Take a deep breath. After weeks of big events and controversy, the Feb. 7-11 period was a relatively calm one.
Half empty or half empty? Doug Lederman of Inside Higher Ed counted the number of Division I infractions cases over the last decade and found that almost half of Division I’s Football Bowl Subdivision had been found guilty of major violations.
Bad apples or more? (Inside Higher Ed)
The main questions in the story:
- What does it mean?
- What’s causing such a seemingly high frequency?
It’s an intriguing article, but additional context might be useful.
First, readers may want to consider the heads-I-win, tails-you-lose premise. If the number were lower, the story angle could be that enforcement is lax. If it were higher, it could indicate greater corruption. In fact, there’s no way to know whether 65 major cases involving 53 institutions over a decade is high or low or just right.
Much of the story discussed pressures brought on by the juxtaposition of more permissive NCAA initial-eligibility standards and efforts to avoid Academic Progress Rate sanctions.
“(Former Division I Committee on Infractions chair Gene) Marsh thinks that increase can be attributed, in part, to the NCAA’s decision early in the decade to eliminate the minimum cutoff score athletes needed to be eligible to play as freshmen,” Lederman wrote. “When combined with the Academic Progress Rate system the association instituted in 2003 − which imposes potentially serious penalties on teams whose athletes don’t stay on track toward graduation − those changes have been perceived as pushing more athletes into less academically-demanding majors and could lead officials to ‘focus on eligibility… What can we do to keep this kid eligible for one more fall semester?’ ”
An accompanying op-ed piece from University of Oklahoma academic advisor Gerald Gurney supported that assertion:
Toughen NCAA standards for freshmen (Gerald Gurney, Inside Higher Ed)
The concept is seductive, but does it hold together?
First, the percentage of qualifiers who would not have met the previous cut score is small (less than 3 percent each year). Further, research indicates that their grade-point average is a far greater predictor of their academic outcome than their test score. That is to say, the small number of current student-athletes who qualified below the old standardized cut level had outcomes about the same as those who had just met the previous cut level.
The decision to eliminate the cut was made to more accurately predict success of athletes by placing more weight on high school performance and also to eliminate disparate impact associated with using a test-score cut. There is evidence that those goals have been met under the new rules.
It’s also worth noting the absence of any data linking student-athletes in the no-cut cohort to NCAA infractions cases.
(By the way, the Division I Academic Cabinet discussed fraud at its meeting this week and heard about an internal staff group that will examine the issue. The key questions involve what interest, if any, the NCAA has in dealing with student-athletes who commit academic fraud without athletics department involvement and also what constitutes “too much help.”)
The Inside Higher Ed story does refute the oft-repeated notion that the NCAA often looks the other way when it comes to prominent programs. In fact, the study revealed that more schools from the Big Ten had been penalized over the last decade than any other conference. The Big 12, Southeastern and Pac-10 were next in line.
Good story, bad quote. Future engineers, aspiring architects, 4.0 students … the incoming Stanford class of student-athletes excels not only on the field but in the classroom.
Stanford corners the ‘smart’ market (Wall Street Journal)
Good for Stanford, and good for these young men. They’re an excellent fit.
Unfortunately, one part of the story focused less on Stanford than on misplaced priorities:
“ ‘Ninety-nine percent of people gave up the farce of the student-athlete long, long ago,” said Scott Kennedy, the director of scouting at Scout.com, a recruiting site. ‘It’s a business. It’s great that these kids are so smart and great football players, but no one is paying to watch them debate. They’re watching them play football.’ ”
Many fans truly don’t care if college athletes are educated or not; they just want to be entertained. Does that somehow mean that educating the students is unimportant or farcical?
