In the (academic) ghetto

What do you get when somebody whose most recent work is entitled “Thinking the Impossible: French Philosophy since 1960” turns his intellectual attention towards college athletics?  Well, you get something like this“By lowering academic standards for athletes, universities help to marginalize the intellectual enterprise.”

Of course, no mention is made of lowering academic standards for legacy cases or for those who benefit from the financial generosity of wealthy family members who make outsized contributions to get more favorable admissions treatment.  And the author goes on to note that there are many cases of athletes who are students.

The problem is more specific, he writes.

But what about Division I football and men’s basketball, the big-time programs with revenues in the tens of millions of dollars that are a major source of their schools’ national reputation?  Are the members of these teams typically students first?

I’m sure it’s mere coincidence that most of those he refers to there are poor and minorities (and usually come from crappy schools).  Maybe that’s why he finds the easy solution to his problem is to ghettoize these kids academically.

… They could admit athletes who fall far short of their regular academic criteria as “associate students” (or maybe even “athlete-students”), who take just two or three courses a term and are not expected to receive a bachelor’s degree after four years.  They would instead receive an associate’s degree (like that currently awarded by some colleges), which would, after four years, put them in a position to gain regular admission to a college where they could complete a bachelor’s degree in two more years. (There would, of course, still be athletes who met standard criteria of admission and so would be expected to earn a regular degree in four years.)

This would end the bad faith involved in pretending that unqualified students, devoted primarily to playing sports, could truly earn a bachelor’s degree.  But it would also give a significant educational purpose to the under-qualified athlete’s four years on campus.

My bet is that most college coaches would love to have that option.  And for those kids who could truly earn a bachelor’s degree if given the opportunity and support but would be directed into college lite?  Tough shit, guys.  We’ve got philosophy professors who don’t want to agonize over semantics to make happy.  (Not to mention coaches who would prefer never having to worry about academic casualties again.)

Look, I’m not denying that there is a certain amount of delusion we all engage in here.  I know what the high school situation is in this state and the academic caliber of many who enroll at Georgia to play football and basketball.  But it seems to me that the bottom line here for any academic institution is to make sure of one thing – that in pursuing athletic success, no steps are taken that cheapen the degree I received.  That’s why the Harricks never should have been allowed to step foot on campus.  (And why on a larger scale, the NBA’s “one and done” rule should be ditched.)

Call ’em student-athletes, or athlete-students, if you care.  I don’t.  I just care that they make viable progress towards earning a degree in the time that they’re enrolled.  If that takes extra academic support, so be it.  For what they put in, they deserve it.  (It’s not like those with better financial means can’t hire tutors, for that matter.)  But every kid who makes it through and earns that bachelor’s degree is living proof that they all deserve that chance to succeed instead of being tossed onto an inferior track because some of us are squeamish about labels.



Filed under Academics? Academics.

25 responses to “In the (academic) ghetto

  1. Where do these idiot know-it alls come from? Congrats, he actually identified an existent problem but as is most often the case his benevolent solution is SO much worse than the problem , I suppose we should forgive him because if I had endeavored to study French philosophy I too would be brain damaged. It’s just another example of the bigotry of lowered expectations.


  2. AthensHomerDawg

    So many of our incoming athletes are just not prepared for college academics. Their family characteristics such as mother’s and father’s education, income, race, single or two-parent family, smoking during pregnancy all impact their school readiness and ability to a achieve in college. Adding a playbook and getting ready to play their sport only exacerbates the transition to an academic lifestyle . Taking an athlete and improving their forty time is one thing, Taking a young person who is ill prepared and turning him into a competitive college student is not nearly as easy. “The telling factor in academic performance is the attitude and work ethic children bring to the classroom. This is of course shaped by parents and also pop culture.” One attends college to learn….. when poorly prepared and forced to play catch up it begins as an exercise in learning to learn as well. That makes the already steep hill of finding success in college……. steeper.


    • CarolinaDawg

      If playing football allows one unfortunate person the chance to better himself with an education, then count me in.


      • SCDawg

        Word. I remember a few prop 48 guys walking away from college football with degrees.


        • AthensHomerDawg

          And that translates to what sir…. exactly. What do they do with the paper that they walk away with. Do we know? Have we measured it? What are the benefits here? Is there a ROI ? Have you seen the stats on million dollar athletes that are bankrupt.
          It’s like LEED certification….. no one really understands if it works … or not. To me that is the disconnect. I just ain’t buying that a university carries someone until they get a degree and somehow we are all better for it. A degree doesn’t carry a built in success result!
          just typin’ .


  3. Derek

    Lewis Grizzard proposed the same thing about 25 years ago. The idea was that kids who can’t meet academic standards should still have an opportunity to earn a living playing football so teach them what you can and send them on to the NFL.


