My rant about academics in the SEC (Thank you Morris Claiborne)

Submitted by RollDamnTide on April 3rd, 2012 at 11:03 AM


Ok, I've been saving a rant and just waiting for the right opportunity to do it. Thank you Morris Claiborne. With your recent score of FOUR on the wonderlich test, you have proven yet again that academics aren't important in SEC football anymore. How does one obtain a 4 on the wonderlich test? Seriously.  It brings into question the education he received while in college. It brings serious doubt into my mind about the standard in which these student athletes are being judged by. I'm assuming he kept himself eligible through college, but one must wonder if these universities are just passing these kids along. Claiborne is just one of a long line of SEC kids who have bombed this test, this has been going on for quite some time.

I'm not here to tell you that the wonderlich is a great test of intelligence, I'm just here to tell you that an average intelligence 12 year old would do better than Morris Claiborne. People will be quick to point out that AJ Green scored a 10 on the wonderlich, and look how well he turned out. To say that, however, is completely missing my point. Is his success in the NFL the true measure if he's doing ok? Sooner or later, these young men won't be able to play football anymore, and they will have to fall back on something. More and more these days, we're hearing that these guys are flat broke shortly after their careers. It's because they aren't getting an education, they are being used for athletics. You don't hear about this as much in other conferences, because the emphasis on education is the first priority. What do National Championships mean, when more players than you'd think could have problems spelling championship?

I'd be willing to be you that a large amount of the players who reportedly are broke now after their careers, are SEC conference players. You don't see this in other conferences, because other conferences haven't sold their souls to boosters. Joe Paterno has a quote that I love, when he was asked which was his best class. When asked he says "I don't know yet, I want to see what kind of men they become." That really says it all, he didn't really care what kind of NFL careers they had, he wanted to know what kind of people they would become. That doesn't exist at a lot of SEC schools, because at the end of the day, winning is all that matters

I'm in the very small minority of SEC fans who will admit to you how big of a problem this is. But it's a running joke, and the NCAA needs to look further into it, because it's a massive problem.



April 3rd, 2012 at 11:26 AM ^

Not as if they wouldn't, for the most part, get into a state flagship or other very good school, but the Ivy League's admission rate for recruited athletes is absurdly higher than for the general student population (I've also heard the same about the service academies).

Some of that is because they only recruit good students, but I would bet if you put Harvard's twenty-strong football class into the general pool, you would end up with only five or six being admitted, at the very most.


April 3rd, 2012 at 11:56 AM ^

The Ivies lower their standards for athletes more than most would ever believe.  One study found the SAT difference between varsity athletes and the general student population at those schools to be around 300 points.  The Ivies maintain a pretense of not caring about sports by not giving athletic scholarships (though they find ways around that), but their admissions rates suggest otherwise.  I had a high school classmate who went to Columbia as a recruited athlete, and he was not what you'd think of as a typical Ivy League-bound student in high school.



April 3rd, 2012 at 12:42 PM ^

I read an interesting article a while back written by an Ivy Legue football player.  He made the following observation:  

If you think you are good enough to be a Movie Star, you can major in acting in college.  If you think you are good enough to be an artist, you can major in art in college.  If you think you are good enough to be a professional musician, you can major in music in college.

What do all these things have in common?  They are all high-risk, high-return professions.  Very few people actually succeed in them.  Most people never realize those dreams.  But you can still major in them and focus on them exclusively in school.  You don't have to pretend you are there for another reason.

However, if you think you are good enough to be a professional football player, you can not major in football.  You have to pretend you are there for something else.

These were his points, not mine, but I thought they were an interesting perspective coming from an Ivy League athlete.

A cynic like me would say that CFB players, including many of Michigan's, are indeed majoring in football.  The pretense that they are there for any other reason is a very thin and almost pointless veil.  

It seems to me that Universities should either make them take and pass real classes, or drop the hypocrisy and let them major in football.



April 3rd, 2012 at 2:00 PM ^

There is a significant difference, though.  

Acting, painting, playing music etc. are things you could theoretically do for your entire adult life.  You can't keep playing football until you're 65.  You have to start doing something else when you're in your 30s (if not earlier).  It may be in athletes' best interests to be majoring in something entirely different from their sports, to prepare them for their post-athletic lives.  

