Some athletes have no business being on an NCAA campus

Former OSU players talked in Sports Illustrated of teammates who were functionally illiterate, of Dez Bryant's difficulty with staying eligible, of being shuttled into online classes or classes taught by easy instructors.
by Berry Tramel Published: September 11, 2013

Another Sports Illustrated installment, this time on academics, and another scathing indictment.

But not of OSU.

Of NCAA admission standards.

That's what I got from SI Part II on Wednesday. The report popped OSU for a variety of alleged crimes; tutors doing work for players, professors giving unearned grades or changing grades, an inefficient academic support staff that steered players to easy majors and easy classes.

The report was not nearly as in-depth as the “Money” installment Tuesday. Fewer examples, fewer specifics. Few specifics, in fact.

But the overall theme, intended or not, came through clearly. There are NCAA athletes who have no business being on a college campus.

Former OSU players talked of teammates who were functionally illiterate, of Dez Bryant's difficulty with staying eligible, of being shuttled into online classes or classes taught by easy instructors.

No kidding, says me and everyone involved in monitoring the academics of college football players nationwide.

I've talked about this for years with Marilyn Middlebrook, OSU's associate athletic director for academic affairs, who strangely was not interviewed by Sports Illustrated.

The NCAA admission standards for athletes is way too low. Since admission standards went to a sliding test score in 2003, the academic gap between many athletes and the average college student has widened considerably.

“Did the NCAA sacrifice academic integrity in the interest of improving the entertainment product?” Gerald Gurney wrote for the Chronicle of Higher Education in 2011. “That has been the result, intentional or not.”

Gurney was president of the National Association of Academic Advisers for Athletics and an associate athletic director at OU for academics and student life. He now is an education professor at OU.

“The lower test-score standards, combined with high-school grade inflation, have led to greater numbers of athletes who qualify with very low test scores,” Gurney wrote. “Those students possess inadequate skills to manage college academics, creating a greater need for academic-support services at institutions already struggling with strained budgets, staffs, and faculties.”

Twenty years ago, the average student at OU and OSU entered college with a 19 on the ACT. Now, the average student enters with a 26 at OU and a 25 at OSU.

Twenty years ago, athletes could be admitted with a 17 on the ACT. That's not so far removed from the 19 average. But today, the average specially admitted athlete has a score of 18 on the ACT. That's a great distance from 26.

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by Berry Tramel
Columnist
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The...
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