NCAA Rewards Mediocrity

This coming College Football Bowl season will see fans rewarded with the Foster Farms Bowl, the Quick Lane Bowl and the Cure Bowl. Participants in those bowls include the University of Nebraska, the University of Minnesota and San Jose State University. Not one of those three teams compiled a .500 record this past season, and combined they stand at 15 wins, 21 loses.

Bowl games not only use to mean something, but they were rewards for outstanding seasons, with the nation’s best college football teams competing against each other. Today, with the number of bowl games expanding to the outrageous number of 40, bowl organizers have gone even below the magic .500 figure, which by itself shouts out mediocrity, and have scraped the bottom of the barrel of terribly bad
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teams, choosing schools such as Nebraska, Minnesota and San Jose State for post season play, and healthy paychecks.

So, you ask, how were these specific three schools, each with 5-7 records, chosen for bowl games? Well, the NCAA and bowl executives left the world of on-field success and instead went to the classroom, using instead Academic Progress Rates, choosing schools with the best under-.500 records in order of this particular measure of academic success to fill the empty blanks of schools needed for all those bowl games.

The Academic Progress Rates scale rates all sports-playing colleges and universities according to how well their athletes progress academically and actually graduate. A good
and needed system it is, if used to punish sports factories that do not actually educate their students, but to use it to populate bowl games? That, is ludicrous.

If academic success were to be used in choosing schools for bowl games, why not just go all the way? For one, use a REAL scale to determine academic success, such
as the best, most widely accepted rating system for US schools, US News & World Reports’ Annual University Rankings. Of course if that were done, the four-team national playoff would mean that the winner of the first round game between Princeton and Columbia would then face off against the winner between Harvard and Yale for the National Championship.

Ridiculous? Well not to Stanford, who finished number six in the final College Football Playoff Rankings and comes in right after Columbia in US News’ academic rankings. Maybe they should play Northwestern, the next highest academic school – number 12 according to US News, to make the final CFPR, in at number 13.

To find one of the actual teams in the NCAA playoff, among Clemson, Alabama, Michigan State and Oklahoma, you have to scroll down the US News rankings to number 61 to find one appearing, and that is Clemson, followed by Michigan State at number 71, Alabama at number 96 and the University of Oklahoma at number 108. Hope the players from

Oklahoma can find their way to Miami for their first round playoff game. Maybe they ought to ask someone from Nebraska. UCLA, number 23 in the US News rankings, is the lucky team playing Nebraska, number 103 academically according to US News, shucks, a big five spots more smarter than the Okies.
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Three points:

  1. Mixing sports and academics just does not work. Have academic standards that must be met for schools to participate in NCAA interscholastic competition, but do not then interfere with on-field achievement (or lack thereof) by using an additional academic standard;
  2. 40 bowl games is beyond ridiculous. Cut that back to no more than ten, he says laughingly, knowing full well that the entire university system and the NCAA are driven by money; and
  3. As I have written about in the past, higher education should be just that, and NOT a minor league system for professional sports leagues. Return colleges and universities to what they are meant to do – educate. Let scholar athletes play sports at a high level of competition, but just not as a breeding ground for the NFL and the NBA. This can very easily be done, with a very simple solution, again that I have suggested in the past: Hold all students, athlete or not, to the same academic admission standards as all other applicants. Period. If Cal requires a 4.2 GPA for admission as a history major, the aspiring cornerback majoring in Physical Education ALSO has to have a 4.2 to be admitted. Instead of partially subsidizing schools and athletes, let Nike and adidas and Under Armour use their money to set up leagues and teams so that 18-22 year-olds who do not belong in college can play ball and gain experience and exposure with the pros, and entertain a nation so starved for games featuring exploited young ballplayers.

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