UpperValley, I am a great fan of LACs and though some are not ranked or as well known as the bigger schools, they can be wonderful. I have a friend from years ago who went to Durango, CO for cycling. His dad was in higher education for years an felt that the school was a great match for the kid and was the best way for him to continue cycling in college. I don't remember the college name, just the name of the town.
And my son just graduated from a little LAC in your town, probably minutes from you. He turned down IVy to go there and loved every minute of his years there. It could not have been a better match for him an dthe academics were top notch,, but more importantly served up the way he could best absorb them. The only down side is that everyone here thinks he went to a small state school out west and their eyes glaze over at the cocktail parties A nice merit award was in the picture to soften the high cost as well. Frankly, at the time it was not my first choice for him, but it was the best match for him.
My suggestion to you and your athlete son is to look at some like colleges and have him visit and compare. My oldest was a college athlete and at that lever of competition, the match between the progam and the kid is very important as it can be a good part of the college life.