Category Archives: Academics? Academics.

“We don’t talk enough about how much good comes from college sports.”

Normally, when I read a Mike Bianchi column and think “Christ, what an asshole”, it’s in reference to the author, but there are always exceptions to the rule, such as in this case, an interview with Central Florida’s athletic director, who actually had the balls to say,

“We have to continue to keep our student-athletes and their education at the top of mind,” Mohajir is telling me during a recent interview. “But when I say something like that, everybody says that’s a bunch of athletic director B.S. Well, it’s not B.S.; it’s why many of us got into this business. Somehow, we have allowed education to be devalued in college sports. We’ve allowed the media to devalue it. We’ve allowed the trial lawyers to devalue it. We’ve allowed our national leaders to NOT talk nearly enough about it.”

That is rich, to put it mildly.  That a guy whose school just jumped to a conference that now runs from Florida to Ohio to Texas — and is actively looking to expand further into Arizona, Colorado and Utah! — can whine about the devaluation of education with a straight face… well, hell, he may have just broken the doing it for the kids meme for good with that.

(By the way, Terry, you didn’t “allow” the trial lawyers to devalue jack shit.  You colluded in a way that violated the law and got your asses kicked in court for doing so.  But I digress.)

The topper is how tone deaf Bianchi himself is.  His observation after that statement?  “Education has been lost in the current narrative about college athletics. All we talk about today is how many millions more in media-rights money will a school make if it jumps from one conference to another….”  You mean like Terry Mohajir’s school, Mike?  Damn, there goes that media devaluing education thing again.  It’s as if the UCFs of the college football world are having all that filthy lucre forced down their throats against their will in their struggle to value education.

Mohajir is incredibly cynical or he’s that high on his own bullshit.  Either way, it’s pretty nauseating.  Though at least the volleyball player flying back from Waco midweek in the middle of the night can console herself with the notion that her athletic director is giving her education the lip service he thinks it deserves.

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Cash for grades!

Georgia’s athletes are now getting that sweet Alston money.

That’s about $3 million a year that’ll never make it to the reserve fund.  Somewhere, Greg McGarity is wincing right now.

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Filed under Academics? Academics., Georgia Football

Pay for (academic) play

This is tucked inside Chip Towers’ piece about Georgia’s next athletics budget (scheduled to increase about 8%, in case you’re wondering):

The Bulldogs are budgeting for an “academic achievement award” that will be provided to all student-athletes for successful progress toward a degree.

No details provided, so there’s no way to know if this is simply a straightforward cash award for maintaining academic eligibility or otherwise.  Still, it appears that, in some form or fashion, UGA will be following the lead of a number of other conference schools that are now providing education-related stipends, per Alston.

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Pay for “A”s

I will give Dabo some small credit for one thing he did say.

What is your definition of the professionalization of college athletics?

Getting away from scholarships and getting away from academics. Ninety-eight percent of these kids are not playing in the NFL. That’s one of the reasons I do like the NIL because 98% of them aren’t going to make the NFL, so it’s good while they have a nice platform that they can take advantage of these opportunities. Clemson has a million Twitter followers, one of three football programs out there with a million. So it’s good they have an opportunity to make some money while they’re going through their journey right here. But we also know that 98% are not playing in the NFL, so we better be getting that degree. As adults, we should do everything we can to incentivize education — period, the end — and that ain’t ever going to change for me because I know ultimately that’s what creates generational change in young people’s lives…

I will grant he’s saying that primarily because he doesn’t want his players being paid directly for their services, but he’s right that once you sever the link between college athletics and college academics, you really don’t have college sports anymore, just a glorified minor league system.

Along those lines, it seems to me that one of the bigger no-brainers for schools in the wake of the Alston decision would be to pay college athletes directly for their academic success.  I mean, if you can write a coach’s contract paying him a bonus for his players’ academic achievements, doesn’t it make sense, both as an incentive and also as a message about priorities, to do that with the athletes themselves?

Well, this being big time college sports, you can probably guess the answer to that one.

