‘They’re not going to come find you.’
Amherst is not the only college or university in the nation aggressively diversifying its athletic rosters — hundreds have done so. But coaches at other small colleges suggested in off-the-record conversations that diversity recruiting is demonstrably easier for Amherst because of its deep financial resources, including an endowment of $2.4 billion. About 55 percent of its students receive need-based scholarships and the average aid package is nearly $56,000. It is also true that a 2017 study by The New York Times highlighted that 21 percent of the students at Amherst, which has an intimidating 11 percent acceptance rate, came from households whose annual income ranks in the top 1 percent nationwide.
But since Amherst is a small liberal arts college that does not award athletic scholarships and is free from the pressures of big-time football and basketball, it is well positioned to make the case that sustained, aggressive, tactical recruiting — along with some extra dollars in the recruiting budget — could substantially alter the look of college teams.
Moreover, the college’s officials, and prominent members of the youth sports community, insist the Amherst initiative can be, and should be, replicated elsewhere around the country.
“What Amherst is doing is not so unique that it can’t be replicated,” said Ray Selvadurai, the director of coaching for the Manhattan Soccer Club, which represents about 1,500 boys and girls from age 5 to 23. “If university presidents put their support behind it, it will happen for sure.”
Justin Serpone, the Amherst men’s soccer coach, agreed.
“The most important step is having the college’s leadership tell its coaches point blank that being diverse is an overwhelming priority,” Serpone said. “And that is something that can be done anywhere.”
Now in his 13th year at Amherst, Serpone, whose team is roughly half athletes of color and currently the top-ranked Division III team in the nation, has become renowned in the youth soccer community for his commitment to finding players from varied backgrounds.