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February 11, 2014

"Postdocs for Jocks"

A good proposal. It complements one of my own. A principal source of the hypocrisy and corruption in big college football and basketball is the pretense that the athletes are "student-athletes," that each jock will graduate with a degree. Over the last couple of decades the NCAA has raised entrance and eligibility requirements in support of this delusion. And that has yielded the phony courses and phony grading and phony degrees we see so frequently now.

I say lower the requirements. Instead of forcing them to be on track to get a degree in four years, let them take six or eight years, or not even get a degree at all. (Whether the university wants to fund them beyond four years would be up to the university.) Instead of passing four courses a term, tell them they only have to pass two, or maybe one. Tell the athletes "We certainly hope you take advantage of your scholarships to graduate. But if graduating is not what you're interested in, if it's too time-consuming and difficult, if you're not adequately prepared for college coursework, we want give you an opportunity to spend a few years in college getting what you can from it. Learn to read and write a little better. Read a couple of good books. Talk to smart, academically motivated people. Learn to use the library. Make friends."

Gregg Easterbook proposes something in a similar vein:

For FBS players, the year-to-year scholarship -- which pressures them to favor football over the library, to ensure the scholarship is renewed -- should be replaced with a six-year scholarship. That way once a player's athletic eligibility has expired, typically after 4.5 years, and once the NFL does not call -- 97 percent of FBS players never take an NFL snap -- there will be paid-up semesters remaining for him to be a full-time student, repair credits and earn that diploma. Not all will need the extra semesters. But six-year full scholarships would change big-college football from a cynical exercise in using up impressionable young men and throwing them away, into a fair deal: The university gets great football, the players get educations.

Any of these proposals would, in my view, be far better than either the present system or the proposal to pay them salaries.


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Jack PQ

Good idea but what about the sheepskin effect? Isn't it better for athletes to graduate with a phony but actual degree from Big State U rather than take a smattering of demanding courses and end up with no degree?

I don't think athletes are fooling anyone when they interview, later on, with a Bachelors in General University Studies. But the sheepskin effect is real. If we want to help the 90% (99%?) who do not go pro, I'm afraid this is the most realistic way to do it.


Terrible idea. If colleges had anything approaching respectable academic standards, most of the athletes -- and a good many others besides -- would never be admitted in the first place.

"Phony courses and phony grading and phony degrees" are the problem, and it isn't solved by lowering standards.


"a phony but actual degree"

Do you think about what you put on screen when you type it?

"But the sheepskin effect is real."

No. It isn't.

'"Phony courses and phony grading and phony degrees" are the problem, and it isn't solved by lowering standards.'

Of course, you missed the point. The point is honesty in advertising. The standards are ALL READY lowered. The ideas put forth simply acknowledge that currently colleges don't care about their athletes, but only the profits they generate. In recognition of this, a policy change is presented so that colleges are now on the hook to actually provide an education to these athletes after they've made their profit off the athletes.


"And that has yielded the phony courses and phony grading and phony degrees we see so frequently now.”

To be asked to do the right thing and then to fake it, utterly normal human behavior, depressingly common especially among the better-educated who should (and do) know better. An uneducated thug acts on his desires. A university administrator rationalizes, then acts.

Without cleaning house, no real improvement will be possible.

Jack PQ


1. Why use insults instead of substantive arguments? This isn't high school.
2. Research shows the sheepskin effect is most likely real. Michael Spence won a Nobel prize for developing the theory. Try using Google sometimes, it's pretty useful.
3. I'm playing devil's advocate. In a perfect world, all student-athletes would complete a degree involving demanding courses and real skills and knowledge. But just saying "let it be done" will not make it so. We need to be realistic.

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