Academics and College Football

Submitted by ShockFX on July 17th, 2009 at 4:52 PM
I want to bring the conversation from this diary and talk about it in a separate topic.

I've thought about what I said in the previous thread and realized my statements have been slightly unclear.  I'll try to restate this in a way to spur the discussion and correct my own inconsistencies.

Key Issues:

1.  The NCAA is THE minor league for the NFL.
2.  There are minimum academic standards to get into the NCAA football establishment.
3.  Michigan minimums = NCAA minimums.

Key Assumptions:
1.  Admitted athletes go to class and are academically engaged at an appropriate level.
2.  Athletics, whether or not it is explicitly outlined in the mission statement, is a HUGE focus for top universities.  The school/AD spent $225M to renovate a hole in the ground so people have a nice place to watch football 6-8 days a year.
3.  People acknowledge that in order to be an athletic powerhouse AND a top academic school, typical admission standards need to be compromised.

My points of contention with the current system and questions I ask posters to address:
1.  While Michigan is not a vocational school, there is no vocational school for football players.  One doesn't need a university degree to be a plumber, just to be excellent at plumbing (and pass trade school).  Why SHOULD football be different?

2.  There are arbitrary standards from the NCAA on academic qualification (GPA, SAT/ACT).  Schools are free to set their own at higher levels.  However, since the NCAA is the de facto gateway to the NFL, people seeking a career in a physical discipline are forced to meet intellectual standards.  Is a non-qualifier better off struggling to jump through (totally unrelated to their intended pursuit) hoops at a community college or at a school with vast resources where they can pursue their desired career in a mutually beneficial way?

3.  Referencing assumption 3, admission standards are already compromised.  In effect, by even allowing athletes below normal admission standards, a school is clearly stating "you do not belong here, but we are making an exception because you have a certain talent".  As a result, why does the degree to which an athlete is below the standard matter?  A clear statement of "you don't belong here" is already present.  The massive hypocrisy is astounding.  Athletes are actively recruited to join a university, at which point they are immediately branded 2nd-class citizens of the institution.  A university does NOT have to do this, they do so because it is a very beneficially endeavor for itself.  This leaves a final choice: no athletic scholarships and be like Ivies, continued, institutionally sponsored hypocrisy, or acceptance of reality and restructure the student-athlete concept to be more equitable?

Comments

mjv

July 17th, 2009 at 5:31 PM ^

shock -- your points are well laid out, and I personally agree with most of them. I do question what you imply with the statement "acceptance of reality and restructure the student-athlete concept to be more equitable?" Is this just re-framing the popular perception of the idea or restructure rules around and governing the "student-athlete"?

The things that I find troubling with the current system are (A) there does not appear to be an alternative route to the NFL, (B) the NFL sets an artificially limits when a player may enter the league, regardless of the players abilities, and (C) universities are forced to apply a standard of "academic" success to the players that is not based on their area of study that has no basis on their real area of "study".

Point A is the same as Shock's Point 2.

Point B is troubling in that select student-athletes are honing their skills at a University while receiving "compensation" that falls far short of what the open market would value their skills, yet these players must wait until they have been out of high school three years to apply to the NFL. For most players, a scholarship is more than the market rate for their ability as demonstrated by the lack of other professional football league (CFL excluded). But this arbitrary rule to force the select players to stay in school where the only purpose (from the NFL's perspective) is to hone their skills. yet they are at a skill level that would allow them to play in the league (assuming they would be drafted). This strikes me as decidedly unfair.

Point C makes little sense in that athletes are judged on academic credentials, while the focus of their education is on improving their athletic ability. It would seem from an outsider's perspective that students following an artistic pursuit (theater or music) are judged on their ability to perform in their desired specialty, yet an athlete is not judged the same way.

These are the items I find intellectually inconsistent and would humbly add them to Shock's list.

CG

July 17th, 2009 at 5:49 PM ^

In regards to your first point, I think you miss a major point. I would imagine 99% of people who go to a vocational school end up working in their chosen field. There's plenty of shitty plumbers/electricians/etc. in the world but they still have jobs and make a living. On the other hand, 99% of athletes who go to college won't make it as a professional. They can't be shitty football/baseball/basketball/curling players. Without an education, they'll just be homeless ex-athletes.

I would see a bigger issue if the academic requirements set by the NCAA were unfairly difficult to achieve. I very much think the NCAA has the right to say "Look, just meet these requirements." For example, you need to be ~16 to drive, 18 to buy tobacco, and 21 to drink. The NCAA isn't asking the world of these kids. In my e-pinion, athletes "forced to meet intellectual standards" is like drinking 12 beers and forcing yourself to meet your own standards with the opposite sex. Or the same sex. NTTAWWT. As long as you put in some effort, you'll be able to muster the score.

