The Recruit, An Original Screenplay

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Cast
Coaches Martin, Allen and Amaker
Carson Fitzgerald, Coveted Prep Basketball Player
Mrs. Dorothy Fitzgerald, Carson’s Mother, an Administrative Assistant,
Mr. Leo Fitzgerald, Carson’s Father, an Insurance Salesman,
Door, Himself

Act I
Scene I

Carson Fitzgerald is a four star basketball recruit from Boca Raton, Florida. He’s a 6’5” swingman with crafty moves on the court as well as in the classroom. His perfect SAT scores, high GPA and numerous other academic awards make him an ideal candidate for an Ivy League school. A bit of a math/science oddball, Carson is oblivious to the seemingly endless parade of college coaches that appear at his door. Instead, he prefers to play with his iPad while his parents speak for him. On this night, sometime in the summer of 2013, we find the family lounging in their living room when the doorbell rings.

Door: Ding Dong

Coach Martin: Good evening, I’m Coach Mike Martin of Brown University.

Mrs. Fitzgerald: Oh, please come in and make yourself at home.

Coach Martin, wearing a rumpled blue suit he picked up at the Men’s Warehouse in a mall outside Warwick, Rhode Island, is sweating profusely in the intense Florida heat.

Coach Martin: Thank you Ma’am. Hey, you must be Carson. (He says with his hand extended but Carson completely ignores him and continues to play with his iPad.)

Mr. Fitzgerald: Brown University? Where is that Coach?

Coach Martin: It’s in Providence, Rhode Island.

Mr. Fitzgerald: (Excited) Y’hear that son, you can play for Providence in the Big East! Villanova, Georgetown, St. John’s, that’s top competition!

Carson: (never looking up from his iPad) I submit that the Wu Tang Clan is neither Wu nor Tang nor Clan, but merely a cooperative.

Coach Martin: (Slightly bewildered by Carson’s non sequitur) No, no, no, not Providence College. Brown University, you know, an Ivy League school. (Unfazed by the confusion, Coach Martin reaches into a wrinkled manila envelope and pulls out a moist sheet of paper with a Letter of Intent offer.)

Mrs. Fitzgerald: Where does it say how much we get in scholarship money? (She asks while looking over the letter.)

Coach Martin: Ivy League Universities don’t give out athletic scholarships. The total cost of his tuition would be about $60,000 a year, and our generous financial aid would cut that cost to around $40,000 for your family. But hey we have great group of young players on the team right now. I think we can absolutely compete for our second Ivy Championship and of course Carson will get a top flight education. Trust me, Brown is a great school. I played ball there for four years myself.

Mr. Fitzgerald: (Eyeing the Coach suspiciously) Holy Cow, 40 Gs! Jeeze, we don’t have that kind of dough. That Coach Karzarinsky from Duke was here last week and told us Carson could get a completely free ride if he went there. How come my son can’t get a free ride at ‘Braun’?

Coach Martin: I’m sorry, but that’s not how the Ivy League works when it comes to recruiting student athletes.

(There is an uncomfortable quiet in the room as Coach Martin waits for a response. Finally, Mrs. Fitzgerald breaks of the silence)

Mrs. Fitzgerald: Well….. thank you for coming all the way down here to see us. (She says as she shows Coach Martin to the door.) Let us think about it OK, have a nice night.

Coach Martin: Thank you Ma’am, and it was nice meeting you Carson (extending his hand once again which Carson continues to ignore).

Door: Slam

*****

Scene II
One week later the same scene repeats itself

Door: Ding Dong

Coach Allen: Good evening, I’m Coach Jerome Allen from Penn.

Coach Allen, wearing a red and blue striped tie and a gray, neatly pressed, custom-made Italian suit he picked up in Perugia, Italy while a player in the Italian League, appears comfortable in the intense Florida heat save for a few droplets of sweat perched atop is bald head.

Coach Allen: Thank you Ma’am. Hey, you must be Carson. (He says as he walks pigeon-toed over to Carson with his hand extended but the boy completely ignores him and continues to play with his iPad.)

Mr. Fitzgerald: Penn? (Excited) Y’hear that son,

you can play for Penn State in the Big Ten! Indiana, Notre Dame, Michigan, Ohio State that’s top competition!

Carson: (never looking up from his iPad) I consider the Boeing 747 Classic to be the most elegant union of industrial art and engineering of the last half century.

