The success of Williams College athletes on the playing fields is not due to bias in admissions. Amherst and Wesleyan have precisely the same number of “tips” as Williams. Nor is it due to superior facilities. Rather, it is due to self-selection by candidates and to first-rate coaches.
A high school senior at the top of her class, who is an outstanding athlete with the desire to compete in college and who wants to attend an excellent small liberal arts college, is likely to make Williams her first choice. She is unlikely to choose Swarthmore, despite its academic strengths. Athletic success builds on athletic success. And when she arrives at Williams, she will be tutored by coaches well qualified to help her realize her potential as an athlete.
Time devoted to athletics does not diminish the academic experience. On the contrary, more often than not, it enhances it. The discipline, organization and physical and mental health of athletes serves them well in their studies. Moreover, there are skills, vitally important to life after college, that are acquired on the playing fields but rarely in the classroom, including cooperation and coping with failure. At Williams, as demonstrated on Nov. 9, even the football team loses occasionally. The ideal Williams education â€“ with the teacher at one end of a log talking with a student at the other â€“ more often characterizes the relationship between coach and student than professor and student.
For Williams athletes to lose consistently, the admissions staff would have to bias their decisions against outstanding students who are also outstanding athletes. To do that would undermine the very essence of Williams.
Dick Sabot, Professor of economics emeritus
Topher Sabot ’99, former captain Nordic skiing