“The NCAA’s primary response to my first report was that students are compensated, in their opinion. They believe that scholarship is adequate compensation for all of the time students put in and all the money they make for the system,” Murphy told HuffPost. “But there are a lot of students who are in the big time college programs where schools are treating them like commodities and not giving them the education that they deserve.”
“You’re obligated at these big kinds of college sport programs to be an athlete first, second and third, and a student fourth,” Murphy said. “It’s a bit of a red herring for the NCAA to say that a scholarship is enough compensation when a lot of these kids aren’t graduating and many others aren’t getting an education that is commensurate to their peers’.”
In recent years, the organization has celebrated its progress in increasing the percentage of students who graduate, which the NCAA measures with its own metric called the Graduation Success Rate. It developed that metric in 2002 in part to account for the high rate of athletes who transfer to different schools during their collegiate careers ― an issue the federal government’s statistics are ill-equipped to measure.
But the Graduation Success Rate, Murphy said, inflates schools’ success because it credits them when an athlete transfers in good academic standing — but sometimes fails to track them to their next school. From 2006 to 2009, Murphy said in the report, more than 23,000 athletes transferred while in good standing (and, as a result, were excluded from graduation rates). But the NCAA only accounted for the roughly 8,000 of those students who went on to enroll in different schools — so 15,000 individuals, the report states, “went missing,” meaning they dropped out or didn’t return as athletes and are thus unaccounted for.
“These athletes did not graduate, but the numbers account for them as if they did — painting an inflated picture of academic success,” the report says.
“The way that the federal government traditionally measures graduation rates, schools are held accountable for those who drop out,” Murphy said. “But [the NCAA] has rigged their own measure of graduation, so that if a kid potentially drops out of the program, nobody’s responsible for that kid. And that’s not measured in the dozens. As we showed in this report, there are thousands of kids who have dropped out of school who were playing sports, but weren’t counted when it comes to graduation rates.”
Even if they graduate, athletes often receive inadequate educations, the report argues, citing testimony from multiple former athletes. Athletes, the former players said, are sometimes forced into classes they don’t want to take and majors they don’t want to do, advisers often do their schoolwork for them, and their education often takes a backseat to their true purpose on campus: to play sports.
“The whole time … I felt stuck — stuck in football, stuck in my major,” Stephen Cline, a former defensive lineman for Kansas State University, said in the report. Cline, according to the report, wanted to become a veterinarian but was pushed into a “less demanding major” so he could concentrate on football. “Now I look back and say, ‘Well what did I really go to college for?’ Crap classes you won’t use the rest of your life? I was majoring in football.”
Sounds like a fabulous deal to me. After all, a shitty education is better than no education at all, amirite?