Coach Allen: (Slightly bewildered by Carson’s non sequitur) No, no, no, not Penn State . The University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, you know, an Ivy League school. We’ve won twenty five Ivy Basketball titles and have over 1700 Division I wins. (Unfazed by the confusion, Coach Allen reaches into the supple, crocodile skin man purse he purchased on the Via Veneto in Rome and pulls out a neatly folded, cologne scented sheet of paper with a Letter of Intent offer.)

Mrs. Fitzgerald: Where does it say how much we get in scholarship money? (She asks, looking over the letter.)

Coach Allen: Ivy League Universities don’t give out athletic scholarships. The total cost of his tuition would be about $60,000 a year, and our generous financial aid would cut that to around $35,000 for your family. But right now we have a good, young team that I think can compete for another Ivy title. I’d like Carson to be part of it. Not only that, but of course he’ll get a top flight education. The Wharton School of Business is the best in the country. Trust me, Penn is a great school. I played there myself before being drafted by the NBA.

Mr. Fitzgerald: (Eyeing the Coach suspiciously) Holy Cow, 35 Gs! Jeeze, we don’t have that kind of dough. That Coach Pew from Gonzalez was here last week and told us Carson could get a completely free ride if he went there. How come my son can’t get a free ride at ‘Penn State’?

Coach Allen: I’m sorry, but that’s not how the Ivy League works when it comes to recruiting student athletes.

(There is an uncomfortable quiet in the room as Coach Allen waits for a response. Finally, Mrs. Fitzgerald breaks off the silence)

Mrs. Fitzgerald: Well….. thank you for coming all the way down here to see us. (She says as she shows Coach Allen to the door.) Let us think about it OK, have a nice night.

Coach Allen: Thank you Ma’am, and it was nice meeting you Carson (extending his hand once again which Carson continues to ignore).

Door: Slam

*****

Scene III
One week later the same scene repeats itself

Door: Ding Dong

Coach Amaker: Good evening, I’m Coach Tommy Amaker from Harvard.

Coach Amaker, wearing an open collar white shirt and blue sport coat appears entirely cool and comfortable in the intense Florida heat.

Mrs. Fitzgerald: Oh, please come in and make yourself at home.

Coach Amaker: Thank you Ma’am. (He removes his sunglasses even though its 9 PM.) Hey, you must be Carson. (Amaker says with his hand extended but Carson completely ignores him and continues to play with his iPad.)

Mr. Fitzgerald: Hey, ain’t you that kid from Duke?

Coach Amaker: That’s right, I am. Wow, (he declares staring wistfully at the ceiling) we had some good, good times back in Durham. I’m glad you remember me.

Carson: (never looking up from his iPad) I believe the space time continuum can be explained not just in terms of the supergalactic and the subatomic, but also on a more moderate plane which I prefer to call, “the deliberate.”

Coach Amaker: (Without skipping a beat) That’s fantastic Carson, really fantastic. (Then Amaker pauses and takes a breath) I’m the Men’s Basketball Coach at Harvard. We just won our third straight Ivy title and made it to the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Maybe you saw us on TV?

Mr. Fitzgerald: Yeah, I saw when that poor kid chipped his tooth.

Coach Amaker: We have a good young group of players and I think we‘re at the beginning of, what I like to call, “The Harvard Dynasty” in Ivy League basketball. Now as I’m sure you know, the Ivy League doesn’t give out athletic scholarships and the cost of tuition is expensive, about $60,000 a year. However Harvard has a generous financial package. If your family is making less than $65,000 a year, Carson would be provided with a free education. If you make between $65,000 and $150,000 a year, you would be responsible for no more than 10 percent of your income. In your case, it sounds like that”s just $15,000 a year.

Then the Coach stops talking and looks intently at Mrs. Fitzgerald.

Coach Amaker: So what do you think? In four years Carson will leave Cambridge with a Harvard degree. That of course is the most priceless commodity in all of higher education. He will have attended the number one school in the world.

Mrs. Fitzgerald walks over to Carson, who for the first time looks up from his iPad.

Mrs. Fitzgerald: You’re going.

*****

Scene IV

Carson appears alone on a darkened stage with a single spotlight

Carson: I’ve seen a lot of coaches over the last year and they’ve all been nice and everything, but I’ve never heard of Brown and I thought Penn was a state school. But Harvard……I mean, like, everyone’s heard of Harvard. My Mom always says I can’t play ball forever. So maybe if I play for Coach Amaker, no matter what I do afterward, I’ll always have that degree. I suppose in the end, no one can beat the Harvard brand.

Fin.

