Archive for Lacrosse

The “Soft Likely Letter” in the Ivy League

Although it’s written clearly in the Ivy League Common Agreement that a Likely Letter may only be issued after October 1st of the applicant’s Senior year, there are tales of early or “soft” Likely Letters being issued well before the October 1st date, sometimes as early as a student’s Junior year of high school. These “soft likely letters” are supposedly emailed to the recruit and are verbatim copies of the actual printed likely letter that is mailed by the admissions office after October 1st.

It’s no secret that some sports run on a much earlier recruiting timetable than others. I’ve written about that practice before. If an Ivy lacrosse or hockey coach waits until the fall of senior year, he’ll be out-recruited by the rest of the Division 1 programs that are pressing kids for verbal commitments in the Sophomore and Junior years. It’s not unusual for an Ivy coach to tell an athlete early in the process that he will put him up for a likely if he can count on the athlete committing. An ethical coach will make it clear, however, that only admissions can admit him and admissions won’t make that decision until the complete application is submitted. But coaches of the early-commit sports are under pressure to make their offers sound as solid as possible to prevent another competing coach from planting a seed of doubt it the recruit’s head. And that may be the rationale behind the “soft likely”.

I can’t believe any Ivy League admissions office would have any part in sending early correspondence to a recruit and blatantly violating the terms of the Ivy League agreement. I think it’s far more likely that a coach may be using the text of the LL in his email to secure his recruit early and stop him from talking to other coaches. Maybe there is some small print preceding the text that indicates this is not an actual likely letter, or maybe it says “if you were to receive an actual likely letter, it would look like this” Either way, people hear what they want to hear and a “soft likely” might give a recruit a false sense of how certain his admission will be.  In my opinion, any coach that would take it upon himself to issue a “soft likely” is going beyond the limits of ethical recruiting behavior.

So if you are a Junior hockey player and are emailed a “soft likely”, I think your best response would be a “soft commit.” Understand that your recruiting journey isn’t over until you hear it, in writing, from the admissions office.

Lacrosse Recruiting in the NESCAC

Here’s a great article on the lacrosse recruiting process in the NESCAC written by Chris Meade, co-Founder of


As many of you know, the NESCAC is the New England Small College Athletic Conference. It is an athletic conference made up of academically more and most selective liberal arts institutions. On top of the institution’s high academic caliber, the league is often considered the most competitive Division 3 conference. According to LaxPower’s Power Rankings, the league has had one of the strongest power rankings over the past 5 years. Reigning national champion, Tufts, is one of the member institutions.

Right now, a number of ODAC and Centennial graduates are rolling their eyes. Both conferences have strong academic reputations and strong lacrosse programs. Over the past couple of years, the word NESCAC has become a buzzword on the recruiting trail. For example, “Is that school a NESCAC school?” or “Do you play in that NESCAC league?” My personal favorite is, “if my kid doesn’t go big time D1/Ivy, I want him to go NESCAC.” It helps that over the past decade schools like Middlebury, Wesleyan and Tufts have consistently ranked in the Top 10 in Division 3 as well as Amherst and Williams always being in contention for the Top Liberal Arts Institution in the country.

So here is my disclaimer, I love talking about the NESCAC and have lots to say because I went through the NESCAC recruiting/admissions process and ended up at Wesleyan. I graduated in 2005 after our school’s first trip to the NCAA tournament. The following years brought two trips to the NCAA Semi Finals and then a NESCAC Championship. (Not bragging or anything). Matt Wheeler, who I started with, also went to Wesleyan and played lacrosse with me.

I end up answering many emails regarding the recruiting process at these schools. So here is some background information about the admissions process for a lacrosse recruit at these institutions.

Some Admissions Tips

To get started, it has become increasingly important for recruits to apply early decision. Almost 95% of recruited athletes will apply early decision at an institution. This is a way for the coach to know that the athlete is reciprocating the effort they are making to bring a player to their school. The effort is also monitored by admissions liason who goes between the athletic department and the admission’s office. By going early decision, the coach knows that if you are accepted, you will be coming.

