Ivy League athletics. "What about 'em?" you ask. That's exactly right. What the heck is with Ivy League athletics today? Their teams are among the nation's elite. How did that happen?

For us Baby Boomers, back in the 1950's and 1960's, Harvard and Yale and Princeton used to be the leaders in college athletics. Throw in Penn, too. It seemed to be where the best students and athletes attended school. The rich kids were always the best athletes, and their parents could send them to the best schools. And who doesn't want to have an Ivy League graduate in the family?

Well, all that changed many decades ago. The best and brightest and wealthiest still attended Ivy League schools. But administrators within the ivy-covered institutions of higher learning decided that athletics wasn't a big deal, that academics was where the concentration should stay. Only because the rich alumni demanded that athletics be kept a part of the college experience did sports survive on those exemplary campuses.

Flash forward to the 1990's and the role of television within collegiate athletics. Multi-million dollar television contracts were giving way to multi-billion dollar contracts. Public universities and colleges were beginning to see a recruiting advantage by growing their athletic facilities and grabbing a piece of the NCAA monetary giftbag. And winning teams seemed to be a magnet for alumni donations. And the war of building athletic facilities to lure the best college athletes had begun.

Still the Ivy League top dogs didn't see any advantage in spending their mammoth endowments on athletic facilities if they didn't need to. But a funny thing happened on the way to the bank for many private schools that continued to beg for donations, yet hoarded the money without increasing scholarships to their students. And as far as Ivy League administrators were concerned, it wasn't anyone's business what they did with their exploding endowments.

Then the federal government started to get wind of the amounts of money in the overflowing endowments of these wealthy public and private endowments. We're talking billions of dollars. And the rumor of taxing some of that endowment money began to surface. And then the bullets of sweat on the foreheads of foundation leaders and university presidents began to break out. And then the spending started to happen, especially within the Ivy League.

Today, the Ivy League has a number one wrestling team at Cornell, a top-25 men's basketball team at Harvard, and a past number one men's ice hockey program at Yale. In the past two years, the Ivy League has produced 108 first-team All-Americans and won numerous individual national championships. Nineteen of its athletes competed at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, and 10 won medals. So why are Ivy League schools now competing with the USC's, Alabama's, and Texas's of the collegiate athletic world? Money, baby!

Ivy League schools are dropping big bucks for scholarships and grants that match or surpass any athletic incentives from your public big-time athletic programs. Things they hadn't been doing in the past to this degree. The Ivy Leaguers have decided they better open those huge endowments to help more middle-income families with recruitable student-athletes that couldn't afford to attend in the past.

The Ivy League has decided to jump into the fray of big-time college athletics to draw the best student-athletes to their hallowed campuses. And if the Ivy League gets serious about college athletics, with all the money they have stashed away, look for more athletic headlines to mention the "surge" in Ivy League dominance in coming years.

Author's Bio: 

Steve Brennan, a former educator and college basketball coach, has Masters degrees in Educational Administration and Sport Psychology, and a Doctorate in Performance and Health Psychology. He is the author of several books, including Six Psychological Factors for Success and The Recruiters Bible (3rd Edition). He is President of Peak Performance Consultants, and the President and CEO of the Center for Performance Enhancement Research and Education (CPERE). Steve is the developer of the Success Factors Scales, both Corporate and Athletics Editions. http://www.peakperformanceconsult.com and http://thebestcollegerecruiter.com/