Ivy League football programs are selective, but when they come calling, area recruits listen
Monday, January 30, 2012
by Matt Porter
Jupiter Christian's Kedric Bostic likes Princeton. It hasn't been easy getting Princeton to like him.
He was one of the best quarterbacks in Palm Beach County last season. He has nearly spotless grades, from freshman year on, in a rigorous schedule of classes. But when Princeton asked him to take more AP classes, he complied.
Like every Ivy recruit, Bostic has had to be something approaching perfect.
"It's a struggle getting kids in with a 4.0 GPA that got Cs when they were freshmen," Jupiter Christian coach Bill Powers said, offering a hypothetical recruiting situation.
While Ivy football teams can't hang with the SEC or Big Ten, they appear to be getting more competitive. This year, two of the area's most productive players, Bostic and King's Academy's Brian Grove are going Ivy. So is St. Andrew's Jack Sheehy, who had early interest from big in-state schools.
While only 12 Ivy players have been taken in the NFL Draft since 2000, eight were on NFL rosters this season, including New York Giants guard Kevin Boothe (Cornell) and linebacker Zak DeOssie (Brown).
Bostic, a 6-foot-3, 185-pound quarterback who originally committed to UCF, had 2,807 yards of total offense and 35 touchdowns last season. Grove, a Dartmouth commit, rushed for 2,988 yards over the last two seasons, third-best in the area. Sheehy, also a Dartmouth commit, has classic tight end size at 6-5 and 241 pounds.
Hardly brainiac benchwarmers.
"I went to the Dartmouth-Columbia game this fall," Sheehy said. "The guys were much bigger and more physical than I expected. I think it's right up there with the rest of regular D-I football."
But Ivy League football is much different.
Its teams do not play in BCS bowls. Ivies do not offer athletic scholarships. Then there's the Academic Index, the Ivies' system for determining how a program brings in players.
The Academic Index, or A.I., is a formula that essentially places Ivy recruits into four tiers, or bands. For example, a coach may be allowed to select 2 players from the lowest band, 7 from the second band, 13 from the third and 8 from the highest. The minimum A.I. score is 176, which is roughly a 3.0 GPA and an 1140 SAT. The highest A.I. score is around 240.
Programs may recruit 30 players per year. Since the spots are available on a rolling, four-year basis, coaches can't bring in another player if one of their recruits gets injured or drops out.
Former Boca Raton kicker David Bicknell tore his hamstring during the first week of fall practice last season. Were he playing for a non-Ivy school, he might have redshirted and kept four years of eligibility. Instead, he played the second half of his freshman year for Harvard's junior varsity team. He has no gripes about his situation.
"When the Ivy League comes for you, you try to go there," he said.
Ivy schools - which include Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, Penn, Princeton and Yale - do painstaking character research. They interview teachers and coaches, and can suggest which classes to take, as in Bostic's case. Transferring schools or any discipline issues are non-starters.
As selective as Ivies are, they have been able to dip into a deeper pool of players lately. In December, a New York Times report detailed how the Ivies have provided millions of dollars in financial aid meant for middle-class families over the past few years.
Powers' son Will, a former linebacker at Jupiter Christian, would not be at Princeton had the school not offered a generous aid package.
"There's no way I could have afforded it," Powers said. "He's basically going there for free."
"The football is phenomenal, but at the end of the day, I'm trying to prepare my kids for life," he said. "And you can't do any better than an Ivy League education."
For Bostic, his college choice became clear as he walked around Princeton's campus in November.
"I kept thinking, 'How can I turn down a degree from Princeton?' "