“I can understand that if I were a coach, I would think I know the athletes best.”

This Chronicle of Higher Education piece asks an interesting question: “Who Should Oversee Athletes’ Academic Progress?”

Ohio is one in a long line of colleges that have built facilities dedicated solely to providing academic support for athletes. But a group of faculty members is asking that those services be put under the control of an academic unit such as the provost’s office rather than the athletics department. They worry that the current system might cheat athletes out of a top-notch education and could invite scandal.

To me, there would appear to be obvious conflicts of interest in putting a coaching staff in charge of players’ academics.  One is the obvious matter of maintaining academic eligibility.  The other is the fair number of coaching contracts that contain bonuses for meeting certain APR thresholds.

I’m particularly curious to hear from those of you who’ve long argued that academics should be the guiding standard for admissions.  Do you feel the same way about this issue?

30 Comments

Filed under Academics? Academics.

30 responses to ““I can understand that if I were a coach, I would think I know the athletes best.”

  1. Hogbody Spradlin

    Sorry for slightly thread jacking. I don’t think I’m one of the people your question was aimed at, but it seems like teachers should teach and coaches should coach. Not just conflict of interest issues, but sticking to your knitting type stuff.

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  2. gastr1

    It wouldn’t be a coaching staff in charge so much as an advising and support staff managed by the athletic department. Nonetheless, I agree that the athletic department’s oversight tends to direct students to majors they can manage more easily with practice & travel demands. There’s no doubt the current method usually shortchanges the athletes. The athletes, though, are typically suitably willing to comply with that approach because they’re under no illusions about what the goals are for them–either their own or the university’s.

    And the fact is that regardless who’s coordinating their support, virtually no D1 football or basketball player can major in physics or aerospace engineering– or even theater–because of recurring conflicts in time demands (theater & the arts require substantial out of class practice or rehearsal time that make them difficult to square with athletes’ schedules).

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    • Russ

      I agree it’s very hard, but apparently some athletes do major in serious subjects. UT’s quarterback last year majored in aerospace engineering and was reported to have a 4.0. I know Hoage (with those miserable knees) had a high GPA in biochemistry back in the day. Personally, I don’t know how they do it. I graduated ThankYou Laude in engineering and it was pretty dang hard. I couldn’t imagine playing a major sport at the same time.

      Anyhoo…I think the academics need to be involved with helping the ones that want help, and I think the schools should create majors for them in Sports Management, Financial Planning for athletes, Coaching, etc. Most of them have chosen athletics as their career path. Schools should be helping them succeed in all phases of that career, not just on the field.

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  3. TnDawg

    I remember a time when coaches also taught classes such as Math, History, Civics, and even Physical Education. Also remember that athletes got grades that passed them so they would remain eligible. Albany High School, circa 1963. Don’t think its a good idea for the coaches to be responsible for the students academics.

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  4. Bright Idea

    My first thought is that if the coach is going to be held accountable for graduation rates then the athletic department should provide the support to the players but of course without interference from the coach. Checks and balances should be in place to prevent abuse because of the perceived conflict of interest. Other than staying on the players’ tails about their academics my guess is most coaches don’t have the time to fool with it regardless of their bonus tied to graduation rates.

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  5. Having the academics oversee the assistance provided to athletes would be a step in the right direction to prevent cheating and academic fraud. Regarding acceptance, I think the NCAA should raise standards for freshman eligibility.

    For those who don’t think academically ready athletes can major in rigorous fields of study, there are plenty of examples where athletes have excelled and met their athletic commitments. The question is how many want to major in those fields of study.

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    • CB

      It would be tough. I can tell you from working in college athletics that many teachers just don’t get it, and they don’t cut the athletes any slack. Some are even biased against them.

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      • I wouldn’t expect them to cut them slack, but I would expect they are treated fairly especially for those who are earnestly trying to earn a degree.

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        • CB

          It’s a lot to get into, but it’s not that simple. Many athletes wouldn’t be in college if not for their athletic abilities. Therefore “fair treatment” often ends up being unfair if these kids weren’t prepared for the rigors of college academia. Many professors don’t feel the need to cater to this reality (not that I completely blame them). So you can (not always) end up with a gap that ends up being filled by the academic aides within the athletic department.

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          • No doubt and I think we’re on the same page. The S-A needs to take the initiative to use the academics resources offered. The professors can’t have a bias against the S-A.

            Does the gap exist outside of football, men’s basketball and women’s basketball? I would assume a number of kids who come from powerhouse high school athletic programs in those sports have not had to face the typical academic rigors of a college prep curriculum. The undertone is there is definitely a socioeconomic gap that exists and causes the academic gap for a number of S-As when they step foot on a large university campus.

            It’s not a simple problem to solve … that’s for sure.

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            • CB

              The three you mentioned are the main contributors for sure. Academic requirements are lowered because the best players aren’t always the best students. And also $$&$

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  6. ASEF

    The danger is that Academics might not support marginal students appropriately. The number 1 issue for those students is NOT cognitive horsepower – it’s “soft skills,” such as planning, organization and time management. If you haven’t really developed those abilities in high school, college is going to be an insurmountable adjustment without explicit instruction in those areas.

    That was the UNC scandal in a nutshell – academics insisting on running support, but through a academic culture that was dismissive and even hostile to “jocks” on an elite research campus. Support was nothing more than some content tutors, basically fellow undergrads and a certified high school instructor or two. Enter Deborah Crowder.

