|What is that truth ESPN broadcasts on a daily basis?|
These comments were greeted with criticism from the university and sports writers, though few dared point out the real truth behind his comments. College football (and college basketball) offers Black athletes opportunities to attend schools of the caliber of Michigan that their academic records in high school and performance on SAT/ACT tests would never allow them to attend otherwise, hence the low enrollment of Black students at the top schools in America.
This has in turn created opportunities for Black people that would never be welcomed into the homes of many of these white alumni to enter through the medium of television and become heroes, revered for their athletic accomplishments.
In the case of Harbaugh daring to point out - in a subtle manner - that the usage of Black athletes means a lowering of the academic standards for that institution, truth was the first casualty. Though Pat Forde wrote at ESPN:
The hard numbers seem to be on Joltin' Jim's side.Our good friend Richard Lapchick has been on a lifelong crusade on behalf of Black people and he understands that it is sports that offered the best road to integration. His organization publishes a yearly breakdown of the graduation rates for college bowl bound teams and every year a minor scandal erupts over the insidious racial gap in graduation between white and Black players. This year was no different, with The New York Times reporting:
All it takes to see that is a scan of the 2007 Michigan media guide. Only 30 players have listed majors, and 19 of them are pursuing degrees in something called "general studies." That's 20 percent of the team, and 63 percent of the players who have declared a major.
Yet a university spokesman said this week that less than 1 percent of the undergraduate student body is in the general studies degree program. The spokesman said there are fewer than 200 general studies students out of an undergrad population of nearly 25,000.
And that's not all. The other declared degree programs on the football team are: movement science (three players); sports management and communications (two); economics (two); P.E. (one); psychology (one); English (one); and American culture (one). There appears to be one undeclared player enrolled in the business school and another in the college of engineering.
Only one junior has declared a major, according to the guide (in movement science). In 18 years of covering college athletics, I've never seen virtually an entire junior class without a major.
So you look at those numbers and wonder whether Michigan doth protest too much. Especially without addressing the substance of Harbaugh's assertions.
"Everything I said," Harbaugh told me this week, "is supported by fact.
Michigan athletes fare well by most academic yardsticks, at least in comparison to their peers. The football team has the third-highest academic progress rate in the Big Ten and ranks above the national average. The graduation rate ranks third in the Big Ten, as well -- although it dips to 38 percent (seventh in the 11-team league) for African-American players.
But you wonder how the vast majority of a senior class could wind up clustered in an obscure major such as general studies unless players were being guided that way -- just as Jim Harbaugh suggested. And you wonder why the football program would be so bellicose in response to anyone questioning such a thing, especially a former player of significant stature.
In the aftermath of a football academic scandal at Auburn in 2006 that caused two department heads to step down and the N.C.A.A. to investigate, university officials are no longer bragging — or even talking — about the team’s once-stellar scholastic record.
Auburn’s top-ranked football team, which is preparing to play Oregon in Glendale, Ariz., for the national title on Monday, has tumbled in the N.C.A.A.’s most important academic measurement to No. 85 from No. 4 among the 120 major college football programs.
The decline came after the university closed several academic loopholes following a New York Times article in 2006 that showed numerous football players padded their grade-point averages and remained eligible through independent-study-style courses that required little or no work. Auburn has earned a certain sort of praise from those who were its toughest critics in 2006.
“Auburn was in a rogue position and they corrected it,” said Gordon Gee, who in 2006, when he was Vanderbilt’s chancellor, was stunned that Auburn was ranked higher than his university. Gee is now president of Ohio State. “When those loopholes are closed and the issue is dramatically different, it shows that the loophole was being used. I applaud Auburn. They really did make a concerted effort to curb those abuses. We should applaud them even if they dropped 80 points.”
Auburn’s drop in the Academic Progress Rate, a four-year assessment of the movement toward graduation for a team’s players, is the third largest in college football since 2006, behind Mississippi’s (to 113 from 18) and Florida State’s (to 105 from 17). Since 2006, both Florida State and Michigan have endured academic scandals, with Michigan’s ranking falling to 84 from 27.
Among all the bowl teams this season, Auburn has the highest disparity in the graduation rates between white players (100 percent) and black players (49 percent), according to a study at the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport at the University of Central Florida.
Jim Gundlach, the Auburn sociology professor who uncovered the academic abuse, saw the decline in the team’s ranking as progress. “A genuine consequence to this has been that the people who want to do things right have gotten a bit more grasp over what the university is trying to do,” he said.
Auburn’s athletic director, Jay Jacobs, declined to comment. The Tigers’ second-year football coach, Gene Chizik, said of his team’s academic performance and support, “We do a great job, so we’re not concerned with that.” When pressed on the issue of graduating black players, Chizik said, “Those are circumstances; there’s all kinds of different things.”
In 2006, Auburn football was No. 1 among public universities in the academic ranking, alongside private institutions like Duke and Boston College. But some irregularities had caught Gundlach’s attention two years earlier.
