football locker room. A player… Nate… hears two teammates fighting
around a corner. He goes to investigate.
not,” says the first teammate.
too,” says the second.
it, hold it,” says Nate. “What’s the problem here?”
says the first player, “Tom says Wichita is a state, and I say
says Nate, “we both know that Tom went to Wichita State. Therefore,
Wichita must be a state.”
~ ~ ~
above conversation is partially correct. I can’t remember the
character names or actors involved (so I just inserted Tom, Jim
and Nate), but as I recall it this was an actual scene and pretty
close to the true dialogue exchange from the HBO series 1st
and Ten. Recently, the NCAA announced some changes to how
it will hold institutions accountable for graduation rates. And
when I heard what they planned to do, I was reminded of this exchange.
first the background…
graduation rates at certain schools, and actually for certain
coaches, have long been available for us to review (or at least
seek out). In some instances, usually (and understandably) when
the record is exceptional, it is prominently displayed in media
guides and press clippings.
the past decade, I think it’s fair to say that the NCAA has been
facing increasing problems. The NBA is a tremendous example, where
the most talented players aren’t even going to college for a year
or two. Players like Carmello Anthony are the rare exception,
and LeBron James has become a norm.
there’s football. This year the NFL’s policy on entering the draft
faced its most serious challenge to date. At one point it actually
appeared as though several players, previously ineligible due
to a rule concerning high school graduation dates, would be allowed
to enter the draft. Instead, they were again declared ineligible
just days before the draft was held. (The long-understood belief
though is that physically football players just aren’t ready to
make the jump from high school to the pro level, and need three
or four years of play before attempting it.)
should probably give you my take on college athletics right here.
First of all, they are for all true intents and purposes a business.
Second, there is a funnel effect in place. Not every athlete from
high school will be able to play for a college team. There are
far fewer roster spots on the college level. By the same logic,
not every college athlete will be able to play professionally.
Third, in many cases… business or not… if these players earned
a roster spot they are being afforded a chance at an education
they might otherwise not have had an opportunity to obtain.
to the NCAA…
ran an article from an Associate Press report
that explains most of what recently happened. (I have included
the link to it in case you want some additional information. Since
the original posting of this piece, a few other links have been
taken down and are no long available: (1) CBS SportsLine posted
an article. (2) MSNBC posted an opinion column by Steve Wilstein
and a separate piece by Steve Herman. That should give you enough
to look for if you wish.) Here are the basics…
NCAA has enacted changes that will focus on academic performance
levels by athletes. Most of the rules will begin in 2006, and
some of the standards or criteria have not been established. However,
schools will be required to meet or exceed a specified performance
level or risk punishments such as the loss of athletic scholarships
or school eligibility for postseason tournaments.
the surface, this would appear to be good news. Colleges and Universities,
after all, are institutions of higher learning. Facilities for
education. Right? Of course! Makes sense that they should require
athletes to study and pass courses in order to represent them.
So how could holding the athletic departments responsible for
their student-athletes getting good grades be a bad thing? Well…
let me tell you in three scenarios/arguments/opinions…
one ~ Life is a series of opportunities. Some of those opportunities
have a tremendous degree of flexibility in what an individual
can or cannot accomplish. Other opportunities have little flexibility.
But realistically, there is a word that is becoming less and less
important in this world… responsibility. College is in most cases
an opportunity for the student athlete. You don’t need to tell
a walk-on athlete this fact, because they were admitted to the
school as a student first and then tried out for the team. But
for some players, they were allowed into the school as an athlete
first. The opportunity to get an education from the school is
there, and it is the responsibility of that individual to get
school doesn’t require the entire student body to pass their classes.
And the NCAA isn’t asking the school to have a certain percentage
of the complete student body to graduate. End result is that what
they do instead is take a student’s money (or their parent’s money,
or their scholarship money), deposit it, and if you don’t pass
they kick you out. And by that same argument, if the student-athlete
doesn’t graduate or uphold a certain grade point average, they
should be sent along as well.
two ~ I have read a lot of articles trying to do some research
on this subject and just what the NCAA is going to require. And
you know what? They don’t say. It’s based on passing certain general
courses and acquiring an appropriate number of credits to stay
on pace for graduation. However, there is nothing about whether
a person needs to have a certain major or what classes they need
to take. Anyone that has heard about Jim Harrick Jr.’s test at
the University of Georgia will understand how much leeway that
gives an institution in making sure that an athlete remains eligible
and the school meets expectations. (And if you haven’t heard about
the test, check
out this link.) Sure, there may be charges
of academic fraud, but that can certainly be addressed internally.
don’t just believe me about them not being sure about what will
be required. Here’s what NCAA spokesman Jeff Howard had to say:
“There are going to be many different factors. That is to be determined.
They’ll take into account all the different things they choose
to bring in.”
you want to say that an athletic program has a responsibility
to its participants, I could understand an argument building from
that idea. But if you don’t define the responsibility, you can’t
punish the accountability.
three ~ LeBron James never needed to worry about college eligibility
or academic standards. Maurice Clarett stayed eligible at Ohio
State for the football season, but all evidence of his history
indicates he wasn’t too concerned about studying much. Everything
I hear about Freddy Adu is pretty impressive. Freddy Adu is in
his first year of professional soccer and turns 15-years old…
15 years old!… on June 2nd of this year. In short, the
truly talented athletes aren’t worrying about whether or not they
remain eligible for college play. They are looking ahead at their
I’m skeptical. I see this as frosting… as window dressing… as
a smoke screen. Walk up to any official of the NCAA. Call them
on the phone. Contact as many of them as you like. I’d be willing
to bet just about anything… oh wait, this is college, we don’t
gamble… that you can’t find one that answers the question “do
you think academics are as important as athletics for the student
athlete?” by saying “no.” It won’t happen. Because saying that
is an admission that it is in fact, just a business… and a joke.
They have to say that academics means something. These are student-athletes
and, so goes the claims, the student part is first.
what does the academic/student part really mean?
the individuals don’t care about applying quality time to earn
an education, I don’t know that it’s fair to require a program
to tell them that they should. Of course I believe that all students
should be able to select a personal course of studies, but if
they don’t take advantage of the opportunities being offered,
if they don’t accept the responsibility to study… or at least
to attempt to graduate, then I’m not so sure it matters if you
hold the school and its athletic programs responsible or not.
Further, how can you say you are going to impose a system that
recognizes academic accomplishments when you haven’t set a measuring
guide for what has been accomplished? And finally, if going to
college is going to be a hassle, the most talented athletes just
won’t even attend.
the end, the student-athlete doesn’t care. The more money at stake…
meaning the bigger programs, then the more enticement to… ahem…
make sure (wink, wink) the individuals are on track to
graduate. And, the best players in some sports may never play
at the NCAA level.
this sounds like a perfect plan.