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.
So imagine the scene. You're not particularly good in school in the first place. You're placed into an academic setting with high achievers sitting all around you. The instructor speaks on their level, not yours.
Total confusion. No way can that athlete be competitive in the classroom. It's not possible.
So someone like Marilyn Middlebrook, or Terry Henley, OSU's football academic adviser, is asked to clean up the mess.
Terry Henleys all over America are asked to make up for 12 years of non-education in high school. Asked to look for ways to keep athletes eligible.
This is madness.
Which leads us to Dez Bryant. The help Dez received at OSU was spotlighted by SI. He's maybe the best Cowboy talent since Barry Sanders, so OSU was going all out to help, no doubt about it.
Yes, he was sheparded to class. Yes, he received constant tutor help. But I got a call from an OSU source Wednesday who was more disappointed than outraged at the depiction of Dez in the SI story.
Absolutely, Dez struggled to stay eligible. Yes, Dez probably had no business being a college student. But Dez tried, the source said. He sat down with tutors and worked hour after hour after hour.
Remember the old television practice of introducing starters before games, by showing you their face, their name, their hometown and their major?
We don't do that anymore. But if we did, you'd see that, yes, a bunch of OSU players major in sociology. And a bunch of Virginia football players do the same. At OU, it's multidisciplinary studies. At Michigan, general studies. At Texas A&M, agriculture leadership.
It's called majoring in eligibility, and it's caused by low admission standards.
Of course, that's no excuse for academic fraud. No excuse for cheating on tests or ghostwritten papers.
OSU president Burns Hargis should form a posse today to determine if State had professors giving unearned grades or staff members doing work for athletes. Same with the frats and sororities and every other group on campus.
But Sports Illustrated didn't give Hargis much to work with in the way of clues. And even if you eradicate the corrupt, the academic problems of college football will have been solved not one bit.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.