Michigan may be faster than Jim Delany thinks.

Remember when Jim Harbaugh dissed his alma mater a wee bit over academics?

“Michigan is a good school and I got a good education there,” he said, “but the athletic department has ways to get borderline guys in and, when they’re in, they steer them to courses in sports communications. They’re adulated when they’re playing, but when they get out, the people who adulated them won’t hire them.”

And remember when Mike Hart dissed Jim Harbaugh over Harbaugh’s slight?

Michigan senior tailback Mike Hart said Wednesday during the Big Ten kickoff that he has absolutely no respect for Harbaugh.

“He’s not a Michigan man,” Hart said. “I wish he had never played here, but it is what it is.”

Didn’t you just have the feeling that the other shoe would drop? Well, meet psychology professor John Hagen – after all, lots of Michigan athletes have:

• Michigan athletes described being steered to Hagen’s courses by their athletic department academic counselors and, in some cases, earning three or four credits for meeting with Hagen for as little as 15 minutes every two weeks.

• Three former athletic department employees said Hagen’s independent study courses are sometimes used by academic support staff to boost the grade point averages of athletes in danger of becoming academically ineligible to compete in sports.

• Athletes have enrolled in independent studies with Hagen several weeks beyond the normal deadline to add classes, which is 21 days after a semester begins. For example, in the winter 2005 semester that began Jan. 5 and ended April 19, two football players enrolled in independent studies with Hagen on March 18.

• The amount of time some athletes said they spent on independent study work fell short of guidelines listed on the psychology department’s Web site.

• The News analyzed transcripts from 29 athletes who are either currently enrolled at Michigan, or left the school within the past three years. Twenty one of the athletes took 32 graded courses from Hagen – 25 independent study courses and seven standard classes. They averaged a grade of 3.62 in the professor’s courses, compared to an overall grade point average of 2.57 in the athletes’ other classes. No athlete received a grade worse than a B-minus from Hagen.

• At least 48 athletes have taken two or more independent study courses with Hagen; nine of those 48 have taken three or more.

• Athletes from every varsity sport except women’s water polo and cross country – including 22 members of last fall’s football team and eight members of this year’s hockey team – have taken independent studies with Hagen since fall of 2004.

Quarterback Chad Henne, wideout Mario Manningham, hockey player Chad Kolarik and softball ace Jennie Ritter are just a few of the Wolverines who have taken independent studies with Hagen, as have Jake Long and Shawn Crable, two of the captains on last season’s football team.

When asked what they learned in Hagen’s courses, some athletes described being taught how to take notes, use a day planner, make a calendar and manage their time.

In many cases, athletes said the main content of these courses was study skills and time management, although Hagen called the material “learning styles.”

My favorite part of the article has to be this:

When it was pointed out that students also had not complained in the Auburn case that sparked the investigation, McDonald nodded.

“Right, but this is not Auburn,” the LS&A dean said. “This is the No. 1 psychology department in the country telling us that they have vetted this and that they are in conformance with procedures that we were asking about.”

At least that’s what they’ll tell themselves.

If Mike Hart wants to get offended by something somebody said about Michigan academics and athletes, here’s a juicy quote: “I view (learning disabilities) and being a student athlete both as potential risk categories…” That comes from John Hagen, who ought to know. After all, he’s been teaching there since 1965.

By the way, neither the President nor the Athletic Director was willing to be quoted for the article.

Oh, and the article is the first in a four-day series.

(h/t The Quad)

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UPDATE: Brian Cook at MGoBlog gets kudos for this point

…This is a scam. There are a great number of things detailed in the Ann Arbor News article that are questionable and few that are anything more, but this is a scam:

Hagen set up independent study courses for two Michigan football players with just more than a month remaining in a semester. Rueben Riley and Gabe Watson dropped other classes and enrolled in an independent study course with Hagen on March 18, 2005.

Sucking a kid into an independent study with a month to go in the semester and then lobbing four B+ credits at Gabe Watson for writing a single twelve page paper that probably says “FEED ME SO HUNGRY WANT PORK CHOP” on at least six of those pages is something close to academic fraud. The university protests “this isn’t Auburn” at one juncture in the article, but on the academic integrity continuum that extends from Vanderbilt on one end to Auburn on the other, that’s a lot closer to Auburn.

Michigan is systematically funneling kids at risk of losing their eligibility into independent study courses of questionable content, and will in extreme cases fob some credits at players for four weeks of work in a 15 week semester. The Ann Arbor News establishes that.

… although his “Ole Miss and Alabama did worse things” stories and his “dude, every school cuts its admission standards” ending serve to undercut that message some. Again, nobody questions the fact that there’s corner cutting going on all over the country, and there’s no claim that Michigan is a particularly bad actor when it comes to this sort of activity; it’s just that it’s hard to come off as holier than thou when you’re engaged in the same activity, even if at a lesser level. Simply put, you can’t be a little bit pregnant.

Ultimately, as I said in a post commenting on something else Cook posted a while ago, the issue is whether or not the school is engaging in the sort of activity that compromises its academic mission and essentially cheapens the value of its degree. Exhibit “A” of that sort of behavior: Harrick pere et fils. Does what the Ann Arbor paper discloses rise to that level? Can’t say that it does at this point – but there’s more to come, so we’ll see.

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3 responses to “Michigan may be faster than Jim Delany thinks.

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