Friday, March 7, 2008

At Georgia, a Commitment to Academics?

Those are the noises coming out of the athletics department at the University of Georgia, which a fellow blogger has described as the Worst University in the United States. From Mark Schlabach at ESPN:
When Georgia hired Dennis Felton as its men's basketball coach five years ago, the school asked him to clean up its program, which had been ridiculed nationally because of academic fraud and NCAA violations committed under former coach Jim Harrick.

Felton cleaned up the program, so much so that the Bulldogs have mostly labored through a 13-15 season with only eight scholarship players. After Felton dismissed two starters before they even stepped on the court this season, Georgia lost 11 of its first 14 SEC games before winning at Auburn 59-54 on Wednesday night. . . .

Might Felton's house cleaning cost him his job?

"I promise you this: If I were to get fired, it would be for not winning enough games," Felton said Wednesday night. "It would not be for a lack of our guys consistently representing our university and our program with class." . . .

"I want to be successful in everything," [Georgia athletic director Damon] Evans said. "There are some sports I want to see us build upon. We are 110 percent committed to Georgia basketball. I think Georgia basketball should be great. Of course, we expect great things from basketball, just like we do from every sport."

Georgia's attrition is what concerns Evans most, according to people close to the situation. The Bulldogs have lost six players during the past two seasons. . . .

At least one college basketball coach suggested Georgia's new academic standards, which require student-athletes to attend dozens of tutoring, study hall and advisement sessions each month, make it too difficult to build a program that will consistently win.

"The job is too hard," said the coach, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. "You can't find enough good players who are willing to do all of that."

But Evans, who instituted the policies last year to improve Georgia's lagging graduation rates, defended the new plan. Evans said Georgia's other athletic teams haven't struggled to adhere to the policies.

"First and foremost, we're about academics," Evans said. "Aren't we supposed to encourage our kids to go to class and do what they're supposed to be doing academically? We should be asking more of them academically, to be honest. We've had other teams at Georgia have success under the same guidelines. We want to graduate players from this institution and win basketball games." . . .

The Georgia fan base is already calling for Felton's head. If Evans truly is more committed to graduating basketball players that he is to winning, then one fears that his will be next on the chopping block.

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