    • AthensHomerDawg

      Derek/Spence You are assuming the NFL has a place for them all? As hard as it has been to get student athletes to focus on education while in high school ….. can you not imagine what happens to their motivation when it no longer counts?
      And are we going to apply this ideal to other students that couldn’t or didn’t achieve certain standards so they can move on with their careers? My youngest just took a test to qualify for entrance to Terry Business School. He is a finance major with an eye towards law school. While he did do well, if he hadn’t -should they have waved it and let him in? I mean he worked sooooo hard to get into UGa. When he was much younger and played different sports he had a shelf that went around his bedroom. This is where he placed his trophies. Also, in his closet he had a box where he tossed trophies haphazardly. I asked he why he did that. He said ” the trophies in the closet were trophies everyone got…. I had to earn the ones on the shelf.”
      “The trouble with opportunity is that it always comes disguised as hard work.”Anonymous


      • Derek

        I am not promoting the idea at all. I think the NFL should be forced to fund a developmental league and that colleges should play with the kids that enroll in their institutions. I was just pointing out that the French philosopher/academic had some good company around here so that the derision might be tempered.


        • I think the NFL should be forced to fund a developmental league and that colleges should play with the kids that enroll in their institutions.

          Absolutely. That would end 80% of the hypocrisy overnight.


  4. Scott W.

    Why does one become an academic? Freedom from ridicule and freedom to ridicule.


  5. Spence

    I’ll go one step further. I love watching these kids play do much, and they work so hard, that I would gladly let them graduate from my alma mater if they choose to finish. No questions asked, no debate.

    I also think this article makes me happy we have Richt at the helm, because he obviously cares about each player and their long term well being. In other words, there is no cheapening of the University with CMR.

    Still would love a championship though.


  6. shane#1

    I agree with the Senator about the one and done rule. Bob Knight was right about that rule from the get go. I hate this curse of low expectations put upon minority kids from lower economic groups. Some kids are self starters but most will do only what is demanded of them. Demand less and you get less. In the interest of “fairness” we have dumbed down all public education except for those few in advanced classes. Just what in hell is fair about warehousing kids for twelve years and then letting them out with a certificate of completion and no way to earn a decent living?


  7. LoftusD

    Like it or not, colleges are the owners of collegiate football. They started it, they run it. Want colleges out of college football? Then privatize what we now know as college football. A minor-league football system which pays players and players don’t have to be admitted college students if they choose not to. All we have to do is keep up the moaning about how colleges and professors keep sticking their noses under the tent and a minor league system is what you will get. An effort is already underway and will build steam over the next few years. Better get ready for the next moves to off-campus stadiums. The new minor league teams will vacate campuses with which they are no longer associated and you can have beer in the stands and Auburn and Alabama will play in a swanky new stadium near the population center of Birmingham, the Dogs and Jackets will move to new digs in the Atlanta suburbs. Believe me, the increased commercialization of college athletics and the many fan/complainers will drive this to happen within the next 20 years and many of us will look back with fondness to the good old days.


  8. OKDawg

    Thanks for this post, Senator. I appreciate your honest thoughts on this significant socioeconomic issue that lurks just below the surface of the bright lights and fanfare surrounding this sporting experience we love. With so few athletes moving on to earn real life-changing income in the NFL, the futures of many young men and the impact on the lives of families, businesses, culture, politics, and society at large cannot be underestimated here. Thank you for pulling it into the light of discussion.


  9. AusDawg85

    The soft bigotry of lowered expectations….

    Liberalism and the welfare state/modern education…good intentions so we can all feel good, despite its complete failure.

    P.S. A recent research study has found that only 1 in 5 eight-graders in Texas go on to earn any type of secondary degree or Tech/Vocation certificate within 6 years of when they would have graduated from HS.


    • SCDawg

      Yeah, all the liberals who have controlled Texas and San Fransisco for the last 40 years have totally screwed up education??


  10. Georgia Roads Scholar

    This reminded me of a story that got a good bit of acclaim for the Seattle Times about five years ago. I’m not under the delusion that the football player in this story is the rule or even a common case, but it just shows what can be done with the opportunities an athletic scholarship offers.


    • Georgia Roads Scholar

      Just to clarify, the linked article was one portion of a four part story dealing with the ultimate downfall of the Washington football program after their Rose Bowl trip in 2000. The other three are, to put it lightly, not so positive.


  11. Always Someone Else's Fault

    I spend a fair amount of time volunteering as a tutor at the local elementary school and community college, and I find myself impressed by the work of the instructors or the resilience of the students far more often than I find myself shaking my head. For some reason in this country we spend way more time finding fault than we do noticing accomplishments, at least in our daily lives.

    IMO, the biggest problem by far has to be the number of parents who think education begins at 8:00 and ends at 3:05. It’s stunning to me how much $$$ parents throw at hitting instructors, pitching coaches, QB coaches, or personal trainers for their kids so that they can “earn a college scholarship” but won’t spend one dime for a little extra math tutoring (or even approve some extra work after school with a free volunteer) “because that’s the teacher’s job.”

    I see that in both “liberal” and “conservative” parents. The only difference seems to be the willingness of the “conservative” parents to blame the “liberal” system for their kid’s failures. Sorry, Charlie, but your kid learned that crappy attitude from you, not his reading textbook.


  12. Tom

    Senator, the things you read to keep us entertained! I sure wouldn’t get past the first paragraph of this guys BS.


  13. Rhymerdawg

    We, philosophy profs, would be more than willing to harangue over semantics to make happy.



  14. Just Chuck

    This is the kind of stuff that gives professors a bad name. As Richard Feynman once saId about scientists, when it comes to stuff outside their field, they’re no smarter than anyone else. The same appears to be true of philosophers.