    Now, UNC has specialists with MAs who basically run an academic boot camp on soft skills. But that is expensive, and UNC absorbed those costs in the wake of a reputation-killing scandal and SACS probation. Hard to believe Academics would have done that proactively.

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    • paul

      And, unfortunately, other schools may even be less likely to do so in the aftermath of the UNC scandal. The school was absolved of any wrongdoing since anyone could and did take the sham courses. Athletes weren’t the only ones who didn’t have to take tests or write papers. No one had to. So, no problem. As long as everyone was treated equally and no athletes got special treatment we’re all good. Quite frankly, that fact that so many students were allowed to do so little for so long didn’t even really negatively affect the academic reputation of the institution. There was very little in the way of negative consequences.

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      • ASEF

        The suspect AfAm courses (most of the AfAm courses were legit) were a fraction of 1% of the undergraduate curriculum.

        And everyone got fired or forced out, from the Chancellor on down. School paid tens of millions in legal fees and investigations, lost over a 100 million in donations.

        UNC got hammered.

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        • paul

          You are correct. My comment was meant to be focused on the issue of whether or not the academic side of the house is motivated to support student athletes. My point being that as far as the NCAA was concerned, there was no wrongdoing. So from that standpoint what’s the incentive to put the money into a life skills type program? We’re far more likely to see initiatives like the Paul Oliver Network.

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      • Russ

        Jim Harrick begs to disagree.

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  7. John Denver is full of shit...

    If a bioengineer can be wined and dined to join the likes of a massive patent law firm for the likes of big pharma while still in school, why the fuck can’t a guy who doesn’t do science, be wined and dined by an agent of the only industry he is likely to monetarily capatilize on his talents?

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  8. Bulldog Joe

    Oversight depends on the purpose of the facility and the program.

    If the facility is used primarily as a recruiting tool and the program is used to weed out athletes who are not primary contributors on the field, then oversight belongs to the athletic department.

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  9. steve

    Please…these ‘facilities’ are cheese for the spring-loaded recruiting rat trap. Mama thinks ‘Jr’ will suddenly refocus on academics and stop impregnating 18 yo women if there is a ‘dedicated building’ to his scholarly achievements. The real pros ‘don’t need no building’. Auburn proves constantly that the biologic is both parasite and host at the same time….Sociology courses with call-in tests for FB playas? Biggest budget in CFB to retain law firms, PR firms, writers, media purchases, and every other social world advantage with a price tag.
    The ‘facilities’ are just a dinner table talking point for Mama and her son. The students that want to pursue a curriculum that includes a legitimate earned grade will do it without ‘facilities’ or forced ‘tutoring’ sessions if the subject is required. And putting life-long career academics in charge of anything is more dangerous than an angry goat landing a 747.

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  10. Uglydawg

    That’s reality dressed in some pretty clever script, steve. If academia really prevailed, all college students would be enrolled first to be educated. I think the hammer of reality came down hard and unmistakable when GT took a basketball player that pretty much declared he intended to be “one and done”.
    I love college football. I’ll accept reality.
    BTW..the first word of your post, “Please”, is a great way to shorten, “Let’s not bullshit each other”.

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  11. W Cobb Dawg

    In the case of major football and basketball programs, the athletics department is a professional organization and the ‘students’ are there to play a sport. The players attend the college much the same as John Q. Public takes college classes while working a full time job. This situation has existed for many decades. I’m a grandfather and it’s been this way my entire life.

    The ‘academic progress monitor’ is another attempt at bringing the whole situation back under some semblance of a regular college operation. But its just chipping away at the edges of the monolith. I say just pay the players and accept the reality that your favorite college team is a professional sports organization much the same as Steinbrenner’s N.Y. Yankees.

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  12. Dylan Dreyer's Booty

    I am a somewhat older dude than most here – I hearken to a time when women who were going to a PE class in a PE uniform were required to wear a raincoat to cover themselves if out in public, for one example. In those days, no one expected the players to take serious classes as long as they passed, and that was a sort of tragedy that eventually lead to Jan Kemp and the hell that was wrought from that.

    We have come to a point where the time that football requires has expanded so much that I don’t see how a student can play effectively and also achieve to his or her maximum academic success – whatever that might be for a given individual – without some organized system to help. That system should not include advice like ‘take professor X – you’ll get a B’ but it should be strong on what others here have termed ‘soft skills’. I would call them the most important skills because whatever you do later will benefit from having them.

    So, who should be in charge of such a system, academics or coaches? Neither, really. The academics that I have had experience with are not particularly good at communicating and teaching organization – in fact, they often just want you to figure out how to keep up – and coaches have something of a conflict of interest from their contracts. But there needs to be a system run by professionals and because of time demands that football creates, it needs to be run in the athletic department. Also, it ought to be available to all the athletes, not just football players.

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  13. Biggus Rickus

    Yes, putting coaches in charge of player academics is a scandal waiting to happen. Coaches, or perhaps more accurately, the sports complexes are already often too powerful at Universities as it stands, which is how you end up with Penn State, Baylor and Michigan State. I assume there are things every bit as troubling going on at many power 5 programs that just haven’t been blown open yet.

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  14. AusDawg85

    Pay the football players a market based salary. Then have the athletic department provide tutors for a fee charged to the athletes. Those who are in school for the education will be back at net zero in revenue, but get that quality education. Those just in it for the money will show themselves, but hurt the coaches APR, so the staff will have to adjust recruiting accordingly. Perfect system of checks and balances.

    /sarcasm meter off…but now that I think about it, maybe I’m serious.

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