Is Michigan Too Smart for College Football?

Submitted by Gameboy on September 4th, 2012 at 1:42 PM

Grantland asks and answers the question (with some excerpts from posts around here)...…

Their answer is...

This is a pretty shaky argument. The NCAA has minimum grades and test scores its football players must achieve in high school. Most football powers take the minimum standard as their own. Where schools like Michigan say they exercise discretion is by turning down marginal students who might have trouble staying eligible. But a 2008 Ann Arbor News investigation found that over a three-year period, one Michigan psychology professor taught 251 independent-study courses to athletes. The players earned a GPA in his courses that was a full point higher than their other courses. So even if Michigan admits better students on average, it’s not above using SEC-style (or Big 12–style ... or MAC-style) tricks to keep them eligible.


Jeff M

September 4th, 2012 at 2:55 PM ^

Curtis' argument has truth to it, but stops short.

From my experience at LSA, easy classes and independent studies are available to basically every student at UM. Even a number of classes that are very challenging to get an 'A' in are fairly straightforward to get a B in, but difficult to fail. What makes a school good are opportunities to challenge students, and resources to help with those challenges. A lot of classmates, like me, chose to take the difficult classes, and it paid off. But I've seen students, athletes or otherwise, take the path of least resistance, getting Cs and Bs enough to graduate, but not learning or growing much, or taking classes that offer easy A's.

I'm sure there are other universities that have a much more rigorous curriculum that they require of every student, but what makes a school 'good' isn't whether or not their students elect to take Comm or Engineering classes. You can only control that to the degree of your admissions standards, which Curtis all but glosses over -- the Big Ten has more rigorous standards than the SEC. Unless the indepdent studies he mentions are easy to a UNC level, then they don't bear mentioning.


September 4th, 2012 at 3:54 PM ^

That's an important point. While some universities are better than others, "better" is more a result of the opportunities afforded to students than an objective measure. A motivated student can get an excellent education pretty much anywhere ... including their local public library ... but that motivated student may reach the limits of whatever academic institution he attends.

A place like Michigan gives the motivated student almost limitless opportunity and has a long history of students using opportunity to maximize their own potential. That does not mean that every student does so, and with a student body as large as UM's, it's unlikely that even most do so. At the end of four years, the diploma and UM's reputation carries enough weight.

No question that a football player could maximize his academic potential at UM, but i'm not sure that most players are interested in doing so ... which doesn't make them much different than the rest of the student body.

snarling wolverine

September 4th, 2012 at 3:14 PM ^

It's interesting that these articles only appear after a loss. says we have the #2 recruiting class in the country, higher-ranked than every school in the SEC.  Strangely, that fact did not make it into the article.


September 4th, 2012 at 3:26 PM ^

We are not "too smart" to play at that elite level.  We get dangerously close to the  Clearinghouse minimum with some of these guys.  Moreover, I don't think we have the academic rigor reputation that recruits are mistakenly scared away by when being chased by Stanford and Notre Dame.  

If a guy was out of the ball park, we wouldnt even offer him. Look at the top recruits in the country.  How many of those do we offer? Most, if not all.  I think we are hunting for this excuse  to justify our recent poor performances against the nation's elite, but it is an empty argument.  

We will be back at the national elite level in a couple of years. This multi year hiccup can be attributed to woeful recruiting at the end of Carr and throughout RR's entire regime.  

Remember, Demar Dorsey couldn't even qualify at Louisville.  Maybe we won't take a player or two each year with a criminal background, but this does not have the material effect that would justify this "we just have too much character and intelligence to compete with those cavemen" line of reasoning.

Wolverine 73

September 4th, 2012 at 3:30 PM ^

We hear this whining from Notre Dame fans all the time.  Continue to recruit better players, maintain the system we have for a few years so the players all get familiar with it, build better depth and let's see what happens.


September 4th, 2012 at 3:53 PM ^

On one hand my emotions for much of the week are governed by how the football team does, and I love being a Michigan fan. On the other, as a grad student I care very much about the respect that the academic side commands, and I could not live with a football program that in any way reduced the intellectual presitige of the University. 

Then there's the whole not-paying-kids-to-hurt-themselves-thing and I have trouble coming up with a logical reason to support college football. Fortunately for me, I guess, fandom is far from logical.

snarling wolverine

September 4th, 2012 at 3:57 PM ^

Well, they are getting compensation in the form of a scholarship that can be worth $200,000.  The vast majority will not earn enough money from football to be set for life.  That education becomes quite valuable when the football career ends (not to mention the alumni networks that they benefit from - many ex-players find jobs working for sympathetic fellow alumni).


September 4th, 2012 at 4:04 PM ^

Even if they took easier classes than a lot of other students (probably not even a majority, givne how many joke classes / departments there are now at all universities), they put in more work / devotion into their sport than most put into all areas of their college experiences combined.

While I would hire a football player for these reasons, as well as being a huge fan that'd want to continuously talk to them about UM football, I would not hire them out of "sympathy."

snarling wolverine

September 4th, 2012 at 4:29 PM ^

You've actually illustrated my point quite well.  

Many ex-players land jobs for which they theoretically aren't qualified (and which often have nothing to do with their field of study), but alumni connections  (and the allure of having an ex-player on company payroll) are key.  I'm not saying this is a bad thing.  It's a great reason for players to stick it out and complete their degree. 





September 4th, 2012 at 7:07 PM ^

Students who do not compete in varsity athletics also obtain jobs and seats in grad schools that they are not qualified for. This year nearly 30% of my firm consists of non-athletes who, on paper, are "not qualified" for their titles and job descriptions. Luckily they know people or are related to them. Further, the easiest "athlete" courses I ever took at NU were filled with a majority of non-athletes.

L'Carpetron Do…

September 4th, 2012 at 10:19 PM ^

I don't think we're too smart for college football but I do think we may be too clean (fingers crossed as I write this -  God forbid a scandal breaks tomorrow).  

This loss to Alabama was really discouraging but I have a feeling it will be vacated years from now.  I don't trust Saban and while there is no proof, you KNOW there is some shady stuff going on down there that will come out later.  

College football is a dirty game.  I don't think Michigan is dirty enough to succeed.  Think about all the teams that have enjoyed huge success over the last several years.  Almost every single one of them was later punished for cheating or had to deal with serious allegations of breaking rules.  USC, Ohio State, Miami, Auburn, Florida, even Penn State and Oregon.  I wouldn't be surprised if we add Alabama to that list soon.

Maybe Michigan should sell its soul if it really wants to win...