Let's not kid ourselves here: the majority of athletes are not going to be interested in Econometrics 403, Honors Philosophy, Petroleum Engineering III, Biomathematics, etc. But, there are basic life skills everyone needs to know. For example: money management. Given the ridiculously small percentage of D-I athletes who actually make a living in the professional leagues, I think it is INCREDIBLY important for them to gain a solid education, EVEN IF IT MEANS IT NEGATIVELY IMPACTS THEIR ATHLETIC PURSUITS. Imagine if there were no academic requirements: NFL/NBA/MLB-wannabes enroll in University of ABC, fuck-lion through Intro to Addition & Subtraction for a few years, and 1% of them go on to make $10 million a year. But the other 99%? Well shit, they don't have the background to establish a proper career. Academic requirements help athletes create a safety net to fall back on, something that they'll most likely end up relying upon.

ShockFX

July 17th, 2009 at 9:04 PM ^

In regards to your first point, I think you miss a major point. I would imagine 99% of people who go to a vocational school end up working in their chosen field. There's plenty of shitty plumbers/electricians/etc. in the world but they still have jobs and make a living. On the other hand, 99% of athletes who go to college won't make it as a professional. They can't be shitty football/baseball/basketball/curling players. Without an education, they'll just be homeless ex-athletes.

They can't even be above average football/baseball/basketball/curling players. There are limited roster spots in the NFL. Their isn't a limit to the number of plumbers. If they can't get into college because they don't qualify, not only do they STILL not have an education, they are locked out of their possible path to a career. It may not be likely, but at least they aren't locked out.

I would see a bigger issue if the academic requirements set by the NCAA were unfairly difficult to achieve. I very much think the NCAA has the right to say "Look, just meet these requirements." For example, you need to be ~16 to drive, 18 to buy tobacco, and 21 to drink. The NCAA isn't asking the world of these kids. In my e-pinion, athletes "forced to meet intellectual standards" is like drinking 12 beers and forcing yourself to meet your own standards with the opposite sex. Or the same sex. NTTAWWT. As long as you put in some effort, you'll be able to muster the score.

Really, really bad example. People will eventually be those ages just by living. What if I told you you had to get a 170 on the LSAT in order to be an engineer? Can you guarantee me that anyone that wants to be an engineer would be able to muster the score?

Let's not kid ourselves here: the majority of athletes are not going to be interested in Econometrics 403, Honors Philosophy, Petroleum Engineering III, Biomathematics, etc. But, there are basic life skills everyone needs to know. For example: money management. Given the ridiculously small percentage of D-I athletes who actually make a living in the professional leagues, I think it is INCREDIBLY important for them to gain a solid education, EVEN IF IT MEANS IT NEGATIVELY IMPACTS THEIR ATHLETIC PURSUITS. Imagine if there were no academic requirements: NFL/NBA/MLB-wannabes enroll in University of ABC, fuck-lion through Intro to Addition & Subtraction for a few years, and 1% of them go on to make $10 million a year. But the other 99%? Well shit, they don't have the background to establish a proper career. Academic requirements help athletes create a safety net to fall back on, something that they'll most likely end up relying upon.

Since when are basic life skills taught in college? Money management? Have you ever taken out a loan to buy a depreciating asset (any non 0% interest loan for a car)? Well, you've just failed money management. As for fuck-lioning through Intro classes, the 99% would be EXACTLY where they were before, but they had a shot at getting into that 1%.

Specifically, "Academic requirements help athletes create a safety net to fall back on, something that they'll most likely end up relying upon." Typically, I don't think of a safety net as something that's there for me if I succeed. This is about the athletes that don't meet requirements UNRELATED TO THEIR SKILL! They have no safety net.

CG

July 17th, 2009 at 10:24 PM ^

I agree with your points above and I think I understand what you're getting at. I guess the major differentiation between your viewpoint and mine is re: the difficulty of qualifying. I've always assumed that qualifying for college (for an athlete) is pretty much the same as qualifying for driving/smoking/drinking. If it is actually a challenge for most athletes to obtain qualifying test scores, then I'm at fault here. But with the ACT/SAT scores posted on Rivals/Scout, I don't think I'm far off base saying that qualifying for college isn't exactly a huge hurdle. I see a lot of SAT scores are sub-1000; I scored higher in 7th grade. I just can't grasp that qualifying can be remotely difficult. Again if I'm wrong here, I apologize.

And people need to learn money management. Seriously.

fatman_do

July 17th, 2009 at 5:56 PM ^

I use Notre Dame as an example of such hypocrisy. Before Charlie Weis, the local and national buzz here in Domer land is that Ty could not recruit due to tough admission standards. One coaching change later and then all of a sudden top 5 recruiting classes appear here in South Bend.

What changed? Did Notre Dame silently lower academic standards for student football athletes, or were (finally!!!) the top recruits in the nation smart enough to now go to Notre Dame?

For some reason, the casual fan does not feel that the football scholarship "students" are there primarily to benefit the university in athletic standing among its peers. These standings benefit the universities via television contracts, merchandising, alumni donations, and other potential revenue streams. The student gets the chance, through this contract, to showcase possible NFL talent in the chance for short term financial gain.

