For most Harvard athletes, recruiting ended with a tough choice between Ivy League schools--none of them exactly a national athletic powerhouse.
But for some players, including David M. Sprinkle '96, recruiting meant taking a hard look at big-time athletics--and still choosing to play for the Crimson.
In high school, Sprinkle played football at Lake Brantley, a suburban high school near Orlando, Florida. At the start of his senior year, he was an all-state running back with ambitions of succeeding in big-time college football.
Perennial top-ten football schools such as the University of Florida and Florida State were among the universities courting Sprinkle, and he was positive he was headed for Division I-A.
"At that point, I wasn't really considering going to a Division I-AA school," Sprinkle says. "I definitely wasn't considering Harvard."
But the picture changed early during Sprinkle's senior year when coach Richard C. Corbin, the offensive coordinator under former football coach Joseph Restic, spoke with Sprinkle's guidance counselor. The counselor referred him to Sprinkle and two other players.
After a week or two, Corbin began recruiting them over the phone. The competition for Sprinkle was particularly stiff. Five or six schools called Sprinkle's home each week, and other colleges phoned more sporadically.
"All the attention was exciting," recalls Sprinkle. "I was a little nervous talking to coaches. You don't want to say the wrong thing because you don't know where you want to go and you want to keep all you options open."
But recruiting demands choices--especially when you will cost the school money.
Soon after the beginning of the school year. Sprinkle decided he didn't want to attend a Florida school, and he wanted to leave the state for college.
He ultimately whittled his list down to four schools: Tulane, the Air Force and Navy and, after a lot of thought, Harvard.
"I had some offers to go to other schools, but Coach Corbin was a very convincing recruiter. My mom loved him. He really buddy-buddied with her," Sprinkle says. "She couldn't believe that Harvard was searching out her son, you know."
After he had announced his intention to visit Harvard, a number of Division I-AA schools began calling to Sprinkle's chagrin.
"When I decided to take a trip to Harvard, then all of a sudden all these other Ivies called. The guy from Yale said I was their number one recruit," Sprinkle says. "But the only reason I'm even interested in Ivies is because Harvard is calling me, and I told them that."
Four schools eventually flew Sprinkle in to visit.