That there are "high risk" majors in existence doesn't justify adding more of them.  Maybe there should be fewer of them.

Shave Off Them…

April 3rd, 2012 at 2:55 PM ^


I fail to see this significant difference. Of course you can't keep playing football until you're 65, but it's not like there aren't an ever increasing number of professions in the business that surrounds the major sports (read coaching at all levels, front offices, personal training facilities, etc). That's not to say I dream of my son someday going to Michigan and majoring in "football", but these kids have a fulltime job in the sport of their choice and are then asked to attend classes at a university for which they may or may not have academically qualified if not for athletics. Couldn't they just as easily take classes in the field of their interest while also completing a minimum core curriculum like any other student?

I just think propping up the antequated idea that every one of these players is in school to "get an education" helps support the sham of a system propogated by the NCAA. It's a business these day, plain and simple. Let's stop pretending otherwise. If a kid wants an education in a less risky field out of the process I think that's great. If not, I have no problem with calling a spade and spade.

I know it's been posted before but feels appropriate again. This is the takedown of the NCAA in the Atlantic last Fall:…

snarling wolverine

April 3rd, 2012 at 3:49 PM ^

They may not think they're in school to get an education, but ultimately, that education will end up being very important to them.  How many college football players will earn enough in the NFL to be financially set for life?  Football careers are very short and the opportunities are limited.  The other careers you mention (like coaching) are also extremely competitive and don't require a degree in the field as it is, so why bother creating a "football" major?


April 3rd, 2012 at 4:04 PM ^

So that athletes who do not have the sort of intelligence to succeed in college can still get a useful education? Are players who are not able to be "book smart" really getting anything out of that education they are currently receiving? Tailoring courses to fit the skills a player would find useful when they are done playing makes sense. Coaching at a high enough level is extremely competitive, but there are tons of high schools and division 3 schools out there that need coaches, too. 

Shave Off Them…

April 3rd, 2012 at 5:00 PM ^

My point was not that there is viability to a football major, but that I don't see the difference between football players majoring in football and art majors majoring in art. Here, watch me adapt the end of your argument to an art major (or an acting major, etc): "Art is very competitive and doesn't require a degree in the field as it is, why bother creating an art major?"  No one would suppose that there is no benefit in learning art theory or art history, but it's not required to be an artist. I'm not saying I'd be proud of or sign up for a football major, but it's not fair to say there are no career prospects in the increasingly business world of athletics (professional, collegiate, even drifting into high school) by way of comparison to the art or acting worlds.

Shave Off Them…

April 3rd, 2012 at 5:03 PM ^

The underlying theme here though is the value of that nebulous concept that is an "education", which you paternalistically state they will some day appreciate. Going to an amazing university like Michigan provides you with opportunity and that's it. A degree doesn't guarantee you had a good education, or really even any education. It only means you completed the requirements to graduate. It certainly doesn't guarantee you're prepared for any career at all. It's up to the student to commit and make the most of things. The same applies to athletes. Graduating only means they did the bare minimum and now have a degree which may or may not provide any practical skills for their eventual livelihood. They did all of this while balancing their other full-time job. I fully support any athlete who wants a degree in a subject outside of athletics and works for it. I think it's an amazing opportunity that these kids have. I don't support a system which shepards kids through it in the name of education so that they can define them as student-athletes and financially exploit their atheltic skill. 


April 6th, 2012 at 6:24 AM ^

Technically that's up to the schools themselves to choose what to offer. This is a perception game, where fairness doesn't always count as much as it should. Speaking just from a perception standpoint, If Michigan announced a Professional Athletics major tomorrow, I think it would look like we're creating a major to excuse taking dumb jocks, and the prestige of the university would take a hit.

What can change that perception would be a group of schools beyond reproach forming those programs simultaneously. What would influence them to do so, and where they'd get the money to pay for it, I don't know.

The UM School for Music, Theater and Dance was formed at about the same time as the football team, at a time when studying music and theater pretty much meant a career in that. Remember they didn't even have radio yet; theater troops (and, to our great shame, minstrel groups) ruled entertainment of the day, and there were perhaps as many of them per capita as there are movie theaters. Starting a new college or major when only a small % will spend as much as 5 years doing that professionally is way harder to do than justifying the continuity of a 120-year-old college within your university that doesn't put near as many of its graduates into professions as it used to, but still maintains the prestige of the university with those who graduate from it.

