Tuesday, February 24, 2009

trin squash

This past weekend the Trinity College squash team won its 11th straight national championship, keeping alive its NCAA record-breaking streak of 202 straight victories. The Bantams prevailed in dramatic fashion over the #2 ranked Princeton Tigers. The deciding match was between the top 2 players in the nation: Princeton's Mauricio Sanchez from Mexico and Trinity's Indian behemoth, Baset Chaudry. Sanchez had a commanding 5-0 lead in the 5th and final game of the match - 4 points from the national championship for his team. He went on to choke in typical Princeton fashion, dropping the game, match and season for the Tiglets.

Trinity's impressive streak proves also to be a huge triumph for the sport of squash. The team's accomplishments have landed it a number of bits on ESPN, notably the recent Outside the Lines segment that aired last week (can be seen here). Two years ago the team's coach, Paul Assaiante, was given the opportunity to throw the first pitch at a Red Sox game. As you might imagine, the crowd was mainly comprised of massholes shouting "what the f*ck is squash?!" That being said, I'm always thrilled to see my favorite sport be brought to national attention and given the accolades it deserves; after all, most Americans identify squash with lock-jawed New Englanders or the sport's retarded stepchild, racketball.

With all of the praise Trinity Squash receives and exposure it gives the sport, I just want to point out that they are not exactly competing on a level playing field. It is no secret that the Trinity coach, Paul Assiante, is given carte blanche by the school's administration to poach the world's top young players, regardless of their academic backgrounds or ability to pay tuition. It is a fact that the best squash is played outside of the U.S. Over the past 11 years, there have rarely been more than 1 or 2 Americans in the team's lineup. By contrast, the nation's other top programs must abide by far stricter admissions standards and have significantly more Americans filling their lineups. Trinity has undoubtedly raised the bar in college squash, but it has essentially transformed the recruiting process to an arms race for highly-trained foreign players.

Well if you've made it this far and want to see some squash in action, here are some dank highlights from the Tournament of Champions, one of the world's biggest squash tournies that takes place in Grand Central every February.


the turntable said...

trin squash is awesome! and the best part? the players are humble and some of the most genuine people i've ever met. GO TRINITY!!! 11 is heaven!

Anonymous said...

please, whoever you are, get your facts straight before you write an ignorant blog like this. every college squash team recruits from overseas, as a Div. 3 school Trinity cannot give scholarships to athletes either, in the same manner as the ivy league schools, and while it may not be as hard to gain admitance to Trinity as it is to Harvard or P'Ton, every single squash player has graduated, from what i gather has succeeded academically as well as athletically, and the bottom line is recruits attend Trinity b/c they want to win Nat'l championships, period. I think it's a pretty easy draw. I might also add that in his ENTIRE tenure as squash and tennis coach at Trinity College, Coach Paul A. has NEVER made a recruiting trip abroad. I repeat, NEVER! pretty difficult to w/ an annual budget of 8k usd (that includes meals at away matches and transportation during season). Pls check what the budgets are at Ivy League schools, then maybe change some of the harsh-wording above.
from a squash enthusaist, not a Trinity alum

Buck Dancer said...

Well I'd first like to point out that I never said Trinity gives athletic scholarships, I never said that Paul A. made a recruiting trip abroad, and I never commented on the budget of any team (unless of course you think a team's budget is the total amount of tuition aid its players are receiving). But thanks for those extraneous points.

I have a ton of respect for the players on Trinity's team, they are good dudes and sick players. Many (if not most) players on the team are from developing nations and understandably are not able to afford $40K/yr tuition. I think it's great that Trinity is an outlet for these guys. But let's be serious, the players are receiving aid packages from the school because they are sick at squash, not because they have proven themselves in academics or elsewehre. You noted that they go to Trinity because they want to win a nat'l championship. I agree with you completely, that is why they are there and that is why the school wants them there.

If the president of Princeton told Bob Callahan: "I want to be the best this year", (as the Assiainte points out the Trinity president told him - at 3:05 in the espn clip), they would undoubtedly be successful. There are not too many people who would opt for Trinity over Princeton if given the choice (unless of course a school's academics, campus, clout, history, post-graduate opportunities, etc. are not things a young squash player values). But the reason Callahan (and other Ivy League and top-tier NESCAC coaches) aren't able to do this is two-fold:

First, Princeton does not place as high a value on squash relative to other sports as Trinity does. The squash facilities alone demonstrate this - Trinity's is noticably nicer and Princeton's endowment is over 40x that of Trinity. Princeton would prefer to see an Ivy League football crown or a lacrosse national championship because that is what gets them on ESPN and attracts large donations... history has shown that squash could never do that for them. Trinity, on the other hand, has won plenty of NESCAC football titles, but that is the highest achievement they can attain and no one outside of New England even knows what the NESCAC is. The opportunity for Trinity to consistently defeat larger, superior schools in a sport is as sexy a proposition as they come. I credit the school for recognizing that an additional 3 or 4 nasty athletes make a greater marginal impact on the squash team than they would for any other team.

Along these lines, the opportunity cost for accepting 3 or 4 additional squash players each year is much higher for Princeton. By doing so, the school would be forced to deny admission to a valedictorian, concert pianist, or a 6'6" shooting guard who speaks 3 languages - all of whom arguably would provide more utility to the school than an additional squash player. Trinity, on the other hand, as an institution, benefits more from the national celebrity of its squash program than it is damaged by denying admissions to one of its typical applicants.

Paul A. is a great guy and coach, but the success of the team begins with decisions that are made on a macro level. I am not saying the school is cheating, I was simply reiterating that the school's integrity on the matter is questionable, as highlighted in the Outside the Lines segment. Trinity has a big advantage over the majority of its competitors, which severely undermines its success.

Anonymous said...

Well after reading the above, I must admit it I think you're wrong about the Trinity athletes. I'm not trying to take sides here but I thought that you should know...
Before the finals, there was a awards ceremony, and the scholar athlete award was given. This to the juniors or seniors who had above a 3.5 GPA and had played in 75 % of the matches
Of the 56 teams playing there were 62 recipients. Our Trinity College had 4! In fact the number one and two ranked players in the country are Trinity boys and scholar athletes. A fact that should make us all very proud. I know that I am.

-Proud Trinity Alum

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