In response to a federal judge’s mandate, the NCAA changed its rules in August 2020 to allow schools to pay each of their athletes up to $5,980 per year as a reward for academic performance. The oddly specific dollar amount was calculated during the legal proceedings because it is equal to the maximum amount of financial value an athlete can receive in one year from awards related to their athletic performance, such as conference player of the year titles or the Heisman Trophy. The U.S. Supreme Court solidified the federal judge’s ruling with a 9-0 decision in the NCAA v. Alston case last June.

According to information gathered by ESPN in the past several months from public records requests and a voluntary survey, only 22 of the 130 FBS-level schools say they have plans in place to provide these academic bonus payments to their athletes this year. Twenty months after the initial rule change, and nine months after any doubt about its legal permanence was removed, more than one-third of FBS respondents say they have not yet decided whether they will provide these additional benefits to athletes.

To Dabo’s credit, Clemson is one of those 22 schools.  Strangely enough, Georgia isn’t.

… Nine of the 22 schools with plans to pay bonuses this year compete in the nation’s richest conference, the SEC. Georgia, the reigning national champion in football, is the only SEC school that said it was still undecided on bonus payments.

Note that Alabama is silent on the question, so Georgia may not be alone in that regard.  Sure would like to hear somebody ask Josh Brooks why, though.  (McGarity would mumble something about the reserve fund, I suppose, but I’d like to hear UGA’s thinking on what seems like an easy call to me.)

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Filed under Academics? Academics., College Football

The wages of Alston

To the victors go the spoils:

Following the Supreme Court’s decision in Alston v. NCAA, the Southeastern Conference presidents and chancellors have voted to confirm that each SEC member university now has the discretion to determine criteria and methods to provide education-related benefits and academic achievement awards to their student-athletes, consistent with the Court’s recent decision.

The Alston decision granted universities the opportunity to provide student-athletes with additional education-related benefits such as computers, science equipment and musical instruments, along with direct financial support in the form of academic achievement awards, up to the legally established maximum of $5,980 per year.

While the Alston decision allows individual conferences to set limits on the new educational benefits, the SEC’s presidents and chancellors have elected not to place additional constraints on Conference members in determining how to provide this new support to their student-athletes. The unanimous vote by the SEC’s presidents and chancellors was an approval of a recommendation from the Conference’s athletics directors.

It’s up to the individual schools, so who comes up with the best recruiting angle for this dough?

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‘I was fearless on the football field. I didn’t want to be afraid of the classroom.’

I received a few emails about a terrific piece in Friday’s edition of The Wall Street Journal about Malcolm Mitchell.

As a star player on a top high-school team, Mr. Mitchell had his pick of college scholarships. But when he arrived at the University of Georgia, he realized that he was behind his peers academically. “They were so articulate and accomplished,” he recalls. “I said to myself, ‘I want that.’” After hearing Curtis Jackson, the rapper known as 50 Cent, talk about Robert Greene’s self-help book “The 48 Laws of Power,” Mr. Mitchell tried reading a copy. “It was heartbreaking,” he recalls. “I had to look up every other word.”

Demoralized but not discouraged, he saw that he needed to “start from scratch.” At 20 he was reading “The Giving Tree” and “Exclamation Mark,” paying close attention to punctuation and writing down new words. He then moved on to graphic novels, young-adult novels like the “Harry Potter” series and adult fiction before exploring essays and biographies. He discovered that he loved learning about people he would never otherwise meet and examining thorny ideas from unexpected points of view. “The more you read, the more you open yourself up to different perspectives,” he observes.

While recovering from knee surgeries in 2013-14, Mr. Mitchell was scanning the shelves at an Athens, Ga., Barnes & Noble when he noticed an older woman holding several books. He struck up a conversation, hoping to get a book recommendation, and was excited to learn that she belonged to a book club. He earnestly asked if he could join and ended up spending two years discussing novels with a group of women older than his mother.

His NFL career ended early due to injury, he’s found his current calling.