He saw on television that an academic football player of the week was an Auburn sociology major, yet Gundlach was surprised that he had never had him in class. He asked two other sociology professors, who also did not recall having him as their student. Gundlach dug through records and soon found that Auburn football players were graduating as sociology majors without taking sociology courses in the classroom.
He found that 18 players on Auburn’s undefeated 2004 team had taken 97 directed-reading course hours — independent study-style classes — from Thomas Petee, the sociology department’s highest-ranking member. Petee taught 252 independent studies in one academic year, 2004-5, astounding Auburn faculty members, who said that overseeing 10 independent studies would be considered ambitious.Auburn University - a prominent institution of higher learning with more than 23,000 undergraduates, though only six percent are Black - created easy independent study classes to keep Black players eligible and a professor there saw through this academic fraud, as did the president of Vanderbilt. Perhaps they had read statistics on Black intelligence and noticed that Auburn relied on a football comprised of a majority of Black players.
Graduating and educating Black people is the primary goal of the American educational system and though white and Asian students are being educated and graduating, the failure of this system to close the racial gap is grounds for the continued need to participate in Waiting for Superman and the spending of vast sums of money. Black children represent the future, not white and Asian students getting engineering degrees and each child we leave behind puts us on step closer to never finding NASA's next Black scientist.
Sports have offered Black people opportunities in life that few of us will ever see, a chance to accumulate vast amounts of wealth, fame and prestige that the majority of these athletes promptly piss away.
They also offer athletes of all races the opportunity of an education and a chance at a better life, which a majority of Black people fail to get on the high school. Those that make it to the collegiate level have high graduation rates at the top institutions in America (well, white athletes in football and virtually every other sport), though Historical Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) have incredibly poor graduation rates, especially for athletes.
Why is it that white players in college football (who comprise only 44 percent of Division I players) graduate at higher rates, when tutors and multi-million dollar education facilities are at the disposal for all athletes?
Is this a great crisis, as one Black ESPN writer warns us?:
Auburn, in fact, had the biggest gap among all bowl teams, graduating all of its white players but slightly less than half its black players (49 percent), according to data released by the University of Central Florida. Tigers coach Gene Chizik, when asked about the numbers, told The New York Times the university does a "great job" educating its athletes.We've never mentioned IQ here at SBPDL, though the Wonderlic does provide a fill-in for an IQ test for potential NFL draft picks. It is interesting that one of Jim Harbaugh's favorite players, Toby Gerhart, scored highly on the Wonderlic. He is a white player that few other colleges offered the chance to play running back, a position dominated by Black players.
Clearly not all of them, Gene.
The Ducks are even worse at graduating black players, sending barely four in 10 (41 percent) away with degrees. (They graduate 76 percent of white players.)
What a nightmare.
These numbers are important because most of the players we watched Monday night -- and watched throughout the painfully long and superfluous bowl season -- won't likely be playing on Sundays when their college eligibility is over. They'll be out here, where we are, searching for work with the rest of America; and without degrees, they'll be less qualified to compete for the most coveted jobs and careers.
In that sense, sports has not only not achieved (Martin Luther) King's dream but is all but assuring it may never come to fruition.
One would be blind not to notice the unusual amount of white starters playing for Stanford under Jim Harbaugh. Owen Marecic, a two-way player for the Cardinal, was the subject of a fawning New York Times article that pointed out his stellar performance in the classroom. Stanford finished the year 12-1, ranked No. 4 after a resounding blowout victory of Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl.
Stanford graduated of their 79 percent of its Black players and 97 percent of their white players, compared to 79 percent for Virginia Tech Black players and 76 percent for their white players.
Two years ago Florida State safety Myron Rolle received similar praise as he was awarded a Rhodes Scholar, though he represents an anomaly for Black athletes. Many Black players under Proposition 48, an elaborate attempt to let marginal students attend school and play only after a successful year where they maintained good grades.
One prominent Black writer derides poor Black graduation rates at Predominately White Institutions (PWI) without mentioning the poor Black graduation rates in high schools, the overall student population and at HBCU's:
When I saw the final score of last night’s NCAA championship game where Auburn University defeated the University of Oregon, I sent a tweet to my friends that said, “Congratulations. Your plantation was the strongest tonight.”Without sports, the majority of the Black people at a lot of colleges in America wouldn't be offered the privilege to step into a classroom. It seems that even with sports, many of these Black athletes rarely step into classrooms.
As the southerners who love Auburn football celebrate their championship, they may want to take a second to absorb a couple of sobering realities. First, the school got $21 million just for winning that one game. Auburn’s coach, Gene Chizik is due for a multi-million dollar bonus and millions will flow into the pockets of administrators, coaches, commentators, and corporate sponsors, almost none of whom are black.
By supporting institutions like this, we are cheering for a system that uses black men up and sends them, without an education, into a world that is designed to destroy them. So, it’s no wonder that while states like Alabama, Texas and Louisiana have the most impressive college football teams, they also have some of the blackest prisons in America and the greatest wealth gaps between black and white families. Mis-education is the common denominator when it comes to the shape of America’s plantations.
Jim Harbaugh's comments back in 2007 scratched