This has been a Notorious T.A.Q. Production®

[Editor”s Note: These financial aid figures were run using the Brown, Penn, and Harvard financial aid calculators on the respective admissions websites for a single-child family from Florida that does not own a home and makes $150,000 a year with $100,000 in assets. The disparity between Harvard”s financial aid and other Ivies” varies depending on the specific financial situation of a prospective student.]

19 thoughts on “The Recruit, An Original Screenplay

  1. To the extent that Harvard is honestly and sincerely calculating financial aid for recruited athletes in the same manner as it does for other students, it’s difficult to object to generous aid packages. After all, we wouldn’t expect Harvard to treat its athletes any LESS well than non-athletes.

    The AQ’s discomfort may result, perhaps subconsciously, from witnessing Harvard’s aggressiveness in every other aspect of basketball recruiting. If Tommy Amaker is asking Kenny Blakeney to drive a hundred miles to play pick-up hoops with Max Kenyi, it’s probably not a big leap of faith to think he’s putting a few calls into the financial aid office to make sure that his guys get the benefit of every doubt accounting-wise. Determining financial aid for any student necessarily involves some subjectivity and a phone call from Tommy could conceivably be worth another $10,000.

    More broadly, while seeing Harvard aggressively dispense financial aid to athletes must frustrate other Ivy coaches, I would think that the bigger impact results from recruiting so extensively at the bottom of the AI range. Generous financial aid may allow Harvard to win a cross admit or two from Brown or Penn. I’ll bet Martin or Allen care a lot more about the fact Amaker is recruiting several low AI players for each one that they are allowed to admit by the university administrations.

  2. All good points Mr. Fair. I think you hit the crux of this contentious issue. Regardless, no one (not even the “We Try Harder” Bulldogs or the supercilious Tigers) can compete with the Harvard name. It appears then that Mr. Amaker has begun an arms race of sorts in The League. All schools now need better athletes to compete with The Crimson. Whether he stays or goes, the genie is forever out of the bottle for Ivy basketball and it will never be the same. (Which, of course, is both good and bad but that is a discussion for another day.)
    One more thing….
    Former UConn coach Calhoun once said that the single most important thing in college coaching is having talent. “Without talent you cannot win.” On the other hand, former Tiger coach Carill once said, “The kids that can put me on TV every night can’t get passed the admissions office.” Somehow Coach Amaker has managed to get both.

    The AQ

    • The Ivy League recruiting genie is definitely out of the bottle right now, but might still return to its original home, much like Jeannie would go back to her pillow-laden cocoon when Major Tony Nelson so commanded her.

      I can think of two possibilities immediately, neither highly likely, but their combined probability is at least 10-20%.

      The first general possibility is the Ivy League making a change to the AI as it pertains to men’s basketball. That change could be something like: (a) implementing an AI banding system, as is currently the case with football; or (b) eliminating AI target averages for each school, to be replaced with an AI floor. Either (a) or (b) would essentially eliminate Harvard’s current advantage in AI recruiting. This is basically what happened in the early 1980’s when HYP moved to curtail what had been perceived as Penn’s ambitious goals in men’s basketball. That’s how we got the AI in the first place.

      The second broad possibility would entail a change in administration at Harvard. The Dean of the College and, to a lesser extent, the President of the University are currently under a great deal of criticism for searching the e-mail accounts of the House resident deans. If either or both eventually resign, I can see some changes trickling down to AD Bob Scalise, whom I assume reports to the Dean of the College. A new dean might curtail what has to date been Scalise’s free reign to recruit aggressively.

      • I am a faithful follower of this site. The back and forth on the supposed recruiting advantage enjoyed by Harvard is often humorous, always interesting and usually informative. “Barbara Eden’s” reform possibilities strike me as wildly unrealistic. Why a change in administration might result in Harvard disarming unilaterally in the recruiting wars is by no means clear. If I were appointed Dean of the College the reversal of a policy which has yielded three Ivy titles (so far) and has fostered, according to The Crimson, a sense of community on campus would not be high on my “To Do” list.
        It is my understanding that the AI was introduced because of a concern that athletes in the so-called revenue sports were being recruited with questionable academic qualifications. I do not believe the policy was instituted solely in response to a perception regarding Penn basketball. No one has argued here that Amaker recruits below the AI, only that Harvard may allocate more low AI slots to basketball than was formerly the case. Banding in a sport in which three recruits a year is sufficient to sustain a program may hurt Brown, for instance, as much as it restricts Harvard. It may well be that schools have different priorities in allocating their low AI slots than Harvard.

