Athletes and Engineering

Submitted by WestQuad on February 1st, 2014 at 11:48 AM

Can you be a Michigan athlete and be an engineer?  In the Purdue game they mentioned that Jordan Morgan had already graduated with a degree in Industrial Engineering.  When Da'Shawn Hand was vacillating between schools, he supposedly was discouraged from majoring in engineering at Michigan because it was too hard for anyone to be a Michigan Football player and an engineer.  One of the reasons he choose Alabama (a lower tier school) was because he wanted to be a civil engineer.  

Malik McDowell says academics are important, and posters say he should come to Michigan if that is the case.   Can you take the academically rigorous courses at UofM if you are an athlete?   If not, are we really the better school academically for athletes?    (BTW I knew a lot of Michigan athletes who took the hard courses.)


Monocle Smile

February 1st, 2014 at 11:51 AM ^

but definitely possible.

The "discouragement" concerning Da'Shawn Hand was never anything other than baseless speculation. There have been several engineers on the football team even in recent years. Mark Huyge comes to mind, as I spotted him at graduation.


February 2nd, 2014 at 11:58 AM ^

I ran briefly at Michigan, and there have been a number of XC/TF athletes in engineering. And for these athletes, you need to consider they are in competitive seasons from September - November, and then January - May; essentially the entire academic year. So there is no offseason.

You need to be focused, take advantage of priority scheduling, and utilized every resource possible. And those student athletes who take challenging majors will be much more attractive to future employers since they balanced academics and athletics whereas most college students barely balanced their academics.


February 1st, 2014 at 11:59 AM ^

I'm biased againt engineering because I started out there and it was hell.  The quality of instruction in many of the classes was poor.  If you don't have a natural aptitude for it and aren't willing to live in office hours - which, for athletes, might be a time commitment they don't have - then no, it wouldn't work.

Maybe at Alabama they have a better support system.  Probably not, since they're roughly the same size as Michigan.  Maybe the classes are just easier.  Maybe it wasn't as big a factor for Hand as we all thought it was.  Maybe we won't ever know.


February 1st, 2014 at 12:13 PM ^

No kidding. During my ME 210 (Statics) class, I had a foreign TA for whom English was most definitely a "second language". It took eight weeks for me to figure out he was saying "Free Body Diagram". Needless to say, I was more than happy to escape that class with a "B". 


February 1st, 2014 at 12:34 PM ^

Engineering instruction can be lacking, but the subject matter is difficult even in the best of circumstances.  Athletes can certainly "do" engineering, but for guys like Hand that was never the reason they didn't pick UM.  7-6 versus MNC-caliber teams plus lots of money were the reasons that Hand isn't at UM. 


February 1st, 2014 at 1:12 PM ^

There is a reason UM is ranked much higher as a university as a whole than the undergraduate rankings. Much of it has to do with such issues. It always pissed me off a bit when I was an undergrad, but if I wanted to go to Amherst or Harvey Mudd or some such place it would have cost 7 times as much.


February 1st, 2014 at 8:04 PM ^

I don't think that's the issue; lots of those undergrad rankings are based on factors like class size, dollar spent per student, etc. that tend to favor smaller colleges.  There's a reason that most big state schools cluster in the high 20's/low 30's but have much better graduate programs.  The teaching quality may not always be great because much of the early instruction comes from graduate students, but it's not like every professor at Vassar is super-engaged either. 


February 1st, 2014 at 1:41 PM ^

I have never taken engineering at Michigan but I did at Virginia Tech and it was kind of the same thing. You have to put in a lot of time in engineering and I don't know if most athletes can handle it. Plus, as an Ohio State football player so famously put it, "We ain't come here to learn school." 


February 1st, 2014 at 3:37 PM ^

"I'm biased againt engineering because I started out there and it was hell. "

Hell starting out?  Doesn't get easier as you go along...

Anyway it is doable but it won't be easy.  I've forgotten the guy's name but I did have a football player in one of my mechanical engineering classes.  Was a backup OL.  There were a couple of track guys in aerospace during my time in the aero program.

