'I thought in the long term it would work out best,' said Allen Park tight end Jake Barann, who picked the extra cost of Harvard over going to a Division I school for free. (David Guralnick / Detroit News)
Allen Park — Two incidents in the fall of the 2011 were setbacks in Jake Barann’s life. They would prove to be motivational, as well.
Midway through the football season Allen Park coach Tom Hoover moved up Barann, then a 6-foot-3, 190-pound tight end, from the junior varsity to the varsity. Allen Park was 5-0, poised to make a playoff run and Hoover wanted to give his promising sophomore varsity experience.
“We were playing (Gibraltar) Carlson,” Hoover said. “And on the first play Kodi Kieler (now at Michigan State) — he was a good player for them — blew him up. Ran right over him. Bam!”
As eye-opening, and painful, as that was for Barann, two months later he was given a B+ in AP (advanced placement) U.S. History. It’s the only grade below an A he has received in high school.
Mentally, it floored him the way Kieler had done so physically.
“It was a high B+,” Barann said. “It was my first AP course. I’m used to them now.”
Barann’s a quick learner. He became accustomed to the accelerated class work. And he learned just as quickly on the football field.
“He held his own after that,” Hoover said about the hit from Kieler. “He had the heart. That answered the questions we had.”
There aren’t that many question Barann can’t answer. With science the backbone of his studies, Barann has a 4.21 grade-point average and scored a 31 on the ACT.
He’s also proved himself on the football field. Barann, who grew three inches and gained 40 pounds since his varsity debut, was named to The Detroit News’ All-Metro West first team this past season. He had 48 receptions and had 40 tackles from his starting defensive end position.
Hoover expected a season like that from Barann, and college recruiters did, too.
“Those college coaches looked at two things,” Hoover said. “His grades and his height.”
In February 2013, Barann went to a one-day camp at Central Michigan, met coach Dan Enos and was offered a scholarship. Last summer, Bowling Green was next to offer a scholarship but Barann took his time deciding. He had received a letter from Princeton in late spring and yet didn’t consider an Ivy League school at that time.
“It was a recruiting letter,” he said. “I didn’t think it was that big of a deal.”
Hoover did and he began to work with contacts he had made on the East Coast. First there was Pennsylvania assistant coach Jim Schaefer.
“Jim comes by every year asking,” Hoover said. “He’s been here like 20 years in a row. I kept saying, no, no, no. This year, I told him I got one.”
Harvard and Yale also sent coaches to meet Barann. They liked what they saw.
“Harvard offered me a spot on the team,” Barann said. “I didn’t go to the Harvard camp. I worked out with one of the (Harvard) coaches in one-on-one drills at the Northwestern camp.”
The coach was so impressed with Barann that soon after Harvard assistant coach Joel Lamb flew in to meet Barann.
“Then a second coach came in,” Hoover said. “Then a third, the recruiting coordinator, flew in. And the fourth was head coach Tim Murphy. One coach, for different times.”
Barann was accepted to Harvard but Ivy League schools do not give athletic scholarships, so Barann and his family faced an important decision. Should he accept an offer from a Division I school and a free education or pay thousands to attend Harvard?
“We went to each school during the summer,” Barann said. “I called it the ‘July Tour.’ The peak of the tour was definitely Harvard.”
Financially, Ivy League schools work closely with the families of top athletes. Financial aid is available but the bill is still substantial. In the Baranns’ case the cost per school year is in the neighborhood of $26,000-$28,000 and that amount can fluctuate from year to year depending upon the family’s financial situation. The Baranns have a daughter, Becky, who is expected to graduate from Michigan State this year. That could push the figure higher.
Barann and his parents, Kris and Ed, decided on Harvard.
“(My parents) didn’t pressure me,” Barann said. “The recruiting was all new to them. It’s all new to me. It was a tough decision. I thought about the financial issues. Then there’s playing for a Division I school or Ivy League. I thought in the long term it would work out best.”