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Oklahoma football: Former Sooner Eric Mensik weighs in on HBO special on academics, his experience at OU

Former OU player Mensik is one of four athletes featured in next week’s episode of ‘Real Sports With Bryant Gumbel,’ which debuts at 9 p.m. Tuesday on HBO.
by Ryan Aber Published: March 22, 2014

— Eric Mensik says he doesn’t have anything against the University of Oklahoma, its academic offerings or the advisers who helped him change his major to multidisciplinary studies.

“I’m not upset with anything that they’ve done for me,” Mensik, a former Sooner offensive lineman who graduated from OU in 2010, told The Oklahoman. “They did a wonderful job. If anything, at the end of the day it was my decision to major in multidisciplinary studies.”

Mensik is one of four athletes featured in next week’s episode of “Real Sports With Bryant Gumbel,” which debuts at 9 p.m. Tuesday on HBO.

The segment, reported by Bernard Goldberg, investigates how decreased admission standards with higher graduation requirements led to many schools pushing players through with diplomas that did nothing to help them after their playing days were over.

Oklahoma officials declined to comment, likely until after the program airs Tuesday night.

The Oklahoman was provided an advance copy of the segment.

In the program, Mensik describes his degree as “a football degree” and says it hasn’t helped much in the search for a stable job.

A central part of the report is Mary Willingham, a University of North Carolina learning specialist who in a January story on CNN said her research on 183 football or basketball players at UNC from 2004-2012 found 60 percent reading at fourth- to eighth-grade levels and about 10 percent below third-grade level.

“It was a horrible joke,” Willingham told HBO. “No learning took place.”

James W. Dean Jr., UNC’s provost, has said Willingham’s research was based on flawed data.

Gerald Gurney, a former senior associate athletic director at OU, was also interviewed by HBO. Gurney was also featured in the CNN story.

Gurney said his job at OU often included pushing football and basketball players to the “easiest major on campus.”

“These majors are not designed to develop critical thinking,” Gurney said. “it is not designed to give them a skill that is employable.”

Mensik doesn’t argue there.

He was a business major until his junior year, when a failed calculus class made things difficult for him.

“It kind of put a stop to that degree in the business school,” Mensik said. “Then I ended up changing over to multidisciplinary studies.

“They showed me some options, and that’s the one I chose. No one was like, ‘You have to take this,’ or, ‘You have to take that.’”

Mensik said his other options included communications and sociology.

“I didn’t have to take any more Calc II classes, that’s for sure,” Mensik said.

His classes included management information systems, finance and accounting. But he never got in depth with those subjects.

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by Ryan Aber
OU Athletics Reporter
Ryan Aber has worked for The Oklahoman since 2006, covering high schools, the Oklahoma City RedHawks, the Oklahoma City Barons and OU football recruiting. An Oklahoma City native, Aber graduated from Northeastern State. Before joining The...
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