I remember a James Voskiul  who was a b-ball player and in engineering too.


February 1st, 2014 at 11:59 AM ^

Who was the offensive lineman that graduated a couple years ago? He studied naval/marine architecture and engineering (something like that).

Mitten Mezy

February 1st, 2014 at 12:04 PM ^

To IOE but it's the easiest engineering major at Michigan. As a civil engineer at Michigan I wanted to walk on but the schedules clash so much that it's hard to take the classes you need and go to practice. I'm sure People have done it. But not many starters on the football team.


February 1st, 2014 at 2:30 PM ^

One of my classmates was an IOE major and also a U-M cheerleader. She kicked my ass in Math 215 (Linear Algebra) but also helped me through it by explaining the concepts I just couldn't get. Between that class and Physics 242, I seriously questioned whether I had what it took to be an engineer. 

Then came Thermodynamics (lovingly called "Thermo-god-damics" by my EE father), in which I got an "A". All was well after that.

NOLA Wolverine

February 1st, 2014 at 2:42 PM ^

I'm sure that all of the programs have their redeeming qualities, but you can't use a pre-req course like MATH 215 to defend IOE's difficulty. IOE gets crap because it doesn't really seem to fit in with the classic engineering majors in a side by side comparison as far as topics covered.


As a side note, if people are looking for the easiest tech elective in mechanical, take thermo II. I'm pretty sure the planning for that course is just taking a timeslot that thermo I is being taught in and mislabeling it as thermo II. The only new topic is mixing and an incredibly shallow introduction to combustion, which is the last two weeks of the class. You basically get to do the easiest class in the college twice. 

Michigan Arrogance

February 1st, 2014 at 3:49 PM ^

240 is the typical "weeder" course in the pre-engineering curriculum, but if you're strong with vectors the math isn't too bad. it's mostly the abstract field theory that people have a hard time with. and the advanced curcuitry stuff: capacitance/inductance, time constants for circuits, etc. but it's also the most interesting stuff.

If you think that's hard, try Physics 401 and 405. in the same semester.


February 1st, 2014 at 2:55 PM ^

it was 20 years ago, but when I was in EE, all the EE majors took an IOE elective that we were allowed on our schedule because it was a gimmie A class.  It was the only class I ever took at Michigan where they actually gave us all the answers to the final exam BEFORE the exam.  I am not joking.  They gave us a package of 200 hundred questions and answers and told us the exam would be 50 questions out of that packet.  All you had to do was memorize all the questions in the packet and you couldn't lose.  I think I actually got 1 question wrong and I'm still pissed about it.


February 1st, 2014 at 10:32 PM ^

Oh I remember that class, also many years they not only gave out the answers, the exams were open book/open note.  Myself and a couple other people actually had a contest for that class: Least number of class hours for an A.  I think the average was something like 12 hours, including the exams, an no one got less than an A-.


February 1st, 2014 at 12:04 PM ^

is biomedical engineering I believe. Definitely doable, but you've gotta be quite bright. As an engineer and a non-athlete myself, it's quite difficult already.


February 1st, 2014 at 12:16 PM ^

I'm an 1980's era UM ChE grad - Ricks was our star running back on the 1982 Big 10 champs and an Engineering and Computer Sciences major with a high GPA.

Stefan Humphries was on the Dean's List as a Mechanical Engineering grad and is now a doctor. He was an All American Guard in 1983.



February 1st, 2014 at 12:30 PM ^

In some ways it is easier as an athlete. I mean, the time practicing, training, traveling, and competing are simply brutal. However, the support system for athletes goes far, far, far, beyond anything available too the run of the mill undergrad. Between tutors, study tables, and a very regimented schedule with GA's checking up on you, there is a great system in place to make sure athletes are able to handle the academic rigor.


