Author: Alex Nieves
Fall sports coaches set sights on acquiring strong class of 2017
For sports programs at Occidental College, the challenge of recruiting is substantially more difficult than at most schools, as the coaches have to contend with a variety obstacles as they attempt to find student-athletes that fit into their programs. While the work put in over countless practices so far this season is starting to translate into results on the field, off the field all of the different coaching staffs have already been hard at work, attempting to recruit a new crop of talent to make their programs even stronger for next season.
All of the sports programs at Occidental are affiliated with the NCAA Division III and this affiliation comes with strict rules about the role of finances in athletics. While Division I and Division II level coaches can offer scholarships and financial aid to potential recruits, the Division III rules state that no money can be given to students for the purpose of athletics. This immediately eliminates a large number of recruits that simply cannot afford the school or that can receive financial aid to play in a higher division.
“[Occidental] already has a higher price tag than most other schools,” cross country Assistant Coach Tyler Yamaguchi said. “In addition, [recruits] might be offered some money to go to those other schools, so that makes things extremely difficult.”
Money is not the only issue associated with Division III affiliation. Division III has the largest number of participants by far among the NCAA divisions. For instance, there are 240 Division III football programs compared to only 120 in Division I. This leads to increased competition among similar schools that are looking at the same pool of athletes.
“If you are Stanford, academically you don’t have a lot of other colleges that are going to be competing with you at that level.” Yamaguchi said. “With Oxy there are so many Division III schools that are very similar to us.”
It is no secret that the administration at Occidental does not make academic exceptions when accepting student-athlete applications, but this hurdle can also be seen as a blessing for the coaching staffs. With the school’s very high academic standards, a large number of potential recruits are eliminated right away, but it also lets the coaches know before hand what kind of kids they are going to get.
“Obviously we ask a lot out of [athletes] academically,” said men’s soccer Head Coach Rod Lafaurie. “So we’re looking for kids that seem to be well-rounded, that are just able to handle a lot.”
Although competing and studying at Occidental can prove to be very strenuous, as no extra academic support is given to athletes, the opportunity to excel on the field and in the classroom is the attractant that has brought so many athletes to Eagle Rock, CA.
“I can play football, just having that opportunity meant a lot to me,” said football player Ross Feigner (sophomore). “And then academically [Occidental] is top notch.”
The opportunities to have a chance to see playing time and be part of a close knit team are also main draws for many recruits who decide to attend Occidental. These are factors that can often be lost in the professional-like atmosphere of Division I athletics.
“I was hard pressed not to choose [Occidental],” said soccer player Alessandro Carotenuto (sophomore). “The amount of exposure and playing time I would be able to get and to be a part of a building program, and to take a team from the lower levels to a championship, seemed like a really awesome opportunity.”
As for the success their respective efforts to recruit for the class of 2017 thus far, the coaching staffs of all six fall sports have echoed the same message. It is still very early in the recruiting process, but there is real reason to be optimistic and excited about the potential of the incoming classes.
Football and water polo in particular have been drawing a lot of attention from the high school athletes. Over 50 football recruits and their parents showed up for the Tiger’s first home game of the season, a number that has never before been seen by the Occidental football program. Similarly, there are over 50 overnight visits scheduled between the men’s and women’s water polo teams for this semester alone.
“So far we’re generating a lot of interest,” said water polo Head Coach Larry Zubrin. “There’s no question that we’ll have a very strong pool of candidates applying to Occidental this year.”
Although football and water polo may be stealing the attention, all of the programs have been generating a lot of interest and there is a strong belief that they will bring in some of their best classes in recent years. If this interest continues, the Athletics Department as a whole could be in very good shape for the 2013 season and beyond.
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