The Edmond Sun

Sports

May 21, 2014

OPINION: NCAA forces academic progress in the locker room

Is it better to recruit a top-notch basketball player knowing that he probably won't graduate, or pass on him and deprive the young man from at least going to college and being exposed to once-in-a-lifetime experiences?

It was a tough question. The player in mind had athletic skills; there wasn't much doubt about that. His academic performance in high school painted a bleaker assessment.

Wrestling with the decision was Gene Bartow, who at the time was a new head coach at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. It was more than 30 years ago when Bartow took a chance on this player with a shaky academic background. The recruit played well during during his college career but didn’t graduate.

Whose interest was served?

The conversation with Bartow came to mind recently as I read the NCAA's announcement that 36 teams failed to meet minimum requirements for their Academic Progress Rates, meaning they would be ineligible for tournament play next season.

Teams must achieve a four-year rate of 930 or better, which equates to a graduation rate of about 50 percent, to avoid a post-season ban. The Oklahoma State football team - the focus of national controversy last fall due to a Sports Illustrated expose of the program - narrowly avoided that penalty.

 There was good news and bad associated with the NCAA’s findings. First, the vast majority of schools and teams got passing grades. That’s important because the primary reason for attending college is to get an education and subsequently graduate. (You don’t hear as much talk about “Dumb Jocks” much anymore.)

The bad news was that some programs failed to ensure student-athletes demonstrate as much success in the classroom as they do on the playing field. This was especially true among the historically black colleges and universities, which received about half of the sanctions meted out by the NCAA.

Yet that seems unfair. Some argue that throwing money at the problem won’t solve education, but in this case, programs that help students overcome roadblocks in the classroom do succeed. The big, revenue-producing athletic programs that can afford top-notch counseling have the results to prove it. Their APR scores are improving.

The NCAA has offered money to augment academic resources at some universities. Unfortunately it’s not been enough.

A student admitted to a college has the potential to graduate if he or she is willing to do the work. That doesn’t mean any degree, but nevertheless a valuable one, which can open doors to a profitable and fulfilling life. If a student enters school with a goal less than that, pretty much everyone is wasting their time and money.

Give the nation’s colleges and NCAA credit for recognizing that athletic departments once didn't take seriously the academic performance of their student-athletes. The results show college teams are doing better in the classroom. Major powers in college athletics have made major investments in academic support programs, and those are paying off.

The investments are so strong at some universities that the academic centers have become attractive recruiting features for student athletes.

Unfortunately it's not the case at all schools, especially at minority-based institutions that are strong on tradition and mission but short on money to implement necessary enrichment opportunities. That seems doubly unfair because they accept many first-generation students who face other stressful challenges involving finances, sudden independence and academic load. These NCAA institutions live – and play - under the same rules but lack the equally necessary  academic support that other teams enjoy.

They may have athletic trainers but not academic advisers.

Maybe it’s too much to expect all students to master their academic responsibilities under the rigors of playing on a college team. It's a tough load for almost anyone. Slip up in either area, and the consequences are heavy.

Yet, the job of any coach, instructor or institution should be to ensure that students are successful on and off the field.

Give the NCAA credit for making students-athletes more accountable for their academic responsibilities. At the same time, it's clear that much more can - and should - be done.

It's a mandate that UAB’s Bartow, a basketball mastermind, would have welcomed.

Tom Lindley is a CNHI sports columnist. Reach him at tlindley@cnhi.com.

1
Text Only
Sports
  • Former OSU line coach having impact on Texas staff

    It was quite possibly the biggest coaching coup of the offseason and Oklahoma State was at the wrong end of it — former Cowboy offensive line coach Joe Wickline joining the staff for Charlie Strong’s Texas Longhorns.
    “It’s always good when you go hire staff and you look at just getting the right people within your program. And, a lot of times, guys know a lot of Xs and Os, but it’s all just about developing a player,” said Strong, Tuesday during the Big 12 Conference Football Media Days. “Joe and I, we’ve coached together at two different places. But just with him being within his conference and knowing the conference, he’s been a great asset.”

    July 22, 2014

  • spts-ESF Max McGreevy state champ.jpg Santa Fe alum McGreevy makes U.S. Amateur

    OU’s Max McGreevy, an Edmond Santa Fe graduate, and University of Tulsa’s Logan McCracken qualified for the 2014 U.S. Amateur, the United States Golf Association’s (USGA) prestigious annual event featuring the world’s finest amateur golfers. This year’s championship will be held at the venerable Atlanta Athletic Club (AAC) in Johns Creek, Aug. 9-17.