February 1st, 2014 at 1:46 PM ^

Engineering is simply a first class bitch to get through. I say this as a Chem E. who then went to law school and found the latter to be child's play by comparison.  To do well in engineering requires a very heavy time investment just to make it thtough the program.  The material is also just plain tough.  No doubt, the tools the athletes have available to them are very helpful and provide discipline but the killer is the hours.that athletes are forced to spend on their sports.

Anyone getting an engineering degree or a degree in the STEM subject, and playing a sport at a major university better be damned smart and disciplined to say nothing about a lack of sleep.  


February 1st, 2014 at 12:57 PM ^

Dr. Stefan Humphries, MD - not a surgeon, but I think we can forgive him.

Humphries was also a member of the Bears "Shufflin' Crew". In the video, he is on drums, #75.

Incidentally, Humphries came to Michigan via St. Thomas Aquinas, the same school attended by Devante Peete and Rashard Causey.


- Watch More Funny VideosChicago Bears Super Bowl Shuffle Rap Song


February 1st, 2014 at 12:44 PM ^

How bright the athlete is. If he's gifted with great intuition, quick reader and learner, and overall high intelligence person, it's definitely doable. But you're gonna be at a disadvantage time-wise, so if you're an average or below average (for Michigan) learner, it would be difficult.


February 1st, 2014 at 1:02 PM ^

That they typically take 5 years to graduate, what's the issue?

Btw my sister who is a doc studied with Stefan Humpries back in the day and said he is a very smart dude

Mark Milliia was also a great student.

No offense to all the "Rhodes Scholars" lol at MSU but I know people who got great grades there who would flunk out in Ann Arbor. It's called a curve.


February 1st, 2014 at 1:32 PM ^

I don't think there's any doubt that he was going into something other than engineering at Michigan (sports management?). Maybe he was dissuaded from engineering at Michigan. Maybe it seemed unlikely that he'd be accepted into Michigan's engineering school. The public never knew...I did read that the dean of Bama's engineering school told Hand he would personally mentor him.


February 1st, 2014 at 1:37 PM ^

James Voskuil, who played with Fab Five and was an integral part of the team, was an aerospace engineering major. I had a few classes with him in Aero, and trust me professors in Aero couldn't care less about athletics and everything was graded on curve.

It is not for most athletes, but engineering is tough for most university students as well.


February 1st, 2014 at 1:40 PM ^

James Voskuil lived in my hall (go Chicago House!!) my frosh year.   He was in engineering school.  While being a FBall player/eng student is hard, being a BBall player/eng student is incredibly hard.   FB only has one game a week for 13 weeks.  BB plays 2-3 games a week and often travels in the middle of the week getting back very late.   BB season also lasts almost 5 months.

Dr. Explosion

February 1st, 2014 at 1:42 PM ^

Problem is scheduling. I think the athletes like the general studies degree because it provides a lot of flexibility with respect to the classes you can take. I had buddies in the general studies major for the same reason. They took tough classes, just not all in the same field of study.

Bando Calrissian

February 1st, 2014 at 1:52 PM ^

The scheduling thing is important. Athletes get first priority for registration times because there were literally only a few very, very small windows of time (usually in the mornings) when they were able to take classes and still get their training and team obligations in. I took an American Culture class my junior year with about 75-100 athletes in a room of 150-200 students. Most of the starting secondary, a good chunk of the offensive line, Hart, Arrington, 3 of the starting 5 basketball guys, most of the hockey team, a bunch of volleyball players, it was insane. Come to find out it was one of the classes in the "golden hour" when they all could all schedule a class. So they all ended up there.

One could argue that athletes are pigeonholed by their sports obligations, and you'd be right. But that's the system as long as these people are expected to lift, condition, practice, and go to team meetings for the majority of their day, not taking into account travel for games.


February 1st, 2014 at 2:10 PM ^

Pretty certain he was an engineering major.

Zoltan Space Emperor of Space was a business major - which required like a 3.5 in his first two years just to get into the program.

Zac Ciullo I don't know what his undergrad was in but whatever his major was, his record was sufficient to be admitted to UM law school.