Admissions are a slippery slope in general, regardless if it is related to sports or some other profile agenda.

Go Blue,
Beat Ohio State, destroy Notre Dame.

wolverine1987

July 17th, 2009 at 6:39 PM ^

Responding directly to the three points raised, this is my perspective, which I fully realize opens me to charges of naivete.

1- I'll turn your question around. If I want to pursue a career in say, political science, I have to go to the university and get that credential in order to then succeed in something else (work, going to law school etc.) Football is not plumbing--everyone knows that to "plumb", you don't have to go to college. But to play NFL football, because of the NFL rules, you have to go to college and play three years to get noticed and then "qualify" for the NFL. Why should the NFL be any different than Political Science?

2- Related to my point on #1, talk to the NFL, not the NCAA. If the NFL sets up a minor league then players can opt out of the college future should they choose. But currently, the college path is the only way to get noticed--so the NCAA's and players paths mutually coincide.

3- Your argument of athletes becoming second class citizens through being admitted with lower standards is the precise argument against affirmative action. I don't know how you feel on that subject, but I don't believe either athletes or affirmative action enrollees are being told "you don't belong here" and thus massive hypocrisy reigns. Athletes and affirmative action students both have special considerations that the university sees fit to acknowledge, and more power to them.

I don't believe the current situation is inequitable at all. Hmm, go to school for free, get admitted with lower standards than other students if you have a skill, then get treated like a king for 4 years before either succeeding in the NFL or (if you apply yourself) getting a degree that will help you for the rest of your life, one that in some cases, would never have ever been offered to you had you not played football. Seems like a decent deal to me.

ShockFX

July 17th, 2009 at 7:13 PM ^

1- I'll turn your question around. If I want to pursue a career in say, political science, I have to go to the university and get that credential in order to then succeed in something else (work, going to law school etc.) Football is not plumbing--everyone knows that to "plumb", you don't have to go to college. But to play NFL football, because of the NFL rules, you have to go to college and play three years to get noticed and then "qualify" for the NFL. Why should the NFL be any different than Political Science?

Is your admission to a political science program to enable a career in said discipline based on your football skills?

2- Related to my point on #1, talk to the NFL, not the NCAA. If the NFL sets up a minor league then players can opt out of the college future should they choose. But currently, the college path is the only way to get noticed--so the NCAA's and players paths mutually coincide.

NCAA Sports are a billion dollar enterprise built around the concept of "amateur" athletics. Neither the NFL nor the NCAA have any interest in changing the status quo. If the college path is the only way to get noticed, why do we stop people from doing something they are good at (football) because they are bad at something unrelated (college) that they likely wouldn't participate in anyway?

3- Your argument of athletes becoming second class citizens through being admitted with lower standards is the precise argument against affirmative action. I don't now how you feel on that subject, but I don't believe either athletes or affirmative action enrollees are being told "you don't belong here" and thus massive hypocrisy reigns. Athletes and affirmative action students both have special considerations that the university sees fit to acknowledge, and more power to them.

I think there's a huge difference between admitting a underqualified person under affirmative action (what value does this provide to the school?) and for athletics (oh, the athletes generate millions in revenue/prestige for the school). Is there a minimum ACT/SAT/GPA for affirmative action admissions? Does the school actively recruit affirmative action level students to admit?

I don't believe the current situation is inequitable at all. Hmm, go to school for free, get admitted with lower standards than other students if you have a skill, then get treated like a king for 4 years before either succeeding in the NFL or (if you apply yourself) getting a degree that will help you for the rest of your life, one that in some cases, would never have ever been offered to you had you not played football. Seems like a decent deal to me.

It's not free. Monetarily, sure, they don't pay tuition in cash. But college sports are a full-time job. And the school makes millions.
They get might get admitted via lower ACADEMIC standards, but they have to meet exceedingly (top 1%) high ATHLETIC standards. Also, they don't have a choice if they want to possible use the skill (football in this case) they are best at for a career.
If by treated like a king you mean booed for not meeting expectations, criticized for being "just a 3 star", and second guessed at every turn, yeah, I guess the tail they pull in is worth it.

Your last argument boils down to saying, "If you have a skill the university values, they will admit you. At that point, if you apply yourself, you have a chance to succeed in life. Oh, and these opportunities solely exist because of your talent." This is kind of my point here, why is their SAT/ACT score relevant?

wolverine1987

July 17th, 2009 at 7:48 PM ^

"Is your admission to a political science program to enable a career in said discipline based on your football skills?"

No, but to enable my football career I have to go to college and pass their requirements, one of which is academic. And just like I may not go into political science as a career after graduation, a football player may not go into football. What's the difference again?

"NCAA Sports are a billion dollar enterprise built around the concept of "amateur" athletics. Neither the NFL nor the NCAA have any interest in changing the status quo. If the college path is the only way to get noticed, why do we stop people from doing something they are good at (football) because they are bad at something unrelated (college) that they likely wouldn't participate in anyway?"

