The Patriot League / Ivy League Misconception

The Patriot League and Ivy League have been linked together in many minds since the inception of the Patriot League about 25 years ago. There are three good reasons for this. One, the Patriot League was conceived, in part, to provide another league similar to the Ivy. Two, they are perceived as the two best academic D1 leagues in the country. Three, for a while they were the only two leagues in Division 1 that didn’t offer athletic scholarships. Ivy’s have never offered athletic scholarships. The Patriot League started out as a non-scholarship league, but that changed some time ago.

For some reason people, even those who should know better, still talk about Patriot and Ivy League schools as competing at the lowest level of D1 sports. They mention them as possible options for athletes who don’t have scholarship offers or are perceived to be marginal D1 athletes. This is particularly true in the revenue producing sports of football and basketball. Statements such as “well, he/she might be good enough to play at a Patriot or an Ivy” are still heard regularly. It’s an old perception that hasn’t been accurate for quite a while.

Here are two of the erroneous assumptions that lead to the misconception, followed by the reasons they are false.

  1. Schools can’t attract scholarship level athletes without scholarships
    1. Ivy League teams regularly get players who have scholarship offers. That’s right. Ivy schools beat scholarship schools for players every year.
      1. Extraordinary financial aid combined with the best educational opportunities makes the difference. Lots of schools offer scholarships. There are only a handful of Patriot and Ivy League schools.
        1. Families with a household income under $100,000 can expect to pay little or nothing for an Ivy League education.
      2. Their track record of success is so good they attract very talented athletes
    2. In the case of the non-revenue sports, these schools very often give more aid than scholarship schools. Think about how ironic that is. Why do you think they win titles in sports like lacrosse and hockey, and produce more than their share of Olympic athletes?
  2. The smartest kids generally aren’t the best athletes
    1. These schools are exceptional enough, and selective enough, that they attract student-athletes who excel in both categories

Here is just some of the evidence that Patriots and Ivys are anything but the lowest level D1 leagues.

  • The Princeton women’s basketball team is currently ranked 16th in the country
  • Both leagues are ranked comfortably in the middle of D1.
    • In basketball there are currently 15 leagues ranked lower than either the Ivy or Patriot. Those leagues include many perceived to be “better” such as the MAAC, Colonial, Conference USA, Northeast and Ohio Valley.
  • Both leagues have won more NCAA basketball tournament games than many of the leagues perceived to be at a higher level.
    • In recent years Cornell has played in the Sweet 16, while Bucknell, Lehigh and Harvard have had multiple wins as well
  • NCAA D1 basketball tournament seedings for Patriot and Ivy reflect their true level of play and talent. The leagues are getting a 12 or 13 seed, sometimes higher. That means there are about 10 – 15 leagues getting less respect from the committee.
  • Ivy and Patriot leagues have produced more professional draft picks and players over the last two decades than many of the leagues people perceive to play at a higher level.
    • In 2013 alone the Patriot League had a 1st and 2nd round NBA pick
      • Previous years produced lottery picks such 13 year NBA veteran Adonal Foyle
  • After the 2014 season two all-Ivy players transferred to other leagues. (They were out of Ivy eligibility). Both had multiple offers from big time conferences. One accepted a scholarship to Pitt (ACC), the other to UConn (AAC).

Parents and players are the ones losing out due to this lack of awareness. Too many dismiss these schools without even considering them, when choosing them should be an easy decision. When the facts are known, it’s shocking how many people pass up these educational opportunities without giving it a second thought.