a planning subgroup on athletic aid, comprising athletic directors, administrators and faculty members. The group conducted extensive research and engaged in discussions with members of the faculty, athletics staff, Board of Trustees, and other members of the campus community.

While the details and data of the plan have been deliberated over for months, the plan is not set in stone; rather, it is considered to be an experiment. "The program will be reviewed annually and benchmarked against national studies and models of intercollegiate athletics," said Don Vaughan, interim director of athletics and coach of men's hockey for 11 seasons. "The measure of success will be the program's positive impact on the academic profile of our teams, retention and graduation rates of students, and athletic competitiveness of the teams," said Vaughan.

To measure academic success, each team will be given an "academic index," a target that sets expectations for recruiting scholarship athletes. While team competitiveness will also be evaluated annually, Vaughan says that the four-year mark will be the best time to evaluate the real impact of scholarships on the competitiveness of the teams. By that point, the squads will have scholarship athletes in every class. The four-year period also allows some time to get the word out that Colgate is able to offer scholarships. "We got a late start this year, particularly for the fall sports, but we're already seeing great results," said Vaughan. "It should only get better as we move forward."

While the plan is expected to have a positive impact in terms of the university's academic and athletic profile, officials stress that the plan is building on a system that is already producing very positive results. Colgate teams routinely compete for league championships and several have participated in national title competitions. Colgate is tied for the fourth-highest graduation rate for student-athletes in Division I-AA, according to the 2003 USA Today/NCAA Academic Achievement Awards. Eighty-six percent of athletes who entered as first-years in 1996 graduated on time.

"Colgate athletes are Colgate students first and foremost," said Vaughan. "They live in the same dorms, go to the same classes, and are very much a part of the campus community."

The plan is designed to support the ideal of Colgate and the Patriot League, where student-athletes reflect the academic quality, interests, and commitment of the student body as a whole and to enhance Colgate's reputation as a place where talented student-athletes can thrive, Dovidio said.

Women's lacrosse player Heidi Ross '06 in action against Northwestern last year. Women's lacrosse is one of more than a dozen sports for which Colgate now offers scholarships.

A changing league
Colgate is a founding member of the Patriot League, established as a Division I-AA football conference in 1986 and since expanded to include 22 sports. Full league members include American, Army, Bucknell, Colgate, Holy Cross, Lafayette, Lehigh, and Navy, with Fairfield, Fordham, Georgetown, Hobart, Towson, and Villanova also participating as associate members in select sports.

For the first 10 years of operation, Patriot League rules prohibited member institutions from offering scholarships. In 1996, Holy Cross pressed the league to allow schools to offer scholarships in basketball. The league consented and, with the class of 1998, schools were permitted to offer scholarships in basketball. The league continued to limit scholarship offers to basketball until the 2001-2002 season, when American University, which offered scholarships in all sports, joined the league as a full member.

One by one, Patriot League schools followed suit, leaving Colgate as one of only a handful of Division I schools, along with Lafayette and the Ivy League, relying solely on need-based aid for athletics. To this point, coaches have not been able to offer any incentives beyond need-based aid to students also being recruited by Ivy League institutions. At the same time, those students being recruited by other Patriot League institutions would receive scholarship offers from the other schools, again resulting in a loss for Colgate.

"We are leveling the playing field for our coaches and giving them the tools they need to attract the best scholar-athletes to Colgate," said Dovidio. "We should no longer be in a situation where we are losing top recruits to schools with a lower academic profile simply because they can offer scholarships."

Davis's two recruits demonstrate the immediate impact the scholarships have had on a coach's ability to attract top scholar-athletes. Shooting guard Kyle Roemer from Martinez, Calif. was named the Bay Valley Athletic League's Most Valuable Player and was a third-team all-Northern California selection. After being recruited by Yale, Columbia, and Princeton (where he spent a weekend), he chose Colgate.

Similarly, center Peter Minchella from West Lafayette, Ind. was first-team all-Hoosier Crossroads Conference last season, and has been ranked the 11th-best player in Indiana's Class of 2004 by Hoosierland Report, and 16th by Indiana Basketball News. Minchella made an official trip to Stanford and was scheduled to visit Harvard and Yale. But two days after spending time at Colgate, he made a commitment to Davis's team.

Other coaches are reporting similar success. Katrina Silva, head coach of the women's lacrosse team, was able to attract Jessica Vander Meulen, a top recruit from Liverpool, N.Y. whose brother Jeff '04 is captain of Colgate's men's lacrosse team.

"She was being recruited by Duke, Notre Dame, Cornell, and Northwestern, but decided that Colgate was the place for her," said Silva. "Families believe in what we're trying to do here. When we recruit athletes, we want to hear them talk about their goals -- what they want to do with their lives beyond lacrosse. Our athletes realize that the sport can help get them in the door, but the education they get at Colgate is something special, something that can never be taken away from them."

Charlie Melichar is the director of media relations at Colgate.
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