NCAA football is popular and makes tons of money because the sport is huge. The sport is huge largely because of the built in fan base from students and alums that have a continuing interest, no matter where they live, in the football program of the university. The athletes are not key to it's popularity. Debatable, but I'll argue that point all day long. To prove it: would you go to Michigan games if you never once read an article or saw a mention on ESPN of a single athlete? Yep, I would too, and so would most fans.

"I think there's a huge difference between admitting a underqualified person under affirmative action (what value does this provide to the school?) and for athletics (oh, the athletes generate millions in revenue/prestige for the school). Is there a minimum ACT/SAT/GPA for affirmative action admissions? Does the school actively recruit affirmative action level students to admit?"

Affirmative action students provide a benefit to the university because the university values diversity. And some schools do recruit them.

"They get might get admitted via lower ACADEMIC standards, but they have to meet exceedingly (top 1%) high ATHLETIC standards. Also, they don't have a choice if they want to possible use the skill (football in this case) they are best at for a career."

Um, so? Of course they have to meet "exceedingly high" athletic standards. But they don't HAVE to, they are LUCKY to. Again, talk to the NFL. Oh, and by the way, if you think you're "2nd class citizens" argument applies now, just wait to the world you're advocating comes to pass. How do you think students at the university will see players who are not even tenuously connected to them anymore via academics? As pass through mercenaries. Think they will boo any less, or far more? The latter.

Other Chris

July 17th, 2009 at 8:53 PM ^

How do they see any other sort of performance majors? Oh, they don't, because who cares about the art school and music school tucked away up on North Campus.

I think Shock's right and there's an odd relationship between the academics and athletics that is not necessarily to the benefit of the athlete. They are asked to do a lot to keep their "free" ride, above and beyond what I had to do to keep mine.

Blue in Yarmouth

July 31st, 2009 at 2:05 PM ^

They have to go from 5-11.......what is your point? Do you know how many students I went to school with that regularly had to go from 5am to 5am? We didn't get a free ride and had to work, study, work some more and if we had any time at all.....we got to sleep a bit. I did this for the better part of 14 years. You want me to feel sorry that these guys have to work a bit to maintain their "free ride"? How much is a 4 year degree worth at UM? I am really asking here because I have no idea? I spent well over $100,000 on my education and that finished 8 years ago so it is likely much more now. Lets not pretend that they aren't compensated for what they do.

The argument as I understand it is that football players shouldn't have to go to university in order to play in the NFL, and if they must, than they shouldn't have to do anything academically in order to get into uni or maintain their stay at uni. The argument I see most is that it has nothing to do with their desired career path. How many people have to do things in life that have nothing to do with their career path? Everyone! What about those kids that aren't smart enough to get their free ride but do qualify and don't have the money necessary to go? There are all kinds of hard luck stories in the world and IME, football players that can't put in the time and effort to get into to university to pursue their desired career path are wayyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy down that list. In fact, it isn't a hard luck story at all in my book.

wolverine1987

July 18th, 2009 at 11:32 AM ^

Is there any proof that these guys dropped because the demands were so high, or simply because either A-wouldn't be playing, B- grew tired of football, C- personal circumstances, or D- any other reason? Do we know it was because of the heavy demands upon them?

Of course I'm sure that there must be guys that quit for that reason. I wasn't meaning to be absolutist. But for every one of those, I'll cite 25 other guys that say they wouldn't change a thing about their experience.

chitownblue2

July 18th, 2009 at 11:34 AM ^

No, I have no concrete proof that those people quit fore the aforementioned reason. But they were on full scholarship, stayed at the school, and decided to stop playing football. I think that clearly shows that for whatever reason, the amount of work/pain involved wasn't worth it to them.

THE.MICHIGAN.MAN

July 17th, 2009 at 6:20 PM ^

You are missing the point. The VAST majority of student athletes do NOT end up as professional jocks. And most players (football included) know this very well before entering college. The blue chip recruits are about one only ones who have some degree of confidence that they will go pro. For the rest, football or another sport is a way to earn a scholly.
If you think jocks are treated as "second class citizens" in college, you are driking some strange stuff.

wolverine1987

July 17th, 2009 at 7:27 PM ^

While there are certainly athletes every year that don't have the "normal" academic skill set to succeed, for every one of them there are two (unprovable either way I realize) that IMO chose the academic path of least resistance, because football is more important to them than school. Just like an affirmative action student, what they do once they are admitted is largely of their own (hopefully with supportive resources) making.

wolfman81

July 17th, 2009 at 6:58 PM ^

To the notion that the NCAA is the minor league for the NFL (and the NBA):
Yes it is. So these leagues have made policies that benefit the schools in order to protect their (cheap) talent development system. They don't have to take on the liability or the cost of college athletics in order to reap the rewards of the player development done there. This is a business decision made by the NBA and NFL, which they believe is to their benefit. I think the difficulty here is that the NCAA was around before the NFL and NBA, and college sports were popular long before professional sports were.

