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Thursday July 14, 2005

The admission of student-athletes at UGA has been in the news lately because five signees from the incoming football class won’t be enrolling at the University (this year, anyway). There has been a misconception that Georgia’s academic standards for student-athlete admission are somehow higher than at other SEC schools. There has also been some ridiculous backslapping going on congratulating Georgia for upholding “academic integrity”. The Red and Black chimes in today with the best example yet of this self-congratulatory nonsense.

In late spring, former recruits Darius Dewberry and Brandon Sesay were denied admission …because they failed to meet NCAA academic requirements. The fact that they could not get into the University regardless of athletic skill proved a point: academics matter.

No, the point it proved was that these two did not meet minimum NCAA requirements. They would not have been able to play ball at Stanford, Auburn, nor anywhere in between.

Was the University simply using them as an example, only to let other subpar student athletes in under the radar?

What!? Dewberry and Sesay didn’t even make it to the point where UGA admissions would have had a say. Congratulating Georgia for turning them down is a bit like congratulating United States border authorities for not allowing someone into the country who was kept from boarding his plane in Berlin.

We got our answer when Jamar Chaney, Corey Moon and Jamar Bryant also could not gain admission for various academic reasons.

Again, both Moon and Bryant had problems with the minimum NCAA requirements. Chaney’s case is the only instance where the University’s Faculty Admissions Committee came into play.

What follows though takes the cake:

Yes, we want skilled and talented athletes on our teams, but we want them to measure up to the academic standards of this University as well. With academic standards improving every year, it is reasonable to expect recruits to meet the same standards as the rest of the student body.

Wow. Is the Red and Black under the impression that those student-athletes who made it in come anywhere close to the same academic standards applied to the rest of the freshman class? Do they believe that the average test scores of this football class, unlike all others before it, will lie above the bottom of the lower quartile for the whole freshman class? They’re not that out of touch, are they?

It’s amazing. The Red and Black is not alone in complimenting UGA on their academic integrity based on the fact that these five won’t be suiting up for the Dawgs, but this is the most over-the-top case I’ve seen. The rest of the class prepares for life in Athens, many of whom have three-digit SAT scores, and not a word is said.

The fact is that Georgia will admit any student-athlete that legitimately meets NCAA minimum standards and does not have questions of character. They will even admit partial qualifiers (see Jermaine Phillips, Martrez Milner, and Greg Blue as three recent examples), though the program is limited to two partial qualifiers at any one time. It’s worthy to note that these “subpar” partial qualifiers are now 2-2 in graduating from the University.

It’s clear that the Red and Black editorialist has not thought through the consequences of expecting “recruits to meet the same standards as the rest of the student body.” No Division 1 football program, even Stanford or Duke or any other academic powerhouse, has an average test score for incoming football players anywhere near the average for the rest of the class. Even Stanford’s freshman football class would have an average test score well below the average UGA freshman.

If someone is going to make these ridiculous platitudes praising academic standards, at least be honest and admit what it would do to the landscape of college sports. Many alumni fully acknowledge and can live with the lowering of admissions standards for incoming athletes. Those gushing praise over the 2005 “stand” taken by UGA to deny admission to these five players either don’t understand the NCAA’s minimum standards, don’t understand the academic credentials of most of the rest of the class, or are so hung up on Georgia’s academic standing that they are willing to seize upon this news as proof of integrity and standards. In any case, the posturing comes across as ridiculous and unintentionally quite funny.

Because even the best athletes should at least be passing students.

Let’s finish up an editorial on academics with a sentence fragment.

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