Also I should mention my good friend and former college roommate was a School of Music student, and he still had to take tons of "regular" classes. A dumb floutist wouldn't be able to hack it at Michigan any better than a dumb safety.


April 3rd, 2012 at 11:21 AM ^

For a moment I thought this was going to be rant about how all southern academics are horrible, and I was going to be very angry. As a native Georgian, and as someone who has been in his fair share of southern schools (teaching and studying) both at the undergrad and grad level, I get a little upset when I read people bashing the academics in the south.

Granted, GT is not in the SEC, but it's close enough to make people give it the georgraphic assumption. When the thread was running around a few weeks ago about them joing the BIG, a majority of the comment section was about how they'd never make it academically. I'm sorry, buy I'd put GT up against many a BIG schools any day. The assumption of stupidity becomes greater when you move focus to an SEC school. And frankly, it's not true.

That being said, the athletic standards *are* an issue. It needs to be fixed. But the problem itself does not inherently show that the university as a whole is poor quality. It's merely an example of the pervasive power that the athletic departments truly have, and truly, THAT is the issue that needs to be addressed. Once it is, a lot of other things will fall in line.


April 3rd, 2012 at 11:29 AM ^

No worries. It wasn't really directed at you, just an issue I have in general. I've been holding it in for a while, to be honest. It gets a little old sometimes.  

Also: How is grad life at Alabama? I looked at there for a Phd program, but I really haven't been able to make up my mind on it. Right now I'm leaning towards A&M, but a lot of it has to do with the cheap cost of education here (at least for me).


April 3rd, 2012 at 11:50 AM ^

The universities in the SEC are quality. I attend the business school at the university of georgia and it is one of the better schools in the nation. That being said I have taken basic classes with football players and they have not been the sharpest.....or present players, It is just not important to the players or the faculty. 


April 3rd, 2012 at 11:23 AM ^

with this rant.  Frankly, it plays well to this audience because we have collectively said the same thing for years.

How do your observations play out when you talk to your classmates and friends in SEC country?  I have a number of friends who attended Auburn, Georgia, and Florida.  They are hard core SEC football fans, but also very intelligent and accomplished professionals.   However, they rarely acknowledge the "football factory" abuse of athletes in the SEC.


His Dudeness

April 3rd, 2012 at 11:25 AM ^

Another reason to like RollDamnTide. He is a Bama grad yet he can still see that there are problems with Bama... imagine that. This board is full of the exact opposite type people and it is frustrating. You can be a fan and still call into question some issues with the University or Athletic Dept.


April 3rd, 2012 at 11:29 AM ^

Because there has been a shift from the universities looking at these young men as individuals and doing what's best for them vs. looking at them as an asset for the university to better it's image and make it a profit.  


April 3rd, 2012 at 11:33 AM ^

To be fair, the Wonderlich is an aptitude test.  Aptitude is not quite the same as intelligence, though they are related.  The bigger question is why the NFL continues to give this test.  People who score low can do well in the NFL while people who score highly can flame out.  


April 3rd, 2012 at 1:10 PM ^

We give the Wonderlic to all prospective applicants in my firm.  I have requested a copy of the test and will post the first four or five questions later today so everybody can see just how "difficult" these are.

A four means that Claiborne is roughly as intellegent as a run of the mill Dolphin.  Not one of the smart Flipper-type Dolphins (they would get a six or seven easy on the test) but an average one.


April 3rd, 2012 at 3:12 PM ^

The only explanation for this is Mo must have some sort of learning disability.  If that's the case then I feel bad that everyone found out about it this way

If he doesn't have a learning disability then I think we really do need to question if Mo can read, or do basic mathematics.  Furthermore, how in the hell did he stay eligible in college for 3 years?


April 3rd, 2012 at 11:36 AM ^

Honestly, while I think academics in athletics is a huge issue, using the Wonderlic to prove that is flawed. My understanding is they do not provide accommodation for disabilities like dyslexia. With a score of 4, you have to think there's something else at play here.


