Thursday, September 20, 2007

Welcome to THE JUNGLE?; Jerrell Powe

Well its not quite Upton Sinclair, but Meat Market, a new book by Bruce Feldman on the sausage factory of NCAA football recruiting has received a great deal of attention in the sports press recently. Feldman was granted access to the inner workings of the recruiting machine run by Coach Ed Ogeron of Mississippi during the 2006-2007 recruiting season. It is now on my short term reading list, and I will give you all a full report in the near future. For now, the following comments by Barry Temkin are instructive:
His 2005 recruiting class, assembled hastily after he took his job in December 2004, has been an attrition-heavy disaster, thanks to too many academic and character risks. As he pursued the 2007 class under Feldman's watchful eye, Orgeron raised the bar in those areas but still showed a willingness to roll the dice on academics if a player was promising enough and to fight to get such prospects through the admissions door.

That made one Mississippi staff member particularly valuable because of his expertise in finding ways prospects could satisfy NCAA initial-eligibility requirements late in the game. And that in turn helped lead to the saga of five-star defensive lineman Jerrell Powe, who first signed with Mississippi in 2005 but has yet to play a down despite repeated attempts to become eligible, which included taking a slew of online courses.

The tension between academics and athletics is just one thing that made you wonder what institutions of higher learning are doing in this mass entertainment business in the first place.
Yep, THAT Jerrell Powe, who, after being declared ineligible twice before, learned from the NCAA earlier this month that, at least in his case, correspondence course shenanigans over the space of four months could not erase years of academic failure:
NCAA staff and the appellate bodies expressed concern that Mr. Powe had completed a significant amount of coursework in an unusually limited amount of time – much shorter than the average time it takes students to complete similar courses. In order to grant the waiver and appeal, the staff and membership committees were asked to accept that an individual who previously completed just 7 core courses out of a required 14 in his first five years of high school had subsequently completed 14.5 core courses at three different schools concurrently over a four-month period.
Occasionally, even the NCAA gets things right.

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