    Qualifying Players
    Max McGreevy, Edmond 67-65—132
    Logan McCracken, Oklahoma City 69-66—135

    Alternates
    1st Alt. Garrison Mendoza, Clinton 69-71—140
    2nd Alt. Thomas Johnson, Norman 71-69—140

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • spts-OC Rhein Gibson 17 tee.jpg Gibson closes British Open with a 78, 3 birdies in final 6 holes

    Even if he didn’t post the score he wanted, Rhein Gibson left Royal Liverpool Golf Club on Sunday knowing he at least finished strong.
    Gibson’s final-round 6-over-par 78 at the British Open looks a lot better when one considers he birdied three of his final six holes. The Oklahoma Christian alum finished his first major championship at 10-over-par 298 — in 72nd place overall — earning himself a paycheck of $20,840.

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • spts-OGA Reid mug.jpg Edmond’s Reid comes back to win Senior Stroke Play

    James Reid, of Edmond, rallied to win the OGA’s Senior Stroke Play Championship with a smoking 67 July 15 at the Trails Country Club in Norman. Edmond’s Jon Valuck tied for fifth place.
    In the pro series, Cameron Meyers of Edmond shot 68-70 for the top prize while Andrew Green of Edmond finished third.

    Oklahoma Golf Association
    Senior Stroke Play Championship
    July 14-15
    The Trails Golf Club
    Final Results

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • spts-AF Will Conant kicker.jpg Air Force kicker Conant named to Groza Award watch list

    Air Force senior Will Conant, an Edmond Memorial graduate, is one of 30 players nationwide to be named to the 2014 Lou Groza Collegiate Placekicker Award watch list, as announced by the Palm Beach County Sports Commission.
    Conant hit 32-of-33 PATs and 11-of-13 field-goal attempts last season. He ranked third in the conference in field-goal percentage with an 84.6 mark that is the fourth-best in school history and best since Joey Ashcroft hit 88.8 percent (16-18) in 2002.
    Conant is one of two kickers in Air Force history to hit three times from 50-plus yards in a season. He hit three 52-yard kicks last season (versus Colgate, San Diego State, New Mexico), matching Ryan Harrison’s three 50-plus field goals in 2007. Conant’s three 50-plus field goals already rank him third in school history in career 50-yard field goals.

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • spts-OC Rhein Gibson British Open.jpg OC alum Gibson holes pressure putt on 18, makes cut at British Open

    It was the biggest putt of Rhein Gibson’s life — which is saying something for a guy who once shot a world-record 55 — and the Oklahoma Christian alum and Edmond resident responded the way he has so many times before.
    A four-time NAIA All-American while at Oklahoma Christian University, Gibson made the 15-footer for a birdie on No. 18 as darkness descended at Royal Liverpool Golf Club, capping a 2-over-par 74 and allowing him to make the cut in the world’s most prestigious tournament.

    July 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • spts-Senior Open Josh Cook hands on hips.jpg ‘Cook’-ing up a championship golf course

    When the practice rounds began at the U.S. Senior Open July 7, the ramblings were almost non-stop.
    From the players who live at the course to professional golfers from across the ocean and diverse parts of the globe, the consensus was that Oak Tree National was in tremendous shape and the players were keyed up to compete on it.
    “The golf course is fantastic,” Oak Tree resident Bob Tway said on the first day of competition July 10. “It’s hard, but it’s fantastic.

    July 18, 2014 2 Photos

  • Lindley, Tom.jpg OPINION: Posturing, predictions fly as SEC turns to a new season

    Little news is truly made at the Southeastern Conference's media days, where players and coaches predict, insinuate and deflect in advance of this fall's college football season.
     

    July 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • Lindley, Tom.jpg OPINION: James bears the weight of Cleveland's championship dreams

    Can LeBron James change Cleveland sports history? Overcoming this city's tortured curse could prove impossible - even for the world's best basketball player.

    July 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • 20110929_bowling.jpg Why fewer people go bowling

    Like other industries facing tough economic times, America's bowling centers are trying to reinvent themselves.

    July 15, 2014 1 Photo

Photos