Saturday, November 26, 2005

If You've Ever Taught Athletes ...

...and wondered why they're illiterate and yet have full scholarships, read this.


Blogger Gene said...

have you seen Raising the Grades So School Districts Pass which references Sam Dillon's NY Times article of 26/11/05 : "Students Ace State Tests, but Earn D's From U.S."

3:04 PM  
Blogger GrumpyGringo said...

Yet SMU still stinks.....

3:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


10:20 PM  
Blogger Superdestroyer said...

Many examples of this have existed for years. The private school that is really just a traveling basketball team like Mount Zion Christian in North Carolina.

The real question is how can someone play for four years at one high school but graduate from another.

I also find it amusing that the laws meant to protect homeschoolers and private Christian schools are being manipulated to put black athletes into college.

7:44 AM  
Blogger Koru's Daughter said...

What amazes me is that no one in the educational administrative system seems upset by this. No one at the high school level cried foul. The universities accepted these athletes with open arms (were the SAT scores not considered?). Even the NCAA said, "We're not the educational accreditation police."

The student athletes are learning nothing except entitlement and how to manipulate the system. The above-mentioned organizations don't care because it is not in their best interest to care. Every winning season means more money from alumni.

Heck, the university I teach at has special advisors, counselors and tutors for the basketball players. I get many calls and letters from their tutors (and even calls from the Associate Dean) asking how they are doing in class.

If only the rest of the students got such elaborate special attention. I can name many students who actually need it. It might academically turn their educations and lives around.

Then there are the marching band members and women golfers (and other athletes of less popular sports) who have to keep their grade points high and still excel at their arts/sports without special hand-holding, huge scholarships and unlimited university-sanctioned skip days.

11:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This story is only the tip of a huge, ugly iceberg. There are a few university faculty groups trying to reform a corrupt system that exploits athletes and poisons the academic environment. It's an uphill fight. See for info on one effort that is attempting to defend academic Integrity in the face of commercialized college sports.

Big 10 professor who must remain anonymous

1:35 PM  
Blogger Koru's Daughter said...

Dear Big 10 professor who must remain anonymous,

Great site.

Thank you,


2:26 PM  
Blogger Inside the Philosophy Factory said...

I've taught athletes at other schools (my current school only has a golf team --- which is new... proud to say that our first inter-collegiate competitive team is the debate team!!). I think that it is really sad that the "student athletes" are so dysfunctional by the time they get to the college level that they are doomed if they can't go pro.

I also think that everyone, from their junior high coaches on up have used them for their own gain, ignoring whatever intellectual potential they may have. They may as well have been prostituting them in some way --- or selling their plasma, as the person is the same as a machine to them.

3:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The obsession with sports is one thing I never understood about the US education system. School serves just one purpose: To educate the people who go there. Nothing more and nothing less.

3:42 PM  
Anonymous Dolores H. said...

I am not surprised. Isn't that sad? It's so sad our country would rather see football players at the top of their game, than molding the leaders of tomorrow for a better future.

And people wonder why our economy is in the gutter, and our SAT scores in the 700s even after the changes. Universities are teaching kids that it doesn't matter if you can be the top member of MENSA, as long as you can throw a pigskin 40 yards.

How depressing.

4:01 PM  
Blogger Inside the Philosophy Factory said...

I don't think you can blame the University system for this... the use/abuse/athletics-is-all attitude starts well before they get to college.

Colleges and universities are complicit in the system, which is more of a tragedy of the commons type problem than anything else.

The other problem is junior college transfers.. last I knew, an athlete could transfer from a 2 year school to a four year without an ACT/SAT score. This may have changed... but there are a number of JCs that "cooperate" with a big sports school to transfer athletes... then all it takes is four semesters of classes taught by adjuncts who know that giving bad grades to the athletes is a bad career move.

4:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"...adjuncts who know that giving bad grades to the athletes is a bad career move."

It's more often full-time tenured or tenure-track faculty who the athletic department knows to be "friendly," rather than adjuncts in the major football factories. Adjuncts are too low on the totem pole to get the plum mid-day Tues/Thurs courses that attract clusters of "student-athletes" who rate their own in-class tutors and lead to goodies like free tickets.

As a someone who, many years ago at a Big East U, did NOT know that giving bad grades to the athletes is a bad career move, and flunking the star of a team is a worse one, and was denied tenure, I can assure you that adjuncts are the least complicit. Department Chairs, Deans, Provosts, and Presidents all share blame for what, indeed is a system that exploits people in a shameless way. And it does begin in junior high and continue upwards.

For more specifics, read Murray Sperber's book "Beer and Circus: How Big-Time College Sports is Crippling Undergraduate Education." See for more info.

Big 10 professor who must remain anonymous
(Tenured, but now knows that disrespecting the athletic dept. is a bad career move.)