April 3rd, 2012 at 12:38 PM ^

I was thinking along a similar line.  The extremely low scores could be due to a learning disability.  Then again, maybe some of the athletes take a look, realize they're going to do poorly anyway, and just wing it, not putting forth any effort at all. Unless an athlete is marginal and might not make the cut anyway, a low score isn't going to deter a team from taking a chance on someone who's a great athlete.


April 3rd, 2012 at 12:51 PM ^

Excuses, excuses.  He seems to have done OK reading playbooks and running the plays in the right direction.

I don't think he is dumb or disabled at all.  I think he is disinterested, and therefore ignorant, in topics other than football.  And even though he is at a "University", nobody bothers to make him learn anything other than football.



April 3rd, 2012 at 1:02 PM ^

And I just found this.


When Claiborne came out of high school, the schools that recruited him knew he had a learning disability. I don’t know much about his disability other than it has to do with reading. Everyone I have talked to tells me that Claiborne has great character and is a great kid. He knows and understands his disability and uses all the resources that LSU has available to control it and to help him get by in the classroom. When it comes to football he puts in extra time to learn and understand his assignments and it is not a problem. Will he need reps? Probably, but no more than the usual rookie would need. In saying that, Claiborne’s test score was NOT a true indicator of his intelligence. He can and does learn.

Ron Utah

April 3rd, 2012 at 3:36 PM ^

Nice info.

Where is that quote from?

EDIT: I found it, it's a NFP article, and it doesn't cite any sources or information.  AND it talks about how players are prepped for the test now and have taken it several times before they actually have the "real" Wonderlic exam, with some guys' scores jumping by as much as 20 points.

So I'm pretty sure the article contradicts itself and does nothing to prove that Claiborne is literate or competent off the football field, which is what the issue is here.  It's obvious that he can play football...can he read a book?  Can he keep track of his finances?  Does he have any future post-NFL?

You've missed RDT's point entirely, I think.  The fact that he went to college for three years and still can't do better than a four is alarming, and the SEC is notorious for producing players that would have trouble comprehending the plotline of Dora the Exlporer.


April 3rd, 2012 at 3:54 PM ^

If he does have a learning disability that makes him functionally illiterate, that doesn't make him unintelligent. And no amount of practice tests will help if he's not given the accommodations needed to take the test. If this test were administered anywhere else, they would be required by law to provide that accommodation, but the NFL does not. Universities do provide that accommodation, so to just assume that he didn't get through three years of college on his own merits (with the help provided similar to what would be provided to a deaf student) is pretty unfair.

NOLA Wolverine

April 3rd, 2012 at 8:23 PM ^

What is it that you think constitutes a mental disability? Do you have this image of 5 year old kids perpetually seizing in a white padded room? Because, as it turns out, mentally disabled people are still capable of doing things. Even following a receiver around, believe it or not. 


April 3rd, 2012 at 11:37 AM ^

SEC really doesn't care about the well being of their athletes.  BTW, are you going to be doing your recruiting updates still rolldamntide? If not, on the board, how about an email list?


April 3rd, 2012 at 11:59 AM ^

The only path to the NFL goes through college, not even community college it seems. This and schools drive for money and wins seems to be a problem. This means there will always be kids in major colleges who have no business being there. The other 3 major team sports at least have some path to their leagues for kids who don't belong or don't want to go to college.

Wolverine 73

April 3rd, 2012 at 11:41 AM ^

if I remember correctly, former Michigan TE Bennie Joppru scored 30/30 a few years ago.  Now, based on the sample questions I have seen, they are pretty easy--but 30/30 is still impressive, you would think most people would misread a question or two or have a gap in their education where they missed one.  Guy could play too.


April 3rd, 2012 at 11:44 AM ^

 "The academic support at Ohio State, there is no way you can fail.  Even if you're giving mimimal effort there is no way you can fail"


unfortunate but true.....for several schools


EECS Grad '15

April 3rd, 2012 at 12:13 PM ^

Everyone just try the online practice Wonderlic test. I can see how the stress of the test, along with the time crunch, can cause someone to do poorly. This is however no excuse for a 4/50. Can Newton got a 21, and we all know he didn't go to school for school.