What the Admissions Scandal Means to Student Recruits
On Mar 12, federal prosecutors publicly revealed that dozens of parents secured their children’s acceptance to elite schools such as Yale, Stanford and Georgetown by bribing coaches to recruit non-athletes. For actual recruits, the news is no distant fluke but carries implications that continue to shake the college athletics landscape; their stories are imperative to understanding a larger insult the falsified recruitment lays on themselves, their teams and integrity in the recruitment process.
For recruited rower Matt DiMinno ‘21, the scandal takes advantage of what makes recruited teams so honed and sought after in the first place—long training hours, good sportsmanship on and off the water and balancing practice with jobs and schoolwork. Required practice for the Skidmore Men’s Crew Team in-season is about eighteen hours per week, excluding regattas and year-long workouts. Rowing since seventh grade, DiMinno learned early on how to budget schoolwork and practice with so little time in between.
“The system I and a couple of teammates developed is doing work beforehand and in between classes, so when you come back exhausted [from training] you only have to do some work and go to bed,” he explained.
DiMinno calls his schedule “not bad” in comparison to NCAA Division I (D-I) schools. While the NCAA restricts student athletes’ practice to 20 hours per week, many ambitious athletes push the limit in the name of excelling at their sport and maintaining scholarships.
Besides individual effort, DiMinno and recruited swimmer Claire Stetten ’19 emphasized how unwavering support from teammates and coaches also becomes exploited when students don the appealing recruitment title without merit. DiMinno credits lifelong bonds he has made on the crew team for maintaining his spirits despite the back-breaking work.
“It’s definitely not for the faint of heart, but it’s a lot of fun. And you can’t do it by yourself—I think the key is you need to be with a team. If you do it by yourself, you go crazy,” he said.
Stetten admits that she would not be the athlete she is today without the guidance of Jill Greenleaf, Skidmore’s Swimming & Diving Head Coach. She stresses that Greenleaf, like her student athletes, goes the extra mile to help the team reach its fullest potential.
“I know my coach specifically puts in way more than 40 hours [per week]. She gets home and, at night, she writes practices for the next day. Oftentimes we’re away all day on Saturday,” Stetten expressed. “I would attribute her coaching style to why I’ve been so successful, because I work really hard, but it’s also about who is behind you.”
To contextualize potential motives behind the scandal, Setten believes that most collegiate coaches of less popular sports are underpaid. She reasons that “college coaches have a lot on their plate” and encourages people to “look beyond the bad part of it to understand why they accepted the money.”
As for the recruitment process, Stetten is shocked that administrators or teammates did not bother to run an internet search on the alleged athletes. When Stetten herself hears of a new Skidmore swimming recruit, simply googling their name will grant instant access to sports statistics from previous teams. Even if not every athlete has their information spelled out online, she points out that “it’s pretty rare not to find some sort of bread crumb trail of your athletic history.”
While neither DiMinno nor Stetten expressed major concern over those convicted directly harming other students’ chances, they both mentioned the scandal raising an eyebrow at a system that, Stetten perceives, already had a bad reputation.
“Sometimes people think of recruitment as a scandal anyway—they see athletes who don’t have academic excellence being admitted into top-tier schools, and a lot of people look at [them] and say, ‘they’re stupid’ or ‘they don’t deserve to be here,’” she said.
“It becomes all the more important to have an honest and transparent recruiting process so that stigma goes away.