There are a few wrinkles between the different schools in the conference. For example, Bowdoin and Bates have an SAT optional policy that makes it a good choice for strong academic performers in the classroom who may struggle with standard tests. To a lesser degree, similar situations are available at Colby and Connecticut College.  At Colby, applicants can make up their SAT score with any three SAT 2 subject scores. The admissions interview is a must for a player who is borderline for a program. The interview shows effort and interest to the admissions staff allowing a student athlete to explain any weaknesses in their application.

What is a band?

NESCAC institutions use a banding system that the athletic and admissions departments use to rank players who seek admission. The banding breaks players up based on GPA, Class Rank, SAT (or ACT) and SAT 2 and then categorizes them as A Band, B Band or C Band. Over a 4 year period, schools slot a certain amount of players per band. The system allows for more flexibility than the Ivy’s Academic Index but limits weaker academic applicants. Schools are generally given 4-7 slots per year. At a school like Williams, the class may be made up of 4 A Band students and 2 B Band students. The same B Band student at Williams could be considered an A Band student at a slightly less selective school like Bates.

So here is a general outline of A, B and C Bands for NESCAC schools.

A Band

SAT Scores 700+ average all above 670

SAT II 710

GPA: 92+ GPA, Almost All As

Class Rank: Top 5%

Courses: 4+ APs, Honors Classes

B Band

SAT scores 650+ average, all above 620

SAT II 640

GPA: 88+ GPA, Mix of As, Bs

Class Rank: Top 15%

Courses: Few AP Courses, Honors

C Band

SAT scores 630+ average, all above 590

SAT II 600

GPA:  85+ GPA, Mix of As, Bs, occasional Cs

Class Rank: Top 20%

Courses:  Honors

As I said, these are general numbers but they serve as a benchmark to better understand where a student athlete stands. As you narrow down your schools of interest, providing your transcript and speaking with the coach will provide the greatest feedback and realistic expectations.

Middlebury Lacrosse Coach Dave Campbell on Recruiting and Playing in the NESCAC

Dave Campbell, Head Coach of the men’s Middlebury Lacrosse team talked with us about recruiting and playing lacrosse in the NESCAC. Dave has the unique perspective of having been both a player and a coach in the NESCAC. A two-time All-American selection at Middlebury, Dave went on to coach at Notre Dame and Connecticut College before returning to Middlebury as head coach. He played on an NCAA championship team and was named NESCAC coach of the year in 2009.

Coach, I think the one thing that every potential recruit wants to know is how ‘support’ works in the NESCAC. How many LAX players get slotted, or tipped and how reliable is it?

It’s important to remember that in the NESCAC, as coaches we’re not allowed to guarantee anyone that they’ll be admitted to our institution. It’s ultimately an admissions decision, not a coach’s decision. That’s one constant throughout the league. Now of course we can all identify recruits that we’d like to support through admissions and that number is going to vary a bit from school to school and year to year. It’s worth asking each coach how many student-athlete’s they plan to support in your class early in the process. The other thing that’s going to vary from school to school is exactly what ‘support’ means and how it’s handled. Each coach has his own language and track record as far as that goes.

I know a lot of kids can feel very anxious about everything working out after they’ve submitted their Early Decision application even if they’re supported. What kind of assurance can you give to a kid in that position?

I think it’s natural and appropriate for kids to feel a little nervous about things working out in the ED 1 process at a NESCAC school. But I think you can minimize that by asking a lot of direct questions during the recruiting process leading up to submitting your application. You should be asking where you stand and what kind of read you’ve been given by admissions. Ask lots of direct questions and take notes – I can’t overemphasize that.

You mentioned a coach’s track record in working with recruits. I know trust is a 2-way street. When you’re evaluating a potential recruit, besides watching games and reading stats, how can you get a handle on his character?

Over the years we develop relationships with high school and club coaches around the country and try to get as much input as possible from them in regard to character, work ethic, etc.. Most of us also speak with college/guidance counselors to get a better feel for a prospective student-athlete off the field.

Let’s move on to the commitment required of a NESCAC LAX player. How much time is generally required of your athletes?

To stay competitive, guys are working out year round. They have to be self-motivated. I’d say 90 minutes to 2 hours a day is pretty typical during the off-season. Once the season starts in the spring, we’re going about 2 hours a day.

Thanks for taking the time to talk, Coach Campbell. It’s really helpful for a potential student athlete to hear first- hand what it takes to get in and compete at one of the top colleges in the country.