Category Archives: Academics? Academics.

Two can play the lobby Congress game.

The NCAA is spending money in Washington, preparing for the day when it asks for an antitrust exemption.  The big argument you can expect it to make about why it needs the protection will be about the academic mission.

And that’s why this letter was written.

In a letter dated April 28 and released Thursday by attorney Michael Hausfeld’s office, two lawyers wrote that continued Congressional examination is needed due to “the apparent inconsistencies and divergences in positions taken by the NCAA” before the senate committee last July and in federal court. The letter from Hausfeld and attorney Bob Orr, who are suing North Carolina and the NCAA in relation to the academic scandal at North Carolina, was addressed to Sens. John Thume, Bill Nelson, Jerry Moran and Richard Blumenthal.

“In the course of the (July 2014 Senate) hearing, representatives of the NCAA, including its President, Dr. Mark Emmert, testified, in essence, that the mission and commitment of the NCAA was to provide and assure a meaningful education for these athletes,” Hausfeld and Orr wrote. “Subsequent events and information, however, have raised serious doubts about the accuracy of that representation.”

The letter released by Hausfeld, who is also the lead attorney in the Ed O’Bannon lawsuit, cited the NCAA’s recent court filing in the Rashanda McCants lawsuit that stated the association has no responsibility to ensure “the academic integrity of the courses offered” at schools. The Hausfeld letter also cited a legal statement by the NCAA that it has no role in “the quality of the education student-athletes received at member institutions or to protect student-athletes from the independent, voluntary acts of those institutions or their employees.”

The NCAA has a sincerity problem.  That’s the price you pay when you fight so many battles with conflicting priorities.

The exemption hearings should be a real hoot.

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Filed under Academics? Academics., Political Wankery, The NCAA

How do you know when the NCAA is serious about academics?

When academics give student-athletes a little too much freedom.

The NCAA’s new vice president for Division I governance told The Associated Press there are growing concerns among the division’s 345 members over the surging number of students switching schools — and that the debate could come to a close sometime in the next year.

Some of the ideas bandied about would have a dramatic impact on graduate transfer students. The proposals include giving schools the ability to restrict where former players can go and requiring the athletes to sit out one year before becoming eligible. Undergraduates already are required to sit out one year, but the current rules allow players with bachelor’s degrees to transfer to another school and become eligible immediately if they attend graduate school.

“If you’re transferring to be in a graduate program, the NCAA wants you to be working in earnest toward that degree rather than just using up your last year of eligibility,” Lennon said last week, noting there are no formal proposals yet.

Yes, we can’t have kids who aren’t working in earnest towards a degree… unless they’re one-and-done star basketball players who help drive March Madness television ratings.

This, of course, is bullshit of the highest order.  And they know it.

“No one is happy with the transfer rate, particularly in the sport of men’s basketball,” Lennon said. “When 40 percent of your students are leaving after their second year, that’s a signal something’s wrong.”

Duh.  The problem is everyone agrees on the symptom, but not the disease.

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Filed under Academics? Academics., The NCAA

Thursday morning buffet

Everybody needs a little buffet in their lives.

  • Athlon ranks the SEC towns.  We’re number two! (Though, where are these “East Georgia mountains” you speak of?)
  • Seriously, “the most vexing issue facing those in charge of the postseason system” is the Army-Navy game?
  • Meanwhile, “two members of the Florida State Board of Trustees expressed concern at a March meeting over the ACC’s status and one called for an expansion of the College Football Playoff.”  I guess not everyone’s convinced about that Army-Navy problem.
  • You think Georgia’s had a run of bad luck on the offensive line before?  Florida can make a case for the same right now.
  • Throw the damned ball, Schottenheimer.
  • David Shaw says it’s not his job to get his players ready for the NFL.  (He’s right.)
  • Mark Richt has lost control of Christian Robinson.  Really.

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Filed under Academics? Academics., BCS/Playoffs, Gators Gators, Georgia Football, SEC Football, The NFL Is Your Friend.

“You’ll never get any more faculty.”

Skipping past the time honored stupidity of the people running the great state of Louisiana assuming the oil money never runs low, the question I’ve got about LSU making contingency plans to file for financial exigency (academic bankruptcy) if state higher education funding doesn’t find a way out of the ditch it’s currently in, is what happens, if the school is forced to pull the trigger, on the sports front.

