Monday, March 17, 2008

Above the fold - Michigan is being drug through the mud...again

From reading the comments left in the wake of the A2 News' "expose" on Michigan athletes and their academic records, I now have a splitting headache from all the arguing. You can break down the commenters into 3 categories.

1. Irrational haters: Michigan is a FRAUD! I used one of the shorter comments, as most of the "haters" wrote novel length diatribes. Here's a brief thought from a commenter named ndifranco.

I think many of you are hilarious. Your sole defense for Michigan's actions is "Everyone else is doing it too." That's some solid, solid footing.

It's good to see the high road goes nowhere through your town.

2. Those wearing maize and blue colored glasses: Michigan does no wrong. EVER! The Ann Arbor news should never have gone forward with this! The not ironically named cartythehack says...

Nobody else even dignify this blog with a response or even a view. I'm about to cancel my A2News subscription do to this unbearably biased Carty and his squad of HACKS. If you really want to do something about this, cancel your AANews subscription or don't even read tomorrow's "smoking gun"

Congratulations Carty, you are officially the most biased and uninformed "journalist" I have ever wasted my time reading.

3. Those with common sense, who realize this is not a U of M issue. It's an NCAA issue. Athletes get help at EVERY D1 school. Here's the thoughts of a w2j2.

I do not think these articles indict UM as much as they point out the universal student-athlete dilemna.

I think these articles help detail some of the history of this issue at UM, and call for a re-emphasis on helping these students.

The university should continue to focus on and help these students earn their college degree. If that takes special tutoring, monitoring, and/or independent study, then do it.

These kids physically train 42 hours per week for the univeristy. The university should, in turn, provide whatever help it takes for them to succeed academicly.

Personally, I find the irrational haters the most entertaining. He who never took the occasional very easy classes in high school and/or college, and did so voluntarily, can cast the first stone. Otherwise, can the self-righteousness.

Add me to the common sense category. Is this really as big of a deal as the A2 News is making it out to be? Not really. To think the athletes at ANY school competing at an elite level (The Big 10 is definitely elite, no matter how ugly the hoops were during the post season tournament) don't get vast amounts of help in completing their studies, sometimes pointed towards easier classes, is being delusional. To also think that the athletes at said school should be expected to complete their studies without help is being delusional.

When it comes down to it, the kids playing major college sports are working full time jobs, with plenty of overtime. It's a 40+ hour week, with a ton of travel, and plenty of nights and weekends involved. If you ask me, I don't know how those athletes simutaniously train, attend classes and study, no matter how easy or tough the classes.

They should get all the credit in the world for taking full advantage of a system (independent study, one on one with professors, academic advisers) that is essentially taking advantage of their athletic ability. If they walk away with a degree from Michigan in any major, they are off to a good start in life.

Is Michigan guilty of arrogance? To a fault. Do they claim to be an academically advanced school? Most deservedly, but not because of the athletes. Is Michigan breaking any NCAA rules? From what I've read so far, no. Are there exceptions to the rule? Of course. I'm sure there are plenty of Michigan athletes who, when looking back, may have done things differently. Christ, so does EVERYONE who's ever attended college at any level.

Big time college sports is a massively flawed system. NCAA athletes are professional in every sense of the word, save for one. They don't see any of the monstrous amounts of money their efforts generate. If any one is to blame, it's the NCAA, and the member schools, themselves, save for their scholarship. ("Scholar" being slightly exaggerated) The schools quite like getting large suitcases filled with cash from the TV networks, and don't want the exposure, or the spigot of consistently flowing cash, to stop.

If you want to see more complete dissertations of the A2 News' and Jim Carty's hatchet job, head to the Wolverines-centric blogs...


Any school other than Duke or Vandy or Stanford will take any player who meets NCAA minimums that, on a non-athlete application, would be laughed out of the admissions office, and Duke and Vandy and Stanford (and the Ivy leagues) all bend their admissions standards severely. The NCAA has instituted punishments for schools that do not keep their players in school and on track for a degree.

Varsity Blue:

Brief Synopsis of Carty's Arguments:
1) There are easy classes at the University.
2) Some athletes take these easy classes.
3) Academic advisors help athletes pick their classes.

All of these points so far are like, duh. He is actually trying to criticize advisors for doing their jobs, which... what?

Michigan Sports Center:

I'd like to thank the Ann Arbor News for pointing out the obvious. Maybe Monday they'll run a series about how water is wet and the grass is green. Also, I hear that the sun might rise tomorrow. Any truth to that?

That's "Above the Fold" for Monday, 3-17-08!


