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1-29-2021-franklin-field-empty-sukhmani-kaur
With no spring sports this season for the Ivy League, high school recruits have a tougher choice and a new perception of the Ivy League conference and its schools. Credit: Sukhmani Kaur

It boils down to how much they want you.

You can labor over your campus visits, examine the system you’ll be playing in, and weigh the importance of academics in your college-to-be. But when it comes down to finally reviewing all those athletic scholarship offers, there’s simply one thing on your mind: how much they want you.

In a normal year, highly sought-after high school recruits have numerous opportunities to consider their options. They can go on official school visits, speak in person with coaches and other players, and truly get a feel for the athletic programs. 

However, with the COVID-19 pandemic affecting the operation of athletics, it has been hard for high school recruits to get a feel for their prospective schools. With the Ivy League being the only Division I conference to cancel their 2021 spring sport season, this makes the decision of where to commit even tougher for its recruits.

It’s not just that prospective student-athletes aren’t able to learn about athletic programs first hand; for some, the Ivy League’s season cancelation has created a new perception of Ivy League sports. 

“I would say that my perception of the Ivy League has changed,” Kade Frew, a high school junior running back from Jacksonville, FL who has received an offer to play at Penn. “It seems like the Ivy League is not prioritizing their sports.”

Frew has also received offers from Air Force, Navy, and Memphis, among others. 

The Ivy League has always been known for its academics — and while the Ancient Eight certainly has a rich athletic history, today, it’s the former that stands out.

“I think with the season canceled completely, the idea that [the Ivy League] isn’t as committed to it’s athletes as other D-I schools are, [becomes more evident],” said quarterback Aidan Sayin, a high school senior from Carlsbad, CA who has committed to Penn. “I think that in the long run, the perception will recover.”

To other recruits, it has been clear that the Ivy League emphasizes academics over athletics, and the recent stoppage in play due to COVID-19 didn’t alter their perceptions of the universities.  

“I already knew that the Ivy League might not be as heavy on sports as the [other divisions] and that was something that has already come to my mind,” Elic Ayomanor, a wide receiver who has received an offer to play at Penn, said. “I’ve always known that academics come first in the Ivy League and sports come second.”

As he reviews his offers from universities such as Princeton, Yale, and Dartmouth, to name a few, Ayomanor doesn’t believe that the pandemic will affect his decision on where to commit. Ayomanor has also received offers from more athletically competitive schools including Arizona and Iowa, who will compete with the Ivy League for his commitment.

“With the Ivy League, you’re getting that education; it’s definitely known for the education,” Frew added.

While Frew believes the Ivy League prioritizes academics over athletics, other recruits began to believe otherwise after learning more about the programs.

“Among my peers, I think a lot of people didn’t originally see the Ivy League as really committed to sports,” Sayin said. “Unless you look into the programs, you won’t see that all the schools are actually competing and doing as much as other Division I schools are.”

Penn football commit Nick Ostlund and high school senior shared a similar sentiment. To him, the cancelation of athletic seasons set the Ivy League apart from all other college athletic programs. 

“I have found that the Ivy League is a special conference with circumstances different than any other conference in Division I,” Ostlund said. “Because of the emphasis on academics, the Ivy League has to stand out and cannot make decisions based on what the rest of Division I is doing.”

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