Today Mr. Mitchell, 28, is a writer himself. His second children’s book, “My Very Favorite Book in the Whole Wide World,” will be published next month in a bilingual edition with English and Spanish side by side. Retired from the NFL because of injuries, he devotes himself to traveling the country to promote literacy, particularly among students from disadvantaged backgrounds like his own. “Children listen to me because I look like many of them,” he says. His Share the Magic Foundation, now in its fifth year, has reached hundreds of thousands of students through in-person school events and free virtual programming, including a READcamp to keep kids reading over the summer. The organization has distributed nearly 60,000 free books to kids in underserved communities.

And what story about a college athlete who lived up to the ideals the NCAA promotes wouldn’t be complete without an NIL reference?

Eager to promote “the magic of reading” to youngsters, Mr. Mitchell was a college senior when he decided to write his own children’s book. At the time, strict NCAA rules barred college athletes from making business deals, so he had to publish “The Magician’s Hat” himself and sell it exclusively through the University of Georgia bookstore. The book became a local bestseller and earned him the Children’s Author of the Year award from the Georgia Writers Association.

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Filed under Academics? Academics., Georgia Football

Today, in I hope this is snark

Because if it’s not, I wonder what Pete thinks has been going on in college football for at least the last 20 years.

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Filed under Academics? Academics., Media Punditry/Foibles, Texas Is Just Better Than You Are.

Summertime, and the schoolin’ is easy

How it started ($$):

Brody Miller, LSU beat writer: The Arik Gilbert saga was a troubled one at LSU. Sources said he seemed unhappy once he arrived, which of course included a pandemic. There were academic issues, with LSU sources unsure he’d be eligible. Gilbert was the highest-rated tight end in 247Sports history, and he played like it, but by December he went to coach Ed Orgeron and informed him he was opting out for the final weeks of the season.

How it’s going:

Well played, Kirbs.

You know, if part of your job as a head coach is to keep your best players eligible, it seems like Coach O ought to get dinged a little in the coach ranking department.

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Today, in feel good stories

I will always love this sort of thing.

Forget about who’s getting paid and by whom.  Forget about postseason formats, or bloated conferences and scheduling.  College football is about the school and about getting that degree, no matter what it takes.  For me, that’s romantic amateurism.

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“… the whitest school in the SEC.”

You’ll be shocked, shocked to learn that there’s another academic scandal at, of all places, Auburn.  But, Auburn being Auburn, there’s so much more.

Thomas was the director of academic support services for Auburn football until March 1. That’s the day Auburn fired him. He is now suing Auburn for discrimination. A lawsuit against Auburn was delivered in Thomas’ name last Friday, and I was emailed a copy of the complaint on Monday.

It claims that Auburn discriminated against Thomas based on race and gender. Essentially, this is the case: a grade for a football player was apparently changed in December of 2019, and Thomas allegedly was fired for knowing about it, but his three superiors were not because they’re white women. The lawsuit also alleges that Thomas experienced a hostile work environment and unfair pressure because football players were making bad grades.

“I feel like a lot of this was done to sabotage my career and make sure I don’t get another job in athletics,” Thomas said.

The quote in the post header comes from my favorite part of the allegations in the lawsuit.

This lawsuit alleges that Thomas was the “token” Black guy of his department “to provide the illusion of racial and gender equality by Auburn University, and help Auburn defend itself against its criticized image as the whitest school in the SEC.”

… As for Auburn’s whiteness, well, it is indeed the whitest school in the SEC, according to U.S. News’ 2019 campus ethnic diversity rating system. Auburn scored a 0.27 with 1.0 being the highest possible score for diversity. That puts Auburn right there with BYU and the University of Charleston. I would argue that Ole Miss and Alabama historically have a whiter “criticized image” than Auburn, but that’s not really a debate anyone wins.

Oh, I disagree.  We’re all winners here, at least those of us on the outside looking in.

I just hope somebody asks Spurrier to update his observation about Auburn academics:

On a fire at the Auburn library that destroyed 20 books: “The real tragedy was that 15 hadn’t been colored yet.”

(h/t Lan4Dawg)

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Filed under Academics? Academics., Auburn's Cast of Thousands