5:55 PM  
Anonymous smirktastic said...

Pretty sad. What happens to these students who are obviously ill-prepared for college if they get injured and can't play, or they flunk out of school? No "safety net" of tutors and hand-holding can catch everyone.

6:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I highly recommend the Spurber book... it made me look at athletes and the system in a whole new way.

When I read it the first time I was a grad student at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln.

7:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Still clueless. Tried to read it but got carried away by the pictures.

9:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


8:35 AM  
Anonymous Blanche said...

Can't young athletes go pro unless they've played for a university team? in the UK it's practically the opposite, if you're a talented football (soccer) player, you don't tend to go to university because you'd waste prime playing years. At uni I went out with a rugby player who had been told by his high school coaches not to go to university. When he did go pro after graduating, he was three or more years older than the others, so his career will be shorter. Weird that it works the other way across the pond.

9:50 AM  
Blogger Superdestroyer said...

To the all caps anon, star athletes do not make the university any money, they make the athletic department, a separate, non-for-profit corporation from the university. All athletic departments cost their university's money because the suck up student fees, use facilities without paying rent, and get donations that could have gone to the university.

The best way to reform college athletics is go end the practice of "Athletic foundations" and give control of the athletes back to the university.

11:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's not just college. Back when I taught high school, this idea of not flunking an athlete was alive and well. I taught at a school that happened to be a local football powerhouse, and I had a couple of athletes in some of my classes. When assistant principals come by to check how Johnny is doing in class, you know it is career suicide to flunk Johnny. Then again, some of us would rather commit the ritual suicide and keep our integrity, and I have moved on, to better things.

2:17 PM  
Blogger Hillapatra said...

Well, here's just a short counter-argument.
What's wrong with diversifying the university? Giving a person who's main skill is athletics an opportunity for higher education in case they break an arm or get injured. In fact, most athletes in my classes are quite smart and motivated regardless of the pressure on teachers (I was an athlete in high school and it taught me motivation).
Basically they help the university gain popularity, bring in money, diversify. I do see how annoying it would be to have to bolster grades for the athletes. However I'm sure teachers are more than willing to be lighter on dancers, actors, singers, and artists too.

8:32 PM  
Blogger theprofessor said...

I taught a lot of scholarship athletes. Of the 25 or so plagiarism/fabrication cases I sussed out from four years of teaching as an adjunct, I'd estimate that 18 to 20 of them were committed by the athletes. They're used to getting breaks, taking shortcuts and living by different rules. The saddest case was a very bright football player--who ended up in the NFL--who plagiarized a story about a star quarterback at another university. He cut-and-pasted the story word for word from a magazine for Christian athletes.

9:05 PM  
Blogger SuperHolmie said...

I don't understand why athletes have to get degrees at all. If they are recruited by a university to play football, let them play football. Why in the WORLD are they taking up space in other classes? If some of them are academic, and WANT to get a degree, that's great. But having every athlete in a class because it's "college"... that's just stupid.

While we're on this thread..
I also think it's insane that coaches at the high school level have to teach classes. Before you hiss and spit at me... think about this. Unless you have worked with a coach, you have NO IDEA how many hours per week their jobs take up. Football is big business in high schools here, and a losing team can cost a coach his job. Figure in the hours spent practicing, washing uniforms, reviewing tapes, scouting, writing plays, lining the field, watering the field, calling other coaches, recruiters, etc... these guys work hundred- hour weeks. One coach in grad school with me figured up that he made a nickel an hour by the time he added up all the hours he worked and divided his salary by that number. Scary.

I know this last bit has nothing to do with illiterate college athletes, but it's related in a redneck family tree sort of way.

9:09 PM  
Anonymous kevin said...

"Can't young athletes go pro unless they've played for a university team?"

Depends on the sport. Baseball and hockey do not rely upon universities for their minor league systems, and thus there is a route other than college to get to the pros. Basketball and football have no such minor league systems, not in a practical sense, and thus need colleges to perform that role for them. The NFL, in fact, forbids people from playing in the league until three years after their high school class has graduated. Which means that if you want to play in the NFL, you need to play in college, or you end up three years rusty and behind on physical trianing, etc.

As for diverisfying colleges, there is nothing wrong with giving atheletes the chance to go to college. A lot of people take that route, and we are all better for it. The problem is that in the money sports there is little attempt to actually help the ahtletes learn anything. And when you consider that that has been the case for some of these kids since junior high, and when you consider that agents start sniffing around junior high kids on the playground and telling them that they are going to be millioniares when they get drafted, and you have a real problem.

11:26 AM  
Anonymous littlem said...

Having obtained one of my degrees from a Big 10 university, I'm hoping no one is expecting reform of the college system without some scrutiny of its feeder systems source and forward - the American high school system and ... the NFL.

4:10 AM  

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