08.02.07

Edu-macating Adulated Athletes

Posted in College Spurts, Football, Lower Education at 6:05 am by

As I count the days ’til Penn State – Florida International on the Big Ten Network (to say nothing of Northeastern – Northwestern – surely an historic match-up!) Sports Illustrated‘s Stewart Mandel manages to simultaneously shut down and stir up expansion talk.

There is, however, one other intriguing, albeit far-fetched possibility to consider. As we well now by now, Delany is the kind of guy who likes to make a big splash. There’s one school on Glenn’s aforementioned list that would definitely intrigue him, but it would take some serious stones by both him and the potential target to pull it off.

I’m talking about Nebraska.

It’s an interesting coincidence, don’t you think, that Delany’s sudden openness on the topic comes just as old pal Kevin Weiberg leaves his post as Big 12 commissioner under suspicious circumstances to join the Big Ten Network. Weiberg undoubtedly brings with him tales of the growing in-fighting supposedly taking place within that league — much of it believed to be between Nebraska and the Texas schools. Could it be the Huskers might be open to a courtship?

While the state of Nebraska is not exactly a TV hotbed, the Huskers hold a strong national following that could possibly do wonders for Delany’s network. Did you know that a group of Nebraska fans in Phoenix actually pay a radio station there to broadcast the Huskers’ network on Saturdays? Think they wouldn’t be calling their cable company? Granted, it’s a pretty far-fetched idea, but nothing surprises me anymore in this business.

Funny, I remember when Nebraska and the other Big 8 schools had to raise their academic standards to merge with the SWC (which, given how many Texas schools were on probation in the ’70s and ’80s, seems rather bizarre). Would the Huskers have to do so yet again to put them on the same plane as…oh, let’s just say the University of Michigan?


In case you missed it, Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh told the San Francisco Examiner that it’s easier for football players to “Go Blue” than suit up for the Cardinal.

œCollege football needs Stanford. We™re looking not for student athletes but scholar-athletes. No other school can carry this banner. The Ivy League schools don™t have enough weight [because of their low athletic level]. Other schools which have good academic reputations have ways to get borderline athletes in and keep them in.

Harbaugh includes his alma mater, Michigan, in that indictment.

œMichigan is a good school and I got a good education there, he said, œbut the athletic department has ways to get borderline guys in and, when they™re in, they steer them to courses in sports communications. They™re adulated when they™re playing, but when they get out, the people who adulated them won™t hire them.

Harbaugh hasn’t backed away since then:

I would use myself as an example. I came in there, wanted to be a history major, and I was told early on in my freshman year that I shouldn’t be. That it takes too much time. Too much reading. That I shouldn’t be a history major and play football.

“He’s a guy I have no respect for,” responded Michigan senior Michael Hart, who plays the running back position on the football team when not tending to his obligations as a general studies major.

It would all be extremely amusing bulletin board material if there was any chance of these two teams getting together in the Rose Bowl, but nobody seriously disputes the fact that schools like Stanford, Northwestern, Vandy, Rice, and yes, much as we all hate to admit it, Notre Dame, have it tougher than even the better academic football schools. Graduation rates may not tell the entire story, but they tell enough of one. At 71%, the players in Ann Arbor lag well behind the ones in Palo Alto (94%) – and the ones in Lincoln (88%) too.

2 Responses to “Edu-macating Adulated Athletes”

  1. tbl says:

    Tom Osborne took a lot of partial-qualifiers back in the good old days to go with all the farm boys they’d redshirt and bulk up over the course of five years. During the ’80s I’d watch that combination stampede through Lawrence every other year.

    I think Dr. Tom’s huge desire to win football games allowed him to convince himself that he was giving kids a chance at a college education. A hell of a college football coach and a more interesting and complicated man than (I believe) he’s generally credited with being.

  2. halle says:

    Harbaugh is exactly right about the standards for athletes at Michigan (although I bet standards are relaxed at Stanford too). The quotes from Hart don’t say anything about academics — he just criticizes Harbaugh for not blindly praising U-M. Just look at the number of U-M athletes who major in communications or kinesiology or other gut majors (those were the 2 biggies i the 80′s when I was an athlete there).

    The other thing they don’t say is that athletes are encourages to take less than a full course load all year, then stay for the summer to make up the classes, with the added benefit that the coaches can keep an eye on them.

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