Athletics And Academics …

UCLA QB, Josh Rosen, made news this week when he told an interviewer essentially that being a college football player and being a top-flight academic performer did not mix because it was like doing two full-time jobs.  He also stirred up some controversy by saying explicitly that there are some athletes in college who do not belong in college.  As you might imagine, this has provided fodder for the TV “sports debate programs” and for sports radio hosts.  As you can imagine, folks with various points of view on such issues have turned him into a lightning rod.  Let me try to examine what he said:

  1. Playing college football takes a lot of time; being an academically excellent student takes a lot of time.  Not everyone can make a commitment to do both because it is difficult to do both.  However, it can be done – – and it is done by lots of football and basketball players on campuses around the country all the time.  Josh Rosen overstated the problem here.
  2. While indeed there are plenty of college athletes who graduate from their university in four or five years, there are also plenty of college athletes who are only admitted to college because of their athletic abilities.  To deny that situation is Pollyannaish to the max.
  3. Academic counsellors for athletes have the primary objective of keeping the athletes eligible.  If the athlete does not “speak up”, there is more than a small likelihood that the athlete will be “guided” into a series of easy courses/majors that will keep him/her eligible and may or may not provide the athlete with a useful degree upon graduation – – if that ultimately occurs.

Some college majors are more compatible with college athletics than others.  I was a chemistry major in undergraduate school.  When I took organic chemistry, it was a two-semester course which had 3 hours of lecture, 1 hour of recitation and 6 hours of laboratory per week.  The lecture part and the lab part were separate courses in terms of the credit I received, but the total class time for those 2 courses worth of credit was 10 hours per week – – and that does not account for even a moment of study outside the class.

Most courses where I went to school met 3 hours per week.  So, if someone majored in political science – to pick a subject at random – he/she would rack up 2 course credits with 6 contact hours per week.  Four hours per week may not sound like much, but if you are trying to “do two full-time jobs at once”, it does make a difference.  I do not want this to sound as if I had to bear up under hardship in college; that was not the case at all.  I merely use myself as an example here to suggest that some courses and some majors will make the already difficult road to simultaneous excellence in academics and athletics even more challenging.

Josh Rosen is 20 years old; he will not turn 21 until after the college football season is over.  He made some valid observations and he exaggerated some of his statements.  I do not think hyperbole is a capital offense for someone 20 years old…  For the record, Josh Rosen in majoring in economics at UCLA.

In the latest installment of the “Colin Kaepernick Saga”, people are organizing a rally to be held outside NFL HQS in NYC for 23 August.  The announcement of the rally came in a Tweet from Spike Lee.  Surely, we will hear more about this and learn more about the focus of this rally in the next week or so, but there are several things that are not clear to me as of now:

  1. Is this rally to urge the NFL to put pressure on owners in order to get Colin Kaepernick a job as a QB for one of the teams?  I realize that Kaepernick’s situation is uncommon, but is a rally with that objective proper?  Should there have been similar rallies back when Tim Tebow wanted to be an NFL QB but could not get any team interested in him?  How about Joe Flabeetz?
  2. Is this rally to focus on Kaepernick’s support for issues of police brutality and various other social causes in the African-American community?   If so, why hold it outside NFL HQS?  Roger Goodell is hardly a beloved figure with many football fans, but I doubt that any rational folks would pin the blame on him for things like police brutality and high unemployment rates in the African-American community.
  3. Is this rally going to make it easier for Colin Kaepernick to get a job with an NFL team as the QB?  Call me a cynic, but I think this rally is a “Get Out Of Jail Free Card” for any owner/GM/coach who wants to avoid thinking about Colin Kaepernick as a member of the team.  Coaches talk about those “dreaded distractions” and any owner looking for an explanation as to why he has not talked to or signed Kaepernick can merely point to the video files of this rally and go off on a riff about “distractions”.

All that stuff will become clearer in the next couple of weeks but there is one thing that I know about this rally already.  Spike Lee is involved; he may or may not be one of the organizers, but he is obviously involved in some way.  Now IF the objective here is to get Colin Kaepernick a QB job somewhere, I am not sure that an NFL coach or GM is going to put a lot weight on Spike Lee’s recommendations/urgings.  After all, his advice and direction for the NY Knicks has not produced much of anything positive.