I mean, this sounds like some serious shit here:

Being in a state of financial exigency means a university’s funding situation is so difficult that the viability of the entire institution is threatened. The status makes it easier for public colleges to shut down programs and lay off tenured faculty, but it also tarnishes the school’s reputation, making it harder to recruit faculty and students.

“You’ll never get any more faculty,” said Alexander, if LSU pursues financial exigency.

The Louisiana Legislature is closing out its meetings this week without having made much progress in finding more funding for universities, colleges and others. Louisiana’s higher education community is facing an 82 percent funding cut if no extra state money is found.

The change would bring state funding for LSU from around $3,500 per undergraduate student to $660 per undergraduate student next year.

“States around the country spend more than that on their community colleges,” Alexander said.

If LSU ceases to operate in a way that gives it academic credibility, does the SEC do anything in response?  I’m not joking – remember all the highfalutin’ talk we heard about schools being good academic matches for conferences during the last round of realignment musical chairs?  If that has any meaning, what do you do about a school that’s going Third World, metaphorically speaking?

And what exactly does Les Miles sell to mamas on the recruiting trail in terms of academics?  “We’ve got nicer facilities than the JUCOs your son is looking at”?  Or does he just go all in and say, “screw it, we were never that serious about academics anyway”?

I’m not trying to be overly dramatic here.  It’s just that it’s a very strange situation and I’m curious where things go if the shoulder shrugging never gets LSU out of the ditch.

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Filed under Academics? Academics., Political Wankery

Your “year of readiness” ain’t ready.

I have mocked things coming out of The Drake Group on more than one occasion, so when I tell you that this strikes me as an effective rebuttal of Big Jim Delany’s “year of readiness” proposal…

The Drake Group pointed out three negative impacts that would stem from the Big Ten’s proposal:

(1) academically capable students will be penalized by lack of access to extracurricular activities; (2) academically capable students who wish to complete four years of athletic eligibility will have to stay in school for one or two additional semesters, increasing the cost of education to these students or to institutions that provide athletic or other scholarship assistance (estimated to be $94.5 million); and (3) non-scholarship (walk-on) athletes who may be outstanding students will see their graduation dates delayed if they wish to compete for four years.

Absent a demonstrated positive academic impact and considering the adverse economic and academic consequences, freshmen ineligibility seems misguided for athletes generally, for all participants in revenue sports, or for football and men’s basketball players only.

The Drake Group said the Big Ten’s proposal “masks the real problem” that many of the athletes who are recruited to participate in big time Division I athletics are “unprepared” for the academic workload. These students, the paper said, are often admitted “by means of exceptions to normal admission standards, and then experience excessive athletically related time demands.”

… that ought to speak volumes about how weak Delany’s argument is.  But, hey, if I’ve misjudged Delany’s sincerity about supporting the academic mission, all he needs to do is embrace even a part of this…

(1) full enforcement of the 20 hours per week limit on all athletically related activities when classes are in session; (2) no competition during final examination periods; (3) adoption of institutional policies by faculty senates approving the maximum percentage of classes that may be missed due to scheduled athletic competitions; (4) no athletic department requirement that athletes select majors and courses that are The Drake Group Position Paper: Freshmen Ineligibility in Intercollegiate Athletics April 20, 2015 Page 3 of 12 compatible with athletics practices, meetings or competitions, (5) the scheduling of football games on weekends exclusively, because both athletes and students who are non-athletes are likely to attend; (6) the provision of athlete academic support services by academic units only, not by the athletic department; and (7) adoption of NCAA continuing eligibility standards requiring that any athlete with a cumulative GPA less than 2.0 be ineligible to participate in athletics, be restricted to a maximum of 10 athletics practice or meeting hours per week, and remain ineligible until a cumulative 2.0 GPA is achieved.

… and I’ll be happy to acknowledge a correction.  Not that I’ll be holding my breath about it.

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Filed under Academics? Academics.

Jim Delany’s “year of readiness”

Mark Richt said during the G-day telecast that high school seniors are coming to college better prepared than ever (and given the way some of Georgia’s early enrollees played Saturday, he’s not lying).  The NCAA’s new high school academic protocols kick in for good this season, stiffening the course requirements for those same high schoolers.

And yet here comes Jim Delany, doubling down on his freshman ineligibility proposal.  The timing, to say the least, is hard to figure.

Speculation about Delany’s end game has been rampant across college athletics the past couple months, and it will only intensify after Delany sent out a 12-page treatise Friday on why he favors freshman ineligibility.

Delany stopped short of calling it a proposal, acknowledged potential drawbacks/arguments against it and emphasized again that the Big Ten will not implement this idea without other conferences doing the same.

But even in the face of initial backlash, Delany is pressing on, arguing Friday that the balance between athletics and academics has tilted too far in the wrong direction, that the professionalization of big-time college sports “jeopardizes the model of broad-based intercollegiate athletics” and that making freshmen ineligible would be a potential way to bring things back into alignment.

There are statistics and charts, anecdotes and catch phrases. Delany does not call it freshman ineligibility, which sounds a lot like punishment, but rather “a year of readiness.”

Honestly, it’s strange.  Slive opposed it strongly.  And now, as part of Delany’s doubling down

To make up for the roster limitations that would come with freshmen not being allowed to play, FBS football programs would be allowed about seven additional scholarship players. The current limit is 85. Men’s basketball teams in Division I would be allowed about three extra scholarship players; the current maximum is 13. Using those “ball park estimates,” 5.4 women’s scholarships per Division I school would need to be added to equal the $47.25 million spent on new men’s scholarships.

… he’s come up with something that’s bound to alienate pretty much every mid-major program scraping by, financially speaking.

So what’s it all about?  Beats me.  Here’s what Delany claims:

— Because of the stakes involved in competition at the highest level, football and men’s basketball players do spend a significant amount of time on their sports, which can be a burden academically.

— There are inherent factors that drive toward a higher probably of academic fraud, which should be eliminated if possible.

— It is undeniably true that football and men’s basketball players on the whole enter college less prepared to succeed academically than their counterparts.

— It is “exploitive,” as Delany says, not to give athletes a “legitimate and substantive” educational experience.

“If we cannot defend the educational value of the student-athlete experience in the sports of football and men’s basketball, then we cannot defend the model as educational,” Delany said. “If we cannot defend the model as educational, then we cannot defend the model.”

There’s a bunch of stuff thrown out there, but I have a hard time seeing how much of that gets fixed by not letting freshmen play football or basketball.  The economics don’t change.  Whatever pressure to commit academic fraud exists, how does that change, if these kids are just as ill-prepared coming in as ever?

It comes off as a Potemkin village approach, particularly since freshmen would still be able to practice with their teams, though participation and travel would be limited.  Would that make as much of a difference as the new high school academic core requirements change will?  I’m doubtful.

Here’s what I do think is certain to come from Delany’s special year:  your typical high school McDonald’s All-American is going to think long and hard about going to Duke and Kentucky.  So, if this is a way to hammer one-and-done in men’s basketball, it’ll have an impact.  On the football side, you’re now talking about the top student-athletes only playing in competition for two years.  That’s great for the NFL – less wear and tear on its future stars – but not so great if you’re a fan of a college team that’s just landed a bunch of five-star recruits.

And how many of Alabama’s rivals are going to be thrilled with the idea that Nick Saban can lock up another seven kids a year?  I’m thinking very few.

Like I said, this is a puzzler.  Delany claims he’s pushing this to start a national dialogue, but it’s hard to see who wants to have a discussion with him about it.  All I can come up with is that it’s a nice fig leaf to offer Congress when Delany goes to Washington hat in hand to ask for that juicy antitrust exemption.

In the meantime, if he’s that convinced that players are being exploited by the current system, there’s nothing holding the Big Ten back from going it alone on the freshman ineligibility front. Go for it, Big Jim!

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Filed under Academics? Academics., Big Ten Football

The inherent educational value of second chances

If new SEC commish Greg Sankey is indeed this guy,

… Mr. Sankey, a bookish athletics administrator who was tapped last month to be the SEC’s next commissioner, was a safe choice to put on the stand. Thoughtful and erudite, he had represented his conference on many of the NCAA’s most important committees, helping it to establish stricter academic requirements for athletes and to determine penalties for programs that violate its rules.

The association needed Mr. Sankey to bolster the argument that, despite dubious academic behavior and cheating on some campuses, intercollegiate athletics has inherent educational value, providing opportunities for many students who otherwise might not have access to higher education.

maybe someone can put the question to him at SEC Media Days as to how numerous conference schools being willing to consider giving Jonathan Taylor a third chance fits into his vision of intercollegiate athletics.

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