And now to a quasi-coherent rambling about education and the athlete:
It is important to parents (or at least this almost-parent*) that their children's role models/athletic heroes be well-spoken, upstanding citizens who can do more than dribble a basketball or catch a football. They should take their successes on the field and translate them into successes off of the field. But if the student-athlete has been properly trained and taught, the minimum academic standards should not matter. Since when have athletic activities been more important than an education? Somewhere along the line, our youth have been taught that certain things can be overlooked if they have extraordinary talent. Who can fault them for learning this lesson, it is those teaching this "lesson" who should be scolded.

Finally, I don't believe that you have a fundamental right to play in the NFL. And just because you can't develop your talent on a college team does not prevent you from developing your talent on your own or in a Semi-Pro league (or the CFL) and then trying out for the NFL. Not to go all "Coach Carter" on you, but the athletic experience should be one that informs your life and helps form the man (or woman) that you will become. If an athlete thinks that this begins and ends with professional sports, then someone hasn't done a good job of teaching, or the athlete hasn't done a good job of learning.

*Almost parent because my wife is currently expecting our firstborn! If it is a boy, maybe I should name him Carter Anthony - Or not, our last name starts with a W, making the initials CAW...

StephenRKass

July 17th, 2009 at 7:41 PM ^

Glad to see this posted as a topic on its own. And a quick glance shows it isn't inflammatory.

In some ways, the whole idea of amateur atheletics and scholar athletes is a joke. Yes, major college sports functions as the minor league / prep school for the NFL.

While the focus is on football, I know the problem is much worse in basketball. I can't imagine being a FT student at UofM and having their game schedule.

Full disclosure . . . still need to read and reflect on the OP, so comments at this time are somewhat uninformed, and may not make sense.

Basically, I want my cake, and to eat it too. Meaning by that, I want National Championship contenders, but I also want Michigan athletes to be good citizens and to be able to function academically at UofM. Function academically means to get a C- without cheating or inflated grades by profs.

Variations on this discussion have happened previously, at Mgoblog and come up periodically. But basically, in my naivete, I want Michigan athletes to be able to go to class and at least pass.

So I'm gonna go out on a limb here, and name a couple of names. I don't think I would want Randy Moss at Michigan. I applaud Marques Slocum's efforts, but he just couldn't cut it. Now, as a Chicago Bear's fan, I would love to have Moss in town.

I'll put this a different way. If I knew that a football player was superb in Football skills, and would help us win a NC , but was dumb as a brick, skipped all classes, had TA's sit in for him, write papers for him, take tests for him, pass classes for him, and the conspiracy was so tight, it would never be uncovered, I still wouldn't want it.

Is this fair to the Marquis Slocum's of the world? No. Should there be a different way? Yes. There certainly is a different way in hockey and baseball. And I think I read here about a kid from California in basketball who is going to Europe instead of to college. Very clear on having no desire to do academics. And I salute this guy for being honest and having integrity.

I said this somewhere last year, but I want athletes who want to be at Michigan. I want guys who could turn pro, but choose to stick around their senior year.

Now to address your questions.

1) If someone strictly wants football vocational school, they shouldn't be here. 50 years ago, there were more semi-pro options. I think this probably should happen again. Regarding art & music, which you used as an analogy, there are quite a few artists and musicians who are very successful without going to college. It should be the same for football. You shouldn't have to go to college to play football. So my problem is with the system.

2) While I agree that the NCAA is the defacto gateway to the NFL, I don't think this should be the only gateway. Again, I have a problem with the system. Question: are there any NFL football players who went through a different gate that NCAA football?

3) Regarding standards, mentioned on the previous thread, my initial argument was that it is appropriate for athletes to be able to be at a lesser place academically. This certainly would be the case for some music students, for some art students. Some engineering students may be terrible at spelling. Some language students, or theater students, may be terrible at Math. My understanding of admissions is that in a sense, this goes on with every student admitted to MIchigan. For instance, you get x amount of points for your GPA, x amount for AP classes, x amount for being a legacy, x amount for your SAT scores, x amount for being a Michigan resident, x amount for extracurricular activities, x amount for being related to the Governor (oops, no, that's the University of Illinois.) I wouldn't be surprised if an army veteran who was the daughter of an American Indian and an African American would get x amount of points for that. for an athlete, their ability can somewhat override their academic talent. For an artist, the same. For a musician, the same. My argument is that this talent can take you far . . . but only so far.

Ok, this post has clearly crossed way over the tl;dr line. Must quit.

p.s. Plus arrow to the OP.

Michiganguy19

July 18th, 2009 at 12:11 AM ^

Everyone who is not working full time or a major college athelete has plenty of down time in college. That being said, these kids though busy have plenty of time to take their classes. They are just replacing binge drinking with time at barwis beach.

In the long run they are probably better off. In reality undergrad is a time of education, reflection, and defining oneself... but certainly it is rarely strenuous.

