NEWS BLOG (WSAU) On one end of the college football spectrum, we have the Ivy League. These are elite academic schools like Harvard and Princeton that offer no athletic scholarships. Every football player who suits up for them also has the grades to gain admittance into those schools if they couldn’t play. This insures that Ivy League schools will be non-competitive against colleges that offer athletic scholarships. On the other hand, we have Penn State – where people were willing to cover up child-rape out of reverence for the football program.
Most college football programs fall somewhere in the middle. The U.S. Naval Academy is closer to the Ivy League – you’ll serve a tour of duty once your playing days are over. The University of Oklahoma is closer to Penn State – Billy Sims, one of their Heisman Trophy graduates – revealed that he was functionally illiterate despite somehow earning a degree.
Years ago when I lived in Ithaca, New York, I spent an entire season watching Ivy League football. The weather was bad for all five home games for the Cornell Big Red that season: three Saturdays of steady rain, then one game in the snow, followed by Senior Day in a driving sleet. “Well,” I’d say to myself, “at least they’re really student-athletes.” But, truth is, the quality of play is poor. This low level of football would never attract big-time television ratings. Years later when I’d worked at Yale, I’d watch their football team play in front of 15,000 fans at their 70,000 seat stadium.
But just up the road at Syracuse University, my alma mater tries to play football against the big-boys. And, as an alum, I have the nagging feeling that none of these players met the academic requirements that I did when I enrolled. They were special because they could play. About 25-percent of them don’t graduate, but, oh well, they helped out team beat So-And-So State in the Something-Or-Other Bowl. Even while I cheer for my school, there’s something less than satisfying about it. You’re rooting for a fraud.
There are very few football programs that strike the right balance: big time athletics with solid academic integrity. Notre Dame does. They’re one of the only football schools that has a double-math requirement for Freshmen (6 credits of math in the first year, not 3). They haven’t created faux-degree programs that are designed to keep marginal students from flunking out. The religious requirements are waived for no one. It’s a top-25 university.
It’s a football team I could feel good rooting for.
Too bad they lost to a football factory school.
The real score is 97 to 74. Those are the graduation rates of football players at the two schools. Notre Dame won.