        • The benefit of concentrating low AI recruiting slots in the basketball program has been obvious since the 1980’s, when the NCAA tournament really started to become the media phenomenon that it is today. So the temptation has been there for approximately four decades. Throughout almost that entire time, Harvard has maintained its historic high AI standards, consistent with overall HYP board scores and grades. So under presidents Bok, Rudenstine and Summers, Harvard went one way. Under Faust, it’s going another. More precisely, Scalise wanted to go that way and Faust did not stop him. I don’t pretend to know President Faust or Dean Hammonds, but I think it’s fair to say that neither has a particularly strong personality. If Faust were to be replaced with someone whose temperament is closer to that of Summers, I can imagine him saying to Scalise, “Okay, knock off the funny business. We’re the world’s greatest university, not some rule-bending SEC sports factory.”

          As far as the origins of the AI are concerned, I’ll leave it to the old timers and Penn fans to chime in, but many Ivy fans believe that the AI was introduced after Penn had accomplished great things in basketball during the 1970’s, spending most of the decade nationally ranked (as high as #2) and of course going to the Final Four in 1979. HYP had their suspicions that Penn was taking liberties at the admissions office and moved to put Penn and the rest of the League on the AI. In the words of then-president Ronald Reagan, HYP wanted to “trust, but verify [and quantify].” This is not my personal theory, but a cause-and-effect referenced often on the Penn thread at the Ivy Basketball board. Penn fans there note the long-term hypocrisy of HYP initiating the AI to reign in Penn, then thirty years later Harvard bending the AI rules to its own advantage.

          • I remain confused by your argument. If Harvard operates within the AI rules, which you appear to acknowledge when you raise the rather nebulous concept of “rule-bending,” what is the basis for revising the system? The fact that Harvard has enjoyed success? If Harvard is doing what the other schools are able to do, why punish its success? Are you suggesting that “HYP” should be treated differently than the other members of the League? “Verify and quantify” what, exactly? Funny business, indeed!

          • Speaking from one Old Timer to another,

            An American citizen who keeps all his financial assets in the Cayman Islands can be said to be following all IRS rules in terms of paying taxes he is obligated to pay. He is not breaking any laws.

            But is he being a good citizen? As Americans, we all receive the benefits of living in this country, such as national defense, police protection, highways and parks. Somebody has to pay for all of that. And that’s not even counting intangible benefits such as the many freedoms which we enjoy.

            There’s some degree of analogy with being a member of a collegiate conference. Is it satisfactory for one university merely to not be explicitly breaking any rules? Or would we hope that all members aim higher than that in terms of behavior?

            The AI was introduced to ensure that the varsity athletes at each Ivy were representative of its larger student body. Importantly, the conference chose not to implement a one-size-fits-all structure. Harvard, Yale and Princeton were held to a higher standard in athletic recruiting, consistent with their broader student bodies. And for roughly four decades, HYP did indeed hold themselves to that higher standard.

            Today, various observers disagree: Harvard’s basketball program is either recruiting at the Ivy floor, below all seven other members, or it’s recruiting close to that level. Nobody challenges the general criticism that Harvard has deviated sharply from what Yale and Princeton continue to do, namely, recruit at a higher level commensurate with the Ivy principle that athletes should reflect their general student populations.

            The AI system was set up with tight parameters for football because it was assumed that there was the greatest temptation to cheat in football. The AI was left essentially on the honor system for all 32 other Ivy sports. Today, with the NCAA basketball tournament having developed into the media property it is, arguably the greatest temptation to cheat is now in men’s basketball.

            Harvard has already been assessed one NCAA secondary violation and continues to push the envelope in recruiting. The questions before us now are, “What, if anything, can be done to improve the AI system? And do we define any improvement in terms of all eight schools or just one?”

            To get back to the beginning of this post, do we ask solely that members not explicitly violate rules or do we want to encourage a higher standard of citizenship than that?

  3. The AQ’s treatment, in a nearly humorous way, of the supposed financial aid advantage Harvard enjoys in the recruiting wars is informative. Harvard’s policies apply to all students admitted, not just athletes, and should be admired for that reason, as well as envied. The “low AI” recruit is, by definition, eligible for admission to any Ivy school. How the schools allocate their quota of recruits on the lowest rungs of the ladder among the many sports competing for talent is up to each individually.
    Since one or two players in a class can make the difference the AI aspect of the arms race ought to be the easiest in which to compete. Someone has to tell the hockey and/or lacrosse coach that he must take one for the school. It must not be that easy at Princeton since the AD, a basketball guy and a Carril protégé, could not keep SJ in the fold.
    Harvard’s budget for basketball has been the highest in the League for several years, reflecting the institutional commitment made in Cambridge. (I don’t know if the reported budget reflects booster support. If booster money is used to enhance Amaker’s compensation, as has been reported, this fact alone could account for Harvard’s budget rank, since booster money for a coach must be paid out by the University, under NCAA rules applicable through 2012.)
    I hope the arms race analogy proves false. The purpose of an “Ivy League” at its inception was to create an athletic conference in which no arms race would be necessary. The rejection of the athletic scholarship and the later adoption of the AI concept are steps designed to avoid just such a state. If Amaker’s program is within the rules then we must admit that his advantages are not “unfair.” Rules, to the extent subject to interpretation as applied, can result in unintended consequences. If the Ivy model is worth preserving and if it is jeopardized by Amaker’s shenanigans we can expect a reaction. But moving the bureaucracy brings to mind another literary analogy: the tar baby.
    A Supercilious Tiger