File this under “I Could Not Make This Up”; the Philadelphia Union of MLS have hired a Chief Tattoo Officer.  The team and a tattoo parlor in suburban Philadelphia called Bonedaddys have an agreement that names Bonedaddys as the “go-to place for Union players and staff in need of tattoo services.”  You might imagine that some PR guy conjured this up and signed up some deal just to get a press release out.  Well, if team press releases are to be believed, this was a serious effort.  According to the Philadelphia Union:

  • 150 tattoo parlors were initially considered for this “partnership”.
  • 13 parlors were “semi-finalists” and 5 parlors were “finalists”
  • The winner was determined by “site visits” to the 5 “finalists”.

For those who live near Philly, this partnership will kick off on 21 August at Bonedaddys.  To get the ball rolling, the Union’s VP for marketing along with one of the Union players and the founder of the team’s fan club will all be getting tattoos at that kick-off ceremony.  I will not be able to make it to this party; I have an appointment back on Earth… [ /Philip Roth]

Finally, since my head is still spinning over the idea of a team hiring a Chief Tattoo Officer, let me close with some musings by Scott Ostler of the SF Chronicle:

“Idly wondering: Why did Superman need a real job? Need cash? Grab a lump of coal and squeeze it into a diamond. Want to get close to Lois Lane? Call her and say, ‘Superman here, let’s have lunch.’

“And if Superman needed a real job, why newspaper reporter? Should I fight interplanetary crime today, or cover the Metropolis school board meeting?

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………



10 thoughts on “Athletics And Academics …”

  1. I stated my case a few weeks ago, but Colin Kaepernick is a better QB than most of the current NFL backups and probably a few of the starters. The reason he is unemployed is not due to his ability to play QB.

    1. Name the starters. Mr. Kaepernick, his agent, or both completely bungled the Fidel Castro-Malcolm X t-shirt contest. CK is asking for what? $9 million? Have you seen him throw downfield on the run? Can you imagine Seattle Seahawk fans rooting for him when he overthrows an open receiver? I’ll answer that: they’re not that smart.

    2. Doug:

      Agree if I take your statement literally. I believe, however, that he is not necessarily “good enough” to be worth the baggage that he will bring to a franchise.

  2. I think someone will bring Kaepernick in due to injury. Miami would have, but Kaep is more radioactive there than in SF. I’d pick the Raiders to take the plunge if Carr goes down again.

    Whoever does sign him will of course have the “second chances” press conference with all of the reality of the “Bachelorette” show.

    1. Oakland Raiders already have three quarterbacks. And don’t mention a Derek Carr injury again. Raider fans have still not sucked all the venom out from that ill-fated Indianapolis Colts game.

      1. Tenacious P:

        The Raiders aim for the playoffs this year and to win a game or two once there. Yes, there are two other QBs on the roster at the moment in Connor Cook and EJ Manuel. Let me suggest that neither of them present the team with a high likelihood of making the playoffs and winning a game or two once there…

    2. rugger9:

      If Al Davis were alive and cognizant, the Raiders would likely have signed him up a few months ago as an insurance policy and as a way to stick a thumb in the eye of that other team in the Bay Area.

  3. On the college athletics v. academics front, I too majored in Chemistry at Berkeley, while playing rugby and doing my NROTC (they paid most of the college bills) duties as a frat rat with outside jobs to cover the gaps. I’ll agree that it can be done but it is not easy and not everyone can do it. I just got my season tickets and there is a note from the AD about how expensive it is for a student athlete.

    I do agree about the Little League exploitation, I would add that putting a pre-teen kid’s heartbreak on from coast to coast when he or she screws something up is something that will haunt them for a long time. The internet is forever.

    1. rugger9:

      So, you too know the joys of taking courses with large numbers of “contact hours” in addition to the hours needed to master the course’s subject matter. Such fun… I used organic chem as my example; my least favorite lab course was analytical chem which was a lot of boring hours as far as I was concerned.

Comments are closed.