(NOTE: I was reminded today of a piece I wrote almost exactly four years ago, but it seems like nothing has changed. I made a few edits, including updating links. Then-NCAA President Myles Brand passed away two years after this was written.)
October 11, 2007
So the NCAA has released figures indicating that graduation rates are rising among student athletes at Division I colleges and universities. Of course, the story begins with statistics on the “high-profile” sports like men’s basketball, football, and baseball, and women’s soccer, basketball, volleyball, and softball. They say that men’s basketball graduation rates jumped 8 percent.
Then, in the press release, NCAA President Myles Brand tells a fib :
“NCAA student-athletes are students first, and by and large they are good students,” he said. “They have been afforded the privilege of competing in their chosen sport while pursuing their studies as full-time students, and most of them are handling those twin responsibilities quite well.”
Perhaps he’s referring to the National Civil Aviation Authority, and not the NCAA that employs him, but I’ll stop picking on him, so never mind. It’s B.S., and I don’t mean a bachelor of science.
In whose universe are student-athletes “students” first? Only in the name you call them. Speaking from personal experience, both what I saw and and heard and what has been told to me, at least some of these “student-athletes” aren’t going to class (not every school allow this), and if they do, several more of them are not doing the work . . .not because they don’t want to (ok, not always) but because the coach and the team’s boosters, who did graduate from that school, don’t want classes to interfere with their playing. And heck, playing some sports is a full time job. Who would want to do extra work after that kind of grueling schedule?
And if studies did take precedence, then how come they don’t take you to meet the professors on recruiting trips? No top-grossing athletics university would want school interfere with an athlete’s ability to play their sport. Because if they do, they are going to get lambasted by the press and their classmates for under-performing.
I wanted to save my NCAA rant for the Reggie Bush post, but I think I’ll just jump right into it here. College sports are only amateur because the NCAA has one of the biggest rackets going. They get, for free, the services of these soon to be pro athletes under the guise of promoting education when nothing could be further from the truth. They exploit their talent, give them a few bucks to attend their school, and get (again for free) what they should be paying for. The players become household names but they don’t get paid a dime for anything, all in the spirit of not tarnishing the “sanctity” of college sports. The NCAA says that a free education is payment enough to these kids, but when they’re making millions while the kids get flack for taking $1 from anyone other than their family, the whole thing smells a little funny. (It gets even funnier when these players start making millions in the NBA or NFL and then end up giving that money right back, but I digress.)
Once you parse through the minuscule increases in the graduation rates, and keep in mind that these are numbers for people who entered the college or university from 1997 to 2000 and graduated by 2007, you get to the real numbers. The lows. The bottom line is that if a school is graduating less than 1 in 5 of all of its players – or none at all, if you played basketball at the University of Maryland – then these overall increases are irrelevant because somebody is being failed.
Plus, just graduating is not enough. What classes are they taking and what kind of degree are they getting? And more importantly, are they doing the work themselves? I don’t think it’s a big secret that the administrations themselves often do everything they can to make sure that the students pass their classes, by any means necessary. They just don’t trust their student-athletes to do their school work. This does an extreme disservice to the student-athlete, who may have trouble getting another job besides the one and only job they recruited them to do: to play ball.
The student-athletes have suffered enough for far too long with this system. If they’re not going to really emphasize education in the “high profile” college sports, then so be it, but please don’t insult our intelligence by trying to convince us otherwise.