UMFootballCrazy

July 17th, 2009 at 7:38 PM ^

A couple of thoughts to add to the mix:

1. The vast majority of athletes on scholarship are not in the major revenue producing programs (football and basketball) and are there because the combination of good grades and athletic ability has earned them a "free" university education. Most of the guys playing football and basketball, if they are smart, should considder that they are being given the opportunity of a lifetime to play sports and get a "free" education at leading educational insitution, and thus do everything in their power to make the most of that opportunity. I know numerous friends and children of friends who have availed themselves of this opportunity in all manners of athletics from golf to track to volleyball to soccer.

2. It may not be so much the case for basketball (I don't follow basketball as much), but football, in spite of all the "dumb jock" jokes, is not a sport for dummies. In that regard, it not all that bad an idea to use university as the primary filter for the pros. Even with lower admittance standards, there are standards. That a young man has to meet certain standards intellectually is good for the NFL.

3. I too, dislike that there is differing set of academic standards for athletes and the rest of the student population. Most students, if they want scholarships, have to have higher than average grades and levels of civic involvement. I see no reason that the NCAA cannot insist that all student athletes be expected to gain admittance to their respective schools based on academics first according to the same standards as any other student before they would be considdered eligible for an athletic scholarship. This is more or less how it is done in Canada and in the Ivy League.

4. The NFL and NBA should be expected to grow their own developmental leagues for players who can't or choose not go through the college route. These side by side systems do work somewhat for hockey and baseball, although the better athletes go do go through the developmental leagues (i.e. the "minors"). It might mean an overall drop in the quality of university football, but then again perhaps not. It really all depends on which is attracting and putting out better athletes. I suppose it will depend on which stream puts out the most desirable athletes. Perhaps both pro leagues recognize that these sports benefit from having athletes exposed to some amount of higher education is a plus for improving the quality of player. My suspicion, though, with so many one-and-done players, is that if there was a solid developmental league for basketball that most players would go that route and that it would cause college basketball to drop off significantly. I still believe that football at its highest level requires intelligent players and so the college stream would create a better product for the NFL than a developmental league stream.

chris16w

July 18th, 2009 at 12:14 AM ^

#2 is a great point because standardized testing isn't just used in admitting high school football players to universities - the NFL uses it too aka the Wonderlic test. People were surprised when Vince Young bombed it and yet maybe it could have foreshadowed some of the poblems he has had in developing into a pro.

Along these lines, unlike the NBA and NHL, professional football players encounter violence on the field and 18 year olds wouldn't be able to stand it at any position aside from Space Emperor's. True, an alternate development league could exist, but high schoolers would never be jumpking straight from high school to the NFL. So many top high school football recruits end up as busts so I doubt GMs would risk such picks.

panthera leo fututio

July 18th, 2009 at 1:01 PM ^

I'm not sure who this would be good for. Universities in general would almost surely lose a great deal of money and maybe prestige, particularly those with strong academic programs and high-profile football teams (like us).

More importantly, I think this would be really bad for a lot of kids. A great many football players who would stand to benefit from some sort of college experience would be shut out. You could make the claim that a fairer system would replace the current college football system with a similar but non-academic version wherein players get a fair share of the proceeds. I would argue that throwing kids into some sort of well-paid junior league (which might not even be remotely conceivable) would still hurt more kids than it helps, though, given the fickle nature of football careers and the effect that looming admission requirements have on high school academic performance (or even just attendance).

jmblue

July 18th, 2009 at 5:25 PM ^

This is more or less how it is done in Canada and in the Ivy League.

You'd be surprised how much Ivy League schools lower their standards for athletes. If you're an athlete, it's no harder to get into an Ivy that it is to get into Duke, Northwestern or Stanford. The only difference is that they officially don't give out athletic scholarships (though they basically do).

mejunglechop

July 17th, 2009 at 11:27 PM ^

Ok shock this makes a lot more sense now. Unfortunately I won't be able to post a full reply until late tommorrow.

Just briefly, I understand now what you meant in the other thread about my position being hypocritical and I think you're right. The thing is, though, I don't see a way around it. What I was arguing for on the other thread was a proposal that I think would make the best of a fucked up situation. Unless some sort of professional minor league system got started up, which I'd fully support,I don't see how college football can resolve this dissonance and remain intact, complete with the institution of the student athlete.

Captain

July 19th, 2009 at 2:24 AM ^

Against the nature of this thread, I'll try to be brief.

Two things:
(1) I'm all for involuntary higher education (when see someone paying with a check for a two dollar lotto ticket while claiming they "ain't never seen nothing" like last night's Batchlorette, I'm secretly praying somebody will throw them in the back of an unmarked van and force a Michigan education on them against their will); and

(2) I would hate to see a professional minor league system. As it is, I get to watch the best young athletes in the world and future NFL stars play for Michigan, while praising the Maize and Blue. It would pain me to see those top players siphoned off to an unheralded minor league system, leaving the Sheridans of the world to be the "shining stars" on unremarkable collegiate programs. No thanks.

