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WHERE'S THE "STUDENT"?
November 30, 2001

by Bill Hogan

 

 
 

I'm a big fan of NCAA Men's Basketball. I think it's more fun and more exciting to watch than the NBA.

So I was excited to get this year's Sports Illustrated College Basketball Preview issue. As I expected, there were no real surprises. Most of the predicted top twenty teams were the usual basketball powerhouses.

 
 


Sports Illustrated included an interesting feature while rating each team. They listed each program's graduation rate based on statistics compiled by the NCAA.

At first glance, I was shocked. After thinking about it, I became appalled.

According to the article, thirty-eight of the sixty-five programs previewed had a graduation rate of less than fifty percent. Fourteen of those schools boast a graduation rate under twenty percent.

And two - yes two - of the nation's best college basketball programs (that's college, as in school of higher education) weigh in at a nice, round, big, fat ZERO percent.

In other words, no player (a.k.a. "student-athlete") at either school (during the period used for the purpose of collecting such statistics*) received a diploma!

How the heck does that happen?

And how does the coach of any sport that has a zero percent graduation rate get anybody to commit to his or her program?

How do they explain to the parents of a prospective "student-athlete" that their son or daughter has a better chance of getting struck by lightening - twice - than earning a college degree?

(Hypothetically speaking)

Dear Mrs. Hogan:

Regarding your concerns about the lack of college graduates that our basketball program has produced during my tenure. I'm afraid, due to confidentiality issues, I am not in a position to confirm or deny your suspicions.

Please allow me to take this opportunity to put your mind at ease about sending your son to our fine institution.

First of all, your son will have the honor of joining one of the nations most successful basketball programs.

* We've had fourteen straight twelve-win seasons.
* We've almost won the National Championship twice.
* We will appear on ESPN three times this year (and I believe Dick Vitale will actually be the announcer at one game).
* And under our current contract agreement with Nike, your son will be supplied with a new pair of sneakers every month for as long as he's able to play for me.

We have a very strict academic policy. Players are only excused from going to class if we have practice, meetings, an away game or they are nursing an injury.

We even have a part-time tutor on staff to help our players with their class work.

Our academic advisor will do everything she can for your son to ensure that his course load is such that he can easily maintain the required grades to remain eligible during the season. (Though many of the courses we recommend do not actually lead to a degree).

I firmly believe that your son's overall experience at our institution is far more valuable than some silly diploma.

He will be exposed to some of the greatest basketball minds in the game. And he will hone his skills to the highest level.

At worst, when he finishes his six years here, he will undoubtedly be one of the best basketball players at the local playground.

Many of my players have gone on to great careers in and out of sports - even without a degree.

In fact, my favorite point guard has been accepted as a contestant on the next installment of the reality-TV show "Survivor".

I have three former players currently set to complete a correspondence course in washing machine repair.

An alumnus has hired last year's co-captains as salesmen at his auto dealership here in town. (Well, they're not actually salesmen - you need a degree to be a salesman there - they're more like spokesmen).

And though we have not actually had a player make it in the NBA, one former star is all but assured a roster spot on a WNBA team as soon as he/she completes the sex change procedure.

You see, Mrs. Hogan, there is more to achieving success in life than earning a college degree. We are all about producing well-rounded individuals.

I hope I have been able to dispel the myth that "student-athletes" actually have to be "students" to have a worthwhile collegiate experience.

Sincerely,
Watt A. Blowhard
Head Coach
Fooled U.

'Nuff said.

* * * * * *

* If you're interested in the specifics, the information is available in the November 19, 2001 print issue of Sports Illustrated.

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