Domestic Vs. Imported: The Growing Number of Foreign Athletes in DII Athletics

In the past -few years, the Jamaican and Trinidadian semi-professional relay teams have gone one-two in the Division II NCAA Nationals while representing different schools. Similarly, the second-place finisher in the javelin this year was from Canada, representing Alaska Anchorage, a school that regularly imports distance runners from Nigeria.

International recruitment is not limited to track and field at the Division II level. Distance runners from Africa and throwers from northern Europe routinely go to school on a full scholarship with the added benefit on the coachs side of an easy win in that athletes event. Swimmers and baseball players from South America are commonly found in collegiate competition, as well as basketball players from eastern Europe. Yes, these are sweeping generalizations, but the extent to which they are true has really surprised me through the years.

The question then comes down to this: Why would a coach not go get the very best athletes from around the world?

The first answer, of course would be money. Not every university has the means to recruit internationally, and some programs like the program here at UCSD just dont have enough scholarship money to attract these athletes.

Then there is the time commitment. Being a coach while recruiting athletes is like being a salesman. You have to sell your school to these athletes and close the deal, which takes time, finesse and money. The more time you spend on a good recruit, the more invested you are. If that falls through, you wasted time you could have used pursuing a domestic athlete that was not as good, but has potential. The risk is too high for many coaches who would otherwise like to have that big fish foreigner.

Finally, the moral side of international recruitment comes into play. Certainly, every coach wants to win, but at what cost? For every athlete that a head coach recruits from outside the U.S., that coach loses an ounce of credibility. In the scheme of things, that coach is stating that their program cannot take a good athlete and put him on the same level as that great foreign athlete.

For some coaches, this is not a problem. A team headed by a distance-oriented coach or athletic director is not going to be as morally conflicted by the prospect of adding a great foreign thrower to boost the team from last to first in the discus or shotput, because they might not have the resources to successfully build a portion of their program.

On the other side of the same coin, there are top-tier level programs like the University of Oregon. They simply get the very best athletes from wherever they are located and make them superstars. Regardless of their country of origin, they know taking the very best athletes and putting them in their system will create PAC12 and national championship teams as well as Olympic athletes. Rather than taking foreigners to temporarily fill holes in their program, they take them because they have a complete program.

And that brings us back to UCSD. Yes, the fact that we do not have much money is a factor, but at the heart of our department is the knowledge that we can create complete programs, to build teams that will win CCAA and NCAA championships. While other programs have perennially out-spent UCSD, the Tritons are still able to stay on top of the CCAA and have the right system in place to win at any level.

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