  1. Al, you know, I don't see this as a hatchet job--or is it "an hatchet job?" The whole academic-athlete issue is pretty serious. The excuse that OSU does this or Alabama does it or Jim Harrick did it a Georgia doesn't cut it in my book. I have degrees from both MSU and UM--not to mention WMU--and as an alumnus this bothers me.

    It should be obvious that the "student-athletes" in the revenue producing sports are pieces of meat. They are there to justify the revenues to keep the stadia open. If you take a kid who is flunking out and give him a 4 credit A for learning how to take notes or to keep a daily calendar so that he stays eligible to make money, not for the U itself but for the coaches' salaries, then the institution and the coaches are cheating the kid. Bobby Knight used to call the coaches who put the Nike and Adidas money in their own pockets "Sneaker Pimps." Now they don't get to keep the money, it gets funneled through the U's athletic department. But, the coaches are still pimps.

    If this series does anything it will expose the hypocrisy--most eloquently expressed by John Thompson, Jr., when at Georgetown--that the reason the student athletes should not be paid money is because they're getting a wonderful education at a prestigious institution. It was bullshit then and it's bullshit now. These kids aren't getting a wonderful education and if the experiences of the old grads are any indication, never were. The real reason the "Sneaker Pimps" don't think that "student athletes" should be paid is because the money would end up coming out of the coach's pocket.
    D-I football is the NFL's free farm system--the NFL won't take guys until three years out of high school so that the BCS can keep pumping money into the D-I athletic department coffers. Shit, that's why the NBA stopped taking kids out of high school.

    If the D-I schools really gave a shit about the "student athletes'" educations, they would make all of them sit out their freshman years and become academically grounded by, among other things, limiting their sports related activities to less than 25 hours per week. But, then the kids would be underperfoming unprofitable assets and it would be a bad business decision.

    What the comments to the Carty series as shown in the MLive comment sections show me is that these fans don't give a damn about the "student athletes." There are an extremely low percentage that even suggest that maybe this isn't really the way to educate students. No, it seems that they think it's a great idea to jam them through the school, ship 'em out well short of a degree, then tell them that it's tough shit that they weren't good enough for the NFL. Just as long as they got out there on Saturday afternoon and busted up some poor undersized accounting major from Northwestern. As an alumnus it makes me sick.

  2. I called it a hatchet job because the whole thing, in my mind, reeks of a double standard on the A2 News' part. You know they would be the first in line to calling for heads to roll at U of M if they have a bad season. If Carty expects Michigan to treat their athletes differently from the rest of the NCAA D1 football schools, yet remain an elite athletic powerhouse, it ain't gonna happen.

    I hate to say it, but the big $ donors, and the alumni base in general, aren't going to be too happy if Michigan isn't a national power in football. Look at all the angst caused by the Appy St loss, and the bungled coaching search. In order to stay at a level that would keep the alumni base happy, thus the $ rolling in, some kids have to end up with general studies degrees. I'm not saying that's right, but it's the way it is in today's environment. Money talks, even at a school with high academic standards.

    We do agree that the whole student-athlete thing stinks to high heaven. They are professionals in everything but name and salary. The NCAA and it's member schools are making billions off the sweat of these kids. Scholarship or not, as you say, it's not an equitable trade off. The whole system needs to be changed. Not that it'll ever happen, as there's too much money on the table. Money those kids will never see.

    If there's a happy medium between studies and big time sports, I don't really know if it can be reached. If that "happy medium" meant Michigan was closer to an Iowa or Northwestern than USC or LSU on the football field, the screams from fans, alumni and for that matter, the same media currently criticizing U of M, would be deafening.

    I'll admit I may have gone off half cocked, as we haven't seen the other 2 articles yet. They may find more than what is just, for better or worse, standard operating procedure for big time football schools. If so, I may have to eat my words.

  3. I have to say, after playing 18 holes of golf and driving home, that the whole idea of 4 credits of A for learning how to use a day planner is exactly on point with Jim Harrick Jr's Principles of Basketball at UGa. Remember the firestorm after the release of the final exam questions such as "How many points is a 3 point shot worth?" Harrick fils and pers both were fired and deservedly so. The NCAA came hunting. It might come hunting for UM now, unless some heads roll in the athletic department. As for USC, when Leinhart took his Ballroom Dancing class--and nothing else his last semester of eligiblity--he had completed the requirements for a degree, in four years. This crap devalues the work that the "student-athletes" who actually tried and succeeded academically at UM did. I guess the point is that if your institutional role model is Alabama or LSU or Oklahoma or, heaven forbid, OSU, say so and dump the pose as serious academic institution and admit you're nothing more than a football factory with a pliable faculty attached. And stop sending me letters asking me to increase my donation this year.