Captain

July 19th, 2009 at 6:23 PM ^

Rather than reassert points that had been made in four out of five posts, as seems to be the motif of those who like to hear themselves speak (or read what they post), I did not do service to my position that education is of utmost importance to these young men. As it seems my words will be promptly dismissed without the obligatory reiteration of the rest of the board, here goes:

Should a minor league system find its way into American football, it's safe to say that not every athlete would manage to make a sustainable career of their natural abilities. Those who do not make it into the NFL, or who make it only to subside a year or two later, must turn to other callings. Those falling through the cracks have less to fall back on for the ensuing 40 years without a college education (arguable, but probably true).

And even those who prosper in the NFL can benefit greatly from a solid higher education. Should they endeavor into sports broadcasting, pursue an alternative "retirement profession," or write a memoire, a fundamental educational background can be a great boon. As the system operates today, everyone is generally required to exhibit some basic level of intelligence (to meet NCAA standards) and presumably gets some education at an institution of higher learning. In short, education = yummy. Remember, more young people assume the NFL is their golden ticket than the market will allow.

Athletes are often grateful for their time spent in college, and give back to their universities long after graduation. But all this, and much more with which I whole-heartedly agree, has already been written or alluded to in the posts above and below.

Left unmentioned, however, was the impact on collegiate athletics given an alternative system. Yes, watching a lower quality game is one of those effects, one which would arguably leave Brian without a job, and one worth the 30 seconds it takes to mention. Whether there would be a greater ripple effect is hard to tell; it may be that some young men and women have only considered the possibility of a collegiate education because they at some point idolized a particular athletic player or program. Perhaps athletics might transform college from a mere intellectual pursuit into something that resonates with a different set of values for those raised in households where intellect was not among the most important attributes. Or maybe not. Maybe I just like watching college football, point taken.

mejunglechop

July 19th, 2009 at 9:49 PM ^

Yes, playing college football has a lot of advantages that make it attractive for star high schoolers who want to play in the NFL. I agree with that argument.

What I haven't seen you argue for is why anyone should have the right to declare this the only option for prospective NFLers. Separately, even if you could establish a justification for this authority, I don't see how you could argue that college football should be the only option for these players. A lot of kids who have the talent to make the NFL, but can't meet the academic requirements of the NFL's current de facto minor league, are now essentially kicked to the curb- no college education and no chance at a pro career. Why not let these kids devote themselves fully to developing their physical talents in a minor league? Worst case scenario, they end up right where they were when they started.

panthera leo fututio

July 20th, 2009 at 10:02 AM ^

I agree that it certainly does seem unfair that some prospective NFL players are basically locked out of developing professional-level because of generally unrelated academic requirements.

I'm still not at all convinced, however, that creating a comparable developmental league with no academic requirements would result in a more desirable outcome for these players as a whole. Eliminating any inducement for academic achievement amongst this group would I believe lead to significantly worse life paths for a great number of players, far greater than the number of players making it to the league who otherwise would not have. Factoring in the brevity of most football careers and teenage capacities for self-deception (what 15-year-old doesn't think he has a chance to go pro?), and I think it's on the whole a very good thing that the current system coerces these young men into attending school and achieving some minimum standards, at least at the high school level.

mejunglechop

July 19th, 2009 at 9:29 PM ^

First of all, there was absolutely no reason to think that was Captain's reasoning. Secondly, I was referring to the class of kids who cannot reach the NCAA's minimum standards or hold up academically at a college level and are forced out of the NFL's minor league, despite this having little to do with their athletic ability.

Ernis

July 18th, 2009 at 12:58 AM ^

1) "Should" is a dirty word reserved for moralists and other unsavory types

2) I'll go with your latter proposal. What's good for the hive, as they say. "They" being ants, of course. Thanks, ants. Thants.

3) Variable admissions standards are the norm in undergraduate programs. Contrary to what some rap-aspiring basketball players may have been led to believe by the scumdog media, not just any old schmuck with a mic and some swagger can get into the School of Music. Same with the B-school and such, as well as requirements to declare a major. Should engineering students be required to read sheet music? I hope you think not; so you could say those standards are justifiably "lower" at least in one dimension. And yet, does that one exception mean that they shouldn't have to take some general requirements, same as all students?

Methinks not. That's part of a university education: breadth of experience, as well as depth of expertise. May the gods rain fire upon us the day all students are forced into a cookie-cutter education that is 100% specialized. But not everyone needs the same breadth and depth as others ... and this expectation is not present for student non-athletes.

In general, it drives me mad to see this academic double-standard applied to student athletes. It reeks of ressentiment. Let them make us some cash and prestige, entertain the hell out of us, and be prepped for a professional career in athletics or whatever else. They'll be better for it as long as the university doesn't completely molly-coddle them as is the case with any student. If you're going to make the argument that admissions standards need to be equal for everyone, be careful what you wish for. Have it your way and some day all doctors will also be worthy musicians* or your trip to the opera house will be no different than piped-in music at The Joe.

