At the Division I level, nearly all basketball programs throughout the country offer full ride scholarship offers. Per NCAA rules, these Division I schools have to extend scholarship that meet full tuition. But one conference differs from that rule. That conference is the Ivy League and they are and have been against giving full scholarship offers for basketball.
The Ivy League also does the same in other sports as well. This is a conference that plays at the Division I level but does not hand out athletic scholarships for football, baseball, hockey, or any other sport that you can think of. Instead, the students are awarded financial aid on the same standards that apply to all students. Basically what that means for coaches in the Ivy League is that it could easily be among the hardest jobs in the country.
So the first thing that differs when comparing Ivy League recruits with other Division I schools is that they will not be handing out athletic scholarships based skills in your chosen sport. While schools will do what they can to help you financially, the conference will lose athletes to other Division I schools because they can offer a full ride.
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The second, and something most people know, is that you need to be very intelligent to be able to not only compete in Ivy League sports, but attend an Ivy League school. Regardless of how things go on the athletic side of things, leaving college with a degree from Harvard, Princeton, Dartmouth, Cornell, or any of the other Ivy League programs is a huge advantage during the next forty plus years that you are working. And as I have said many times before, you need to use your sport to your advantage and get the most out of it that you can. If that is an Ivy League education, then you really can’t do a whole lot better.
For those that are interested in seriously learning more about how the athletic recruiting process works for Ivy League schools, I would recommend checking out Playing the Game: Inside Athletic Recruiting in the Ivy League. This book by Chris Lincoln is a great look inside what these colleges are looking for and really how difficult it is to find athletes that fit what the Ivy League is looking for.
One of the things that book talks in-depth about is that the majority of the schools have to recruit at a national level. Few other schools, regardless of the level, really recruit at a national level (Maybe USC in football and North Carolina in basketball but few others really do). The Ivy League coaches have to do that because they are looking for outstanding athletes who excel academically. And in the end, most of the schools actually end up recruiting the same athletes because there is such a small pool to draw from.
The perfect athlete that a school like Harvard, Brown, Yale, or Penn is looking for is someone who is a great athlete, strong in academics, and comes from a house that does not make much money. The reason money matters is that the lower income that your parents make, the more that they can help you financially. While some schools have gone away from student loans and are using their endowment to pay for the education of students, not every program in the Ivy League has switched to that format. In 2001, Princeton entirely replaced student loans with grant increases for all students. They took these steps so that they could not only get better students, but also better athletes.
Another major aspect where there is a difference is in the National Letters of Intent. Because athletes are not signing scholarship papers, they are not signing anything. And with aid agreements, they are not binding so you have until you enroll in the fall to change your mind. That is another reason why coaching in the league is a difficult process.
For more information, please check out Playing the Game: Inside Athletic Recruiting in the Ivy League or this Rivals High article that talks about Ivy League recruiting for athletes.
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