Diploma mills’ loss – junior colleges’ gain

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has a good article today on the recent NCAA rule cracking down on those prep schools operating as “diploma mills“.

It doesn’t really draw any different conclusions from the earlier article that appeared in the New York Times on the same subject, but it does have some quotes from parties familiar to Dawg fans that illustrate the thinking as to who the winners and losers will be from the new rule.

Here’s what the head coach at Hargrave Military Academy had to say:

“Ninety-five percent of our kids come here for SAT or ACT scores,” Hargrave football coach Robert Prunty said, explaining that makes Hargrave different from many schools. “I think it’s going to affect these [prep school] programs that are just getting started, and that’s what the NCAA is trying to do is get rid of these diploma mills that have been popping up.”

Mark Richt doesn’t seem very concerned about the impact this will have on his program, either:

But the new rules are far from a death knell for established prep schools like Hargrave Military Academy, which has sent a steady stream of football players to the University of Georgia and other top college programs. High school athletes who satisfy the core curriculum requirements but struggle on standardized tests can continue to use prep schools to help them.

“The players we recruit do not necessarily go to complete a core course,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said.

The GMC head coach, like many, feels like the new rule will be a boon for junior colleges.

Georgia Military College football coach Bert Williams agrees. He said his junior college program has been losing about five to eight recruits a year to prep schools, which he argues aren’t capable of getting most academically marginal athletes ready for college.

“You can’t erase years of academic problems in one semester [of prep school],” Williams said. “There is no magic wand.”

Of course, there’s no pleasing some people.

Georgia Tech football coach Chan Gailey said the NCAA should have gone a step further and banned all core course work completed after high school, instead of allowing one.

“That’s like having a law but then let’s have an exception to the law,” Gailey said. “It’s OK to be firm with rules.”

That’s Chantastic to hear from the guy that let Reuben Houston back on the field after some adroit lawyering. I’d hate to think that there are any exterior motives behind this apparent moral stand.

Um, wait a minute…

The firmer those rules get, the better it is for Tech from a competitive standpoint, because it hasn’t been in the business of enrolling athletes who barely meet NCAA standards.

Suuure it hasn’t. We’ll let that pass, though.

In the short run, it would seem that the new rule will result in an influx of kids into junior colleges. It’s harder to say how this shakes out over the long haul. There’s no question that the NCAA has a valid reason to act here:

The NCAA already has taken steps to crack down on potential academic fraud in high schools and prep schools. It has released a list of 35 schools from which it will not accept transcripts, and it has increased its scrutiny of the academic backgrounds of athletes whose records show certain anomalies, such as classes taken at four or more high schools. About 30 percent of the approximately 600 athletes whose records have triggered increased scrutiny were declared ineligible or chose not to continue applying for eligibility, Lennon said. [Emphasis added.]

The goal is laudable…

The NCAA has two goals here: Clean up the process, and create incentives for athletes to get their academics in order before they’re on the brink of college enrollment.

“[Prep school] was kind of a quick fix,” Lennon said. “The light bulb needs to go on earlier.”

… but some of what’s wrong here isn’t within the control of the athletes, either. And I don’t think there’s a rule the NCAA could pass that could fix those truly wretched public school systems that dot the Southeast.


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