See jocks run — but not read

Some college athletes play like adults, but read like 5th-graders, reports Sara Ganim for CNN. Tutors help them, as long as they can play.  Then they drop out or graduate with a degree they still can’t read.

At the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, 60 percent of football and basketball players admitted in 2004 to 2012 read at the fourth- to eighth-grade level, reports Mary Willingham, a former tutor for the athletic department.  Eight to 10 percent read below a third-grade level, according to her research.

Some were enrolled in “laughably lax” African-American Studies classes. Professor Julius Nyang’oro now faces fraud charges: He was paid $12,000 to teach a class that never met. 

It’s not just UNC, Ganim writes. About 10 percent of University of Oklahoma athletes in revenue-generating sports read below a fourth-grade level, according to Oklahoma Professor Gerald Gurney.

At most schools, seven to 18 percent of football and basketball players read at an elementary level, a CNN investigation concluded.

Intensive tutoring can close the gap by junior year, said Robert Stacey, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Washington.

Former and current academic advisers, tutors and professors say it’s nearly impossible to jump from an elementary to a college reading level while juggling a hectic schedule as an NCAA athlete. They say the NCAA graduation rates are flawed because they don’t reflect when a student is being helped too much by academic support.

“They’re pushing them through,” said Billy Hawkins, an associate professor and athlete mentor at the University of Georgia. “They’re graduating them. UGA is graduating No. 2 in the SEC, so they’re able to graduate athletes, but have they learned anything? . . . To get a degree is one thing, to be functional with that degree is totally different.”

Some universities refused to cooperate with CNN, but others provided more details on football and basketball players’ SAT or ACT scores and other data.

Many black male athletes end up with no degree and few job prospects, writes Isiah Thomas, a former pro basketball player now working on a master’s in education at Berkeley. “Only 65 percent of African American basketball student-athletes graduated in 2013,” writes Thomas and co-author Na’ilah Suad Nasir, an associate professor of African American Studies and Education.  Berkeley’s graduation rate for black male basketball players in 2013 was 33 percent.

About Joanne

Comments

  1. This is one reason why I no longer watch NCAA sports. Whether it be football or gymnastics, I will not aid and abet this entire scam. These “student athletes” have no business being in college because most of them, at least in football and basketball are functioning illiterates. I want to know how long this shameful con is going to last?

    • Roger Sweeny says:

      ESPN just signed a 5.6 billion (with a “b”) dollar contract to broadcast the next 12 years of college football play-offs. So I’d say the answer to how long this will last is at least 12 years.

  2. Whenever the idea of paying college athletes is mentioned, someone always says “They’re already being paid. The institutions provide them a free education.”

    Apparently not.

  3. This isn’t exactly new, just so you know.

    Dexter Manley (former college football player and NFL star) testified in front of a congressional committee that he graduated from college and was in the NFL and was not able to read (and that was some years ago).

    Nice to know the NCAA isn’t serious about making the ‘student’ in student-athlete relevant.

    Sigh

  4. I have mixed emotions about stories like this. First of all, they almost always ignore the “student-athlete”‘s role in the problem. It is not like someone is forcing him not to learn to read or get an education. The “student-athlete” is a co-conspirator here, not a victim.

    Secondly, until the NFL creates a minor league system, college football is the only path to the NFL. It is similar for other sports (notably not baseball). This means that our colleges are serving as vocational ed schools for these athletes.

    Lastly, there are many “normal students” going to colleges who end up with no degree and no job prospects, and even sadder many who end up with useless degrees and no job prospects.

  5. The story is told of a big-time college recruiter who goes to watch a to HS prospect play. His report: “He can do ANYTHING with a basketball — except sign it.”

  6. This isn’t really a surprise.

    As for the earlier comment about the student’s role…yeah they have responsibility. In some cases though it seems there many individuals along the path before they get to college that seem to encourage on only developing their ability in sports at the expense of everything else. Seems to be more true for boys than girls.

    • Mark Roulo says:

      “Seems to be more true for boys than girls.”

       

      There is no female equivalent (in terms of earning power and fame) to Major League Baseball, the National Football League and the National Basketball Association. This makes it a lot harder for women to kid themselves about their chances of “hitting it big” as a professional athlete.

       

      Yes, there is golf (LPGA folks make real money if they are good enough) and tennis for women (as well as men), but women have no equivalent to the MLB, NFL, NBA and NHL. WNBA doesn’t count … the salaries are low (and the league may well fold soon). NFL? Just no equivalent. Professional softball? No.

       

      So a chunk of this is probably just that the opportunities for women to kid themselves about becoming professional athletes is much lower than the opportunities for men.