Friday, October 12, 2007

STUDENT-Athletes at Boston College

The article by Dan Wetzel of Yahoo Sports on the Boston College athletics program should be required reading for everyone, especially those who maintain that high academic standards are incompatible with success on the field. Here are some excerpts:

In an upset bigger than Appalachian State and Stanford combined, the most likely place to find the actual players on a serious national title contender is – get this – in class. (And eventually, caps and gowns.)

Boston College has a whole bunch of numbers going for it right now. There is the record (6-0), the national ranking (No. 4) and the possible position in the Heisman race for quarterback Matt Ryan (No. 1).

Then there is the number that makes the Eagles one of the most unlikely national title contenders in years: 93.

That's the graduation rate for BC football players according to the latest NCAA figures. The Eagles finished third in the country behind Navy (95) and Northwestern (94). . .

It's not like the 93 percent was some aberration. Last year it was 96 and for nearly two decades, through various formulas, it's almost always been above 90. Four times – 1992, 1994, 1995 and 2004 – the Eagles finished No. 1 in the nation. Best of all, there is no trend of hiding athletes in basket-weaving majors, no fifth-year seniors who are still "undecided."

"The statistics show that we take the term 'student-athlete' very seriously at Boston College," athletic director Gene DeFillipo said.

Meanwhile, the rest of the national title contenders seem to prefer the term athlete-student. BC has a 40-percentage point advantage on the three teams ahead of it in the AP poll – LSU (51 percent), Cal (52) and Ohio State (53). Those three aren't even the worst offenders, either.

No matter what many of these big football factories say, no matter how many excuses they make or how well they promote select success stories, the reality is few of them put any real care or concern into the long-term educational welfare of their players. . . .

Certainly neither the school nor the athletic department is perfect as the occasional scandal (more than once gambling related) and off-campus flare up prove. . . .


. . . .But when trouble hits there isn't a cover up, a stonewalling or an "everyone-else-does-it" defense.

They refocus and not just with lip service.

Back in the mid-1990s, successful basketball coach Jim O'Brien got into a battle with the admissions department over whether it should relax standards for a couple of recruits. The school sided with the admissions people and told O'Brien it was their way or the highway, no matter how popular he was.

O'Brien left immediately for Ohio State where he got the Buckeyes to the Final Four, then on major probation, then into a multimillion dollar wrongful firing lawsuit. BC just shrugged and hired a new coach, Al Skinner, who could win within their standards. . . .

If they get there, who knows the fallout? Will Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany write an open letter complaining that the Eagles are too smart? Will the BCS formula be tweaked to punish teams capable of doing calculus? Will the Boone Pickens of the world suddenly scrap plans for some Taj Mahal football dorm to construct "one of them thar library thingies?"

The current average graduation rate of the last five BCS champions is 54 percent.

In a corner-cutting climate like that, can Boston College actually wind up the best team in the country?

For some of us, they already have.



Superdestroyer said...

I checked the rosters on Boston College. In 2002, the team had 16 freshman playing. In 2005 (three seasons later), the team had 11 seniors (of which only five were freshman in 2002).

My guess is that Boston College (like Navy, Notre Dame, and Stanford) does not take junior college transfers. Under the newer NCAA system the transfers out do not count against them but the transfers in (of which there are zero at Boston College).

What the statistics really says is that if you are recruited and signed by Boston College and stay to use all of your eligibility, you stand a 90% of graduating.

Profane said...

Excellent point. The Federally-reported rate (which does not take transfers into account), at 87% for Boston College is six points lower than the NCAA's GSR measure. The other schools you and the article mention shape up like this:

Navy: GSR 95% Federal (not reported)
Stanford: GSR 93% Federal 91%
Notre Dame: 93% Federal 79%
Ohio State: GSR 53% Federal 48%
California: GSR 52% Federal 44%
LSU: GSR 51% Federal 38%

Interesting that the numbers seem to indicate a large number of transfers out of Notre Dame.

Profane said...

This just in from ESPN - a story about a whole bunch of transfers away from the Notre Dame program. Serendipitous.

Superdestroyer said...

Notre Dame recruits parade all-Americans. When a red shirt freshman or sophmore loses his starting job to a freshman, they either transfer if they want to continue to play or sit the bench for a couple of more years.

Usually the assistant coaches know ways to "run" the third stringers off instead of have them take up scholarships. Since a school can only recruit 25 players maximum each year and can only have 85 on scholarship, the system is designed for players to leave.

Programs like Cincinnati, Kansas State, and Memphis have a huge number of transfers who were usually second stringers at bigger schools.

And last, one of the reasons that South Florida's success is that their players used to be the second string players at Miami or Florida State. Those players can now start at South Florida and get experience.