*Come to think of it, this may work. "Dr. Stradivarius Organ Works: If we can't fix you, kids will play with your guts"

dakotapalm

July 18th, 2009 at 3:33 AM ^

It's 3am and I have nothing to add. But thanks for redeeming the MgoBoard; posts like this are why I hang out here instead of reading the idiocy that occurs at most football blogs.

Rosey09

July 18th, 2009 at 7:22 AM ^

FWIW, Michigan is a diverse school that appreciates students with a wide range of talents. To bring up SAT/ACT scores determining whether a student belongs or not is not necessarily true.

The School of Art/Design and School of Music will gladly admit someone with a low score to their incoming classes because the talent/genius required for their schools don't show up on a standardized test. I contend that an aspiring artist using their portfolio while applying to study Art/Design on North Campus is just like your recruiting tape on Rivals. The only place where this analogy diverts is that Art/Design/Music students don't have to pursue something they're not interested in such as General Studies.

Other Chris

July 18th, 2009 at 9:36 AM ^

I wasn't a performance major, and I didn't even really know any of them (they really are off in their own world) but I suspected this was the case. And this

"The only place where this analogy diverts is that Art/Design/Music students don't have to pursue something they're not interested in such as General Studies."

is the crux of what I was getting at. I maintain that the arts are no more academic than football, but somehow more acceptable.

chitownblue2

July 18th, 2009 at 10:24 AM ^

As Rosey mentions above - I feel like there are a solid amount of analogies to be drawn between a student in the school of Music, and a Football player. Neither, really, are strictly "academic" pursuits - they both require a considerable amount of talent that probably wouldn't show up on an SAT/ACT or a GPA. In terms of the plumber analogy used above - I'd say that one's odds of "hitting it big" in music roughly equal the chances a football player has of making it to the NFL - in other words, slim. Are their other careers for Music Majors? Well, the School of Music touts a few - one is in the Philadelphia philharmonic, a few are on Broadway, yet more are in the wilderness of touring casts, a few have major recording deals, and a large number are teachers.

A student in the school of music will only take 8 classes outside of the school - and three of these are merely to meet the University's English requirement. Is the school really there to turn out well-rounded students with life skills, as some here argue? I'd argue not.

So, if we don't make our Music and Art students, who we will accept with lower SAT/GPA because of their unique talents, take general academic courses, not related to their talent, why do we do it to Football players? The NFL employs about 2600 players, symphonies generally employ about 15 to 16 "principal players" and then rotate the rest. We all know recording contracts are rarely lucrative, and difficult to get. Making a living selling paintings is difficult - are the odds of hitting it big THAT much better in those schools?

What if there was a "School of Athletics". Kids could take classes related to the X's and O's of their sport - strategy, technique, etc. They could take basic education classes, which would help them prepare to coach, and basic management classes which would help them organize and run a group of 20 to 100+ people. Maybe even Kinesiology classes if their intersts lay there. Time could be spent minoring in other subject matter (history, english, whatever) to prepare them to maybe teach another subject if they got a coaching job somewhere - maybe there could be an opportunity to, at the minimum, get a teaching certificate.

According to their website, the vast majority of the graduates of the School of Music go back into academics - either at the University or High School level. There's equal opporunity, IMO, to train coaches - something these kids could definitely excel at.

Obviously, they wouldn't be required to enroll in the school - if Omameh wanted to be an engineer, and met the academic requirement, so be it.

panthera leo fututio

July 18th, 2009 at 12:34 PM ^

I think I understand the reasoning behind the attack on admission standards for students who want to go to school because it's the only path to move on in their sport and who would fall far below admissions criteria without their athletic skill (see OP's 3rd point of contention).

I would argue, though, that somewhat arbitrary and fairly low test score/GPA requirements are probably a necessity for any truly fair treatment of budding athletes. Getting all Rawls-y for a second, I would argue that the most just treatment of pre-adult aspiring athletes would be that which results in the greatest proportion of them leading lives that they have reason to value (i.e. developing and exercising the powers of free and equal citizens). Minimal academic admissions requirements may prevent some players from getting the needed preparation for their preferred career (in the NFL), but I'm guessing that these cases are far outweighed by kids who would otherwise have no interest in school, realize that they need to meet minimum criteria, and apply themselves toward some sort of academic development. This development might not put them at the top of any non-sport professional realm, but I would think that it does start to provide them with the minimal tools needed to be functioning citizens, especially when combined with some sort of college exposure. (Following recruiting, you hear all kinds of stories about kids who basically didn't even look at a book through their sophomore year of highschool and then had to really bust ass, through summer school, tutoring, etc., to get qualified.)

I agree that the experience of these sorts of students once they get to college could stand to be reformed (I like chitown's suggestion above, though I think you'd have to be really carefull about unintended consequences, such as further stigmatization). But I definitely think that some sort of admission requirements, even if they fall far below a school's normal standard, are a good thing.