Jun 20, 2008, 09:25AM

Harvard's Athletic Arms Race

The annual secret meeting of Ivy League Presidents is sure to have major repercussions on their athletics: now that Harvard has decided to meet the full financial needs of all students, they'll have a huge advantage in recruiting exceptional athletes. As surprising as it sounds, there are questions of financial fairness in the country's stodgiest college sports league.

The conference's Executive Director, Jeff Orleans, confirmed to me a while back that the question of financial aid's impact on athletic recruiting would be on the agenda this summer. (He said he would have to decline further comment on the issue until that discussion played out.)

If you need a primer, it's basically on the agenda because Harvard is so darn big and rich that it might well outstrip all the other Ivies' financial-aid offerings and thereby outstrip them in luring talented athletes, too. It's not hard to see why that's a possibility when there are no league-wide rules governing how much money athletes get. No scholarships and no collusion mean no standardization either.

If there's going to be any reform on this issue - and if anything does happen or has happened, its likely an incremental step - the presidents are the ones who ultimately sign off.

Penn athletic director Steve Bilsky told me that the last time the conference's athletic directors got together, the schools that had not yet announced reforms along the lines of what Harvard, Yale and Penn had done were visibly very nervous.


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