2019 by the numbers:
On, and off, the field
A mile-and-a-half from campus, where seminars press on and libraries begin to fill up, Eminem blares onto Frank Field. “One on one,” a coach yells, scattering over 100 navy and white-clad bodies into tackling drills. The drills eventually give way to wind sprints, and then to strength exercises — push-ups, sit-ups and jumping jacks.
On Wednesday afternoon, while most of their suitemates were still shopping chemistry labs and history lectures, the 29 freshman members of Yale’s varsity football team slogged through practice, which went on for more than two hours, before being surprised by an ice cream truck, courtesy of their coaches. As varsity athletes, their schedules are largely dictated by their sport — in the fall, for example, football players can only take classes from 9 a.m. to 2:15 p.m. so as to keep afternoons and evenings free for team meetings and practices. Still, the tight window does not prevent some from squeezing in an extra “walk-in” lift in the weightroom.
But the time commitment demanded of a student-athlete affects more than his or her daily routine, bearing a similarly strong influence on academic and social expectations, survey results show. Even just after the first day of shopping period, the unique challenges that recruited athletes and hopeful varsity walk-ons face have already begun to manifest clearly.
On Dec. 16, 438 survey respondents were admitted to Yale. On that same winter day, 70 athletes — 76 percent of the recruits surveyed — already knew where they would be spending their next four years.
These athletes are fairly homogenous in background: Of 92 recruited athletes who responded to the survey, 82 identified as white. And the discrepancy magnifies when examined against non-athletes. Eleven percent of the incoming freshman class is African-American, but only 7 percent of recruited athletes identified as such. Only one student-athlete identified as South Asian.
While the freshman athlete population had similar educational backgrounds to the rest of the class of 2019, the income distribution was much more disparate. Only 6 percent of incoming varsity athletes fell in the below-$40,000 annual income bracket, compared to 13 percent of all freshmen surveyed. On the other end of the spectrum, 42 percent of student-athletes come from families earning over $250,000, compared to 33 percent across the whole class.
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OFF THE FIELD
The behavior of Ivy League athletes has come under scrutiny as of late, with two major cheating scandals in four years rocking the Ancient Eight.
This past winter, 64 Dartmouth students were issued sanctions for their involvement a cheating scandal in a class called “Sports, Ethics and Religion.” Varsity athletes made up nearly 70 percent of the 272-person class, in which at least two-thirds of the college’s 36 varsity teams were represented.
In 2012, 125 Harvard students were investigated after allegations of cheating in an introductory government class. The co-captains of the men’s basketball team were part of a larger student-athlete community implicated in the scandal. Many students were placed on academic probation, and others were forced to withdraw from the college.
Within the Yale class of 2019, survey results revealed a difference infor student-athletes and non-athletes. Forty-three percent of varsity athletes and hopeful walk-ons reported having cheated in an academic context before Yale, while 24 percent of non-athletes said the same. In total, one in four respondents to the survey had cheated at some point, whether on a paper or an examination.
According to a poll conducted by the Harvard Crimson this summer, the numbers proved less steep for Harvard freshmen. Twenty-one percent reported some prior incident of cheating; that percentage increased to 25 percent for recruited athletes and hopeful walk-ons.
Even facing such pressures, Yale athletes continue to engage a wide variety of academic pursuits. Compared with 52 percent of non-athlete respondents, only 21 percent of recruited athletes plan to pursue a double major. Of those athletes only selecting one major,which drew 34 percent.
Outside the classroom, most student-athletes surveyed acknowledged that they may not have the opportunity to do much beyond their sport. Only four of the 194 freshmen who indicated an interest in performing arts were student-athletes, and the numbers were comparable elsewhere. Of the 101 students expressing interest in student government, only one was also on a varsity team. The only extracurricular activity showing a different trend was Greek life, with 75 percent of interested freshmen also playing on varsity sports teams.
“[Time management] is definitely one of my biggest concerns, especially because everything here is new,” said Jake Leffew ’19, a recruited golf player. “I did that pretty well in high school, but it’s a whole new level.”
Because Yale is unable to offer athletic scholarships, athletes on financial aid may also dedicate time to part-time jobs. However, this problem does not affect much of the student-athlete population, for 61 percent of student-athletes in the class of 2019 do not receive any financial aid from Yale. Within the group of athletes that receives at least some financial aid, only 12 percent said they believe that students should be expected tocompared to 32 percent of all freshmen receiving financial aid.
The role of a student-athlete presents unique challenges; however, it does offer its set of distinct advantages. Whereas most freshmen may turn to their Freshman Counselors for advice regarding course selection and the general transition to life in college, student-athletes interviewed reported turning to upperclass teammates for such support.
“A lot of older girls helped us out,” said Brittany Simpson ’19, a defender on the women’s soccer team. “It was definitely hard to figure out on our own.”