GRIZ GRIT: Making the Grade

By Beacon Staff

Counting down the days during the last semester of high school can be a trying time for parents and students as they struggle to make up their minds where to continue their education – if that’s what’s in their future – or contemplate their next career path.

While in-state institutions are often a family’s best buy, there’s of course no guarantee you’ll be admitted. And out-of-state tuition just isn’t an option for many families.

But a recent Associated Press survey of major institutions has uncovered what I see as an extremely troubling but not completely surprising scenario.

If you’re looking to attend one of the top 120 schools in the upper tier of football and if you are a borderline student, you’re far more likely to be admitted if you’re an athlete than if you’re not.

But while bending admission standards for athletes surely crosses ethical boundaries, does it come as a shock that in more than two-dozen institutions an aspiring athlete was at least 10 times more likely to receive “special benefits” than a student in the general population?

A December Associated Press story quotes Alabama Head Coach Nick Saban as defending such special admissions programs that benefitted Crimson Tide athletes as necessary and valuable.

The NCAA says such programs are fine as long as they also are offered to the general student population and therein is the problem.

That’s the way the governing body looks at most things – saying quite simply you are not allowed to give special considerations in any area unless it is afforded to every student.

What we’re talking about here is a less than stellar ACT or SAT test score or a qualifying GPA for college admission.

While the NCAA has eligibility requirements after an athlete is admitted in order to continue to play, admission policy is determined by each institution.

I’m sure you’ve heard the rumors, founded or not, about athletes who applied to another university and, when they didn’t make the grades, transferred to a Big Sky Conference school.

Of course being admitted to college under special circumstances doesn’t mean a student will not prosper.

Eastern Washington University’s Rodney Stuckey, now playing in the NBA, was a non-qualifier who became an honor student and made the Cheney, Wash., school’s honor roll.

And one could surely make an argument that schools should be more aggressive, not only about admitting marginal students but aggressively monitoring their academic progress toward graduation, no matter whether they are a starting point guard or on the school band or debate team.

But to succumb to the pressure of a coach to soften a school’s standards in order to get a marginal student, who happens to have a chance to be a star athlete, surely does no service for either the institution or the student athlete.

However, it could stand to enhance the reputation and standing of the coach who pressured the altering of admission standards because of an aspiring athlete’s “special circumstances.”

And if college sports programs are edging closer to being a farm system for the play-for-pay ranks, why don’t we take away their tax-exempt status, treat them like what they’ve become and demand a wage scale be paid to athletes even if it is a monthly existence stipend and a bonus payment upon graduation?