Problems with athletic recruitment at Mac

By Daniel Kerwin

What makes a good sports program at the college level? One might argue that having the right athletes is what makes the difference. How do colleges recruit the right athletes? Is it athletic scholarships or is it something else?
NCAA rules prohibit athletic scholarships in NCAA Division 3 schools such as Macalester, which imposes limitations in the way athletic recruitment operates in a manner that HMCS professor Leola Johnson said “has a big impact on the athletic performance at Macalester.”

“I don’t believe that athletic scholarships are appropriate at a college level” Macalester Athletics Director Travis Feezell said.

He adds that he shares the college’s views that students should be admitted primarily on the basis of how well they would fit the academic profile at Macalester. Due to Macalester’s lofty academic standards, the pool of potential athletes Mac is able to scout is limited. While admitting that the situation makes recruitment at Mac harder, Feezell said “I do not believe that because we are more academically rigorous that it hinders our performance.”

But Johnson said that “places like Macalester undervalue athletic talent.” She said that the high test scores needed to get accepted into Macalester, average ACT and traditional SAT scores of 28-32 and 1270–1440 respectively, are “very problematic.” She adds “a lot of athletes that don’t qualify here would qualify at many other places.”

Director of Admissions Steve Colee said “We don’t screen students strictly on the basis of test scores.”

He said that admissions aims to admit students with a range of talents, “What we’re trying to do as an admissions committee is to bring a little bit of a Noah’s ark when forming the class,” Collee said.

Coaches are allowed some input in getting athletic prospects through admissions, as Colee said the coaches are “better equipped to judge the athletic talent”, but other talents also serve equal consideration, and above all Colee said the students have to be “ready to thrive here academically.”
Golf coach Martha Nause, in charge of varsity golf recruitment, said that “there’s someone that wants to come and can’t get in pretty much every year”. Besides the academic restrictions, she says that the colleges’ very liberal, “out there” reputation and high cost of tuition also restrict the number of athletes who choose to come to Mac. Besides these dilemmas, she agrees that athletic scholarships wouldn’t raise Macalester’s athletic reputation, saying that increased recognition and appreciation from the administration is more important.
“Recruiting takes an extreme amount of time,” Nause said of the athletic recruitment process.

Head Baseball Coach Matt Parrington agreed that “it’s a long drawn out 18 month process.”
While primarily searching for athletes that would fit Macalester’s academic profile and can manage the tuition, the coaches are also under pressure to recruit the most athletically talented, passionate players as possible. The process usually starts by going to admissions and contacting prospective students that indicated an interest in playing a sport at Macalester, but sometimes the process is reversed.

Golfer Karla Leon of Quito, Ecuador said she took the first step in pursuing Macalester, showing her interest by sending her grades, recommendations about her golf and even a video of her golf swing. While not the only school Leon applied to, she said that in compared to other coaches “Martha was the only coach that took real care of me.”
Leon provides a good example of an athlete that has come through the recruiting process. She represents the Macalester profile, as she says “I wanted a balance between both [golf and academics]”.
She said she feels that Division 3 golf is right for her saying “I know my future isn’t going to be in golf”.
Also, she received the Kofi Annan International Scholarship based on academic merit, which helps her with tuition. All of these combine to make Macalester the right choice for her, despite receiving a golf scholarship offer from the Division 1 University of Miami.
While the recruitment process identifies candidates for Macalester athletics, and the admissions office ultimately decides who makes it into Mac. With athletically talented applicants having to compete for admission with artistically talented, academically talented and all other sorts of applicants, Feezell said that for admissions, “ultimately, it’s about forming the class.”