    • I should have added that, given the budget amount of approximately $1,225,000.00, Amaker’s salary could not approach the figures I have seen in speculation on discussion platforms such as this one. It might be easier, however, to get AI data than Ivy League coaching salary info. It may be that he has found his niche in Cambridge and that his wife’s position means as much to her as coaching to him.

      • What are the budget amounts for the other Ivies?

        You believe that reported budgets include supplemental compensation paid by boosters groups, correct?

        In general, university athletic accounting is notoriously difficult to compare across various institutions because they have different bookkeeping treatments for fixed and amortized costs. That may be less true when comparing one single sport to another single sport, but I would still take the reported numbers with a grain of salt.

        • bbstate.com reports D1 basketball expenses for 2012:
          Rank School Amount
          254 Harvard $1,225,000.00
          275 Penn $1,080,000.00
          292 Princeton $994,000.00
          312 Dartmouth $879,000.00
          313 Columbia $874,000.00
          320 Yale $831,000.00
          326 Cornell $800,000.00
          334 Brown $664,000.00
          Whether these amounts include payments made by booster groups is unknown. It is my understanding that the NCAA does not prohibit booster money being used for compensation to coaches but requires that it be paid out by the school rather than by the boosters directly. Since the Ivy does not give scholarships the aid received by players does not show up in this report. This may account for higher budget amounts for Bucknell and Lehigh, for instance.
          If booster money is in the Harvard number Amaker’s salary could not be much higher than $500,000.00, which is chicken feed for the bigger D1 programs, and some of the smaller ones, too.

          • Amaker made $600,000 per year under his contract at Michigan. I would think that he started at Harvard somewhere in the same neighborhood financially, as the basketball boosters group proudly described to Bloomberg News its extensive efforts to raise money to finance Amaker’s arrival at Harvard. His Harvard contract was renegotiated after the 2012 season in the wake of his turning down a $1.1 million deal (for each of five years) from the University of Miami.

          • If you google “Harvard professor salaries” you find that the top salary is $260,000.00. If Amaker makes substantially more than the $600,000.00 he made at Michigan we can infer two things: a. The boosters gave $500,000.00 for his compensation, and b. Harvard pays more than 50% of its bball budget to its coach.

      • Boston Globe article from last fall stated that Sen. Elizabeth Warren made $ 360,000 per annum teaching one class last year. I think the faculty salaries are far higher than $ 260,000.

        • I’m always a little surprised when people generalize broadly from one data point. I don’t know what Elizabeth Warren’s deal was, but faculty salaries across colleges are notoriously public. The American Association of University Professors conducts a regular survey. The top schools in terms of average pay for full-time full professors:

          1. Harvard $191,200
          2. Columbia $188,600
          3. Chicago $184,100
          4. Stanford $181,400
          5. Princeton $181,000

          By far, the highest paid faculty at any university are the medical school professors, followed by law and then business. So a run-of-the-mill arts and sciences professor is probably in the $150,000 range. Tommy Amaker likely makes something on the order of four or five times the salary of a generic Harvard politics or chemistry full professor.

          • Following this thread prompted me to contact the President of the FOPB, a former player who donates his time freely to the organization. If I understand what he told me (and if I did not the responsibility is totally mine), the booster group underwrites all of the expenses of recruiting, as one example. He does not believe that the payments by the Friends group appear on the University’s “basketball budget” figures, although the disbursements are made from an account controlled (for security purposes) by the University. While faculty salaries may be “notoriously public” coaching salaries are not. Published budget figures don’t tell us much either.

  4. While TT’s budget numbers might explain why MM might wear rumpled suits, I don’t believe Mike has even been seen with a wrinkle. Perhaps Allen helped find him an Italian tailor during his hiatus in Philadelphia. Otherwise, entertaining AQ.

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