The Division I structure likely spends more time on academic issues than on any other topic. Here’s a listing of committees with academically related questions on their agendas in recent months:
- Academic Cabinet
- Committee on Academic Performance
- Board of Directors
- Football Academic Working Group
- Men’s Basketball Academic Enhancement Group
- Baseball Academic Working Group
- Leadership Council
- Legislative Council
- Awards, Benefits, Expenses and Financial Aid Cabinet
- Recruiting and Athletics Personnel Issues Cabinet
- Amateurism Cabinet
- Administration Cabinet
- Committee on Infractions
- Committee on Athletics Certification
- Initial-Eligibility Waivers and Progress-Toward-Degree Waivers Committees
- Student-Athlete Advisory Committee
Critics can snipe at the bureaucracy if they like, but college presidents, educators and athletics administrators clearly understand that college sports hinges on an ongoing commitment to education. Without it, college athletics would justifiably cease to exist.
For more information about student-athlete academic performance, click here.
The sad case of Art Schlichter. Last week, I mentioned the under-recognized human toll of compulsive gambling. This week, former Ohio State quarterback Art Schlichter was back in the news, illustrating just how haywire a life can go:
Former Buckeye Schlichter suspect in probe (Columbus Dispatch)
Woman says she considered suicide after involvement in Schlichter scheme (Columbus Dispatch)
The story said that Schlichter has spent time in 44 jails or prisons (!) since 1994. The Columbus Dispatch reported that he is now under investigation for soliciting investment money and then using the cash to make six-figure bets.
To repeat: Compulsive gambling is a dangerous emotional disorder. If you believe you have a problem, please call (800) 522-4700.
Collegiality at its best. The Mineral (West Virginia) Daily News-Tribune recently provided an editorial “faceoff” about whether college athletes should be paid. Neither writer favored pay-for-play. Who says a faceoff has to have a winner and a loser? They can both be right.
Faceoff: Should major-college athletes be paid? [Mineral (West Virginia) Daily News-Tribune]
A citizen journalist for the Detroit Free Press also took a pass at the subject:
Reader column: Why it would be next to impossible to pay college athletes (Mark Neimi, Detroit Free Press)
Conference shuffle news. Conference alignments made some fresh headlines, this time in Division I and II.
Ohio Valley Conference seeks information on UNA athletics [Florence (Ala.) Times Daily]
North Alabama mulling over jump to NCAA Division I athletics (Alabama Live)
Lambuth not out of GSC membership process [Jackson (Tenn.) Sun]
RMAC trying to gauge interest for expansion (Rapid City Journal)
Agents of change? There was a lot of talk, and some action, this week about how to deal with agents:
USC hosts agents summit (ESPN)
Ark. panel recommends stiff penalties for agents (Associated Press)
Eight states looking to strengthen agent oversight (Associated Press)
General Assembly should look at scholarship lengths for all athletes (Richmond Times-Dispatch)
Emory Bellard. Thursday brought the sad news that former Texas A&M coach Emory Bellard had died.
Emory Bellard, creator of wishbone offense, dies at 83 (New York Times)
S.A. Aggies recall fond memories of playing for Bellard (David Flores, Kens5.com)
Bellard coached highly successful teams at Texas A&M during the 1970s, fielding a couple of squads that flirted with national championships. Oddly, though, he was best-known for his role as an assistant at Texas when he partnered in 1968 with Darrell Royal to develop what became known as the wishbone offense.
The wishbone later became regarded as a conservative attack, but in its early days, it was enormously entertaining, at least if you were on the winning side. Quarterbacks became like magicians as they made their reads. Pitches flew all over the place – even 20 yards down the field as long as the trailing back had maintained position.
The numbers that Texas posted during that period still pass the “wow” test:
- 611 yards rushing against SMU in 1969 (school record)
- 90 rushing plays against Arkansas in 1970 (school record)
- 3,745 rushing yards in 10 games in 1970 (school record, even though most seasons since have had 11 or 12 games)
One little-known fact: Bellard returned to his high school roots after finishing his college career at Mississippi State, coaching a team in suburban Houston for six years. The guy just loved to coach, which translated to respect from his players.
“He truly was one of the classiest individuals I’ve ever met in my entire life,” said Tony Franklin, a record-setting kicker from the A&M days. “When you look up the word ‘class’ in the dictionary, you’ll find his picture by it. He was a gentleman, one of the nicest, most personable men you’d ever want to meet. At the same time, he had a dogged determination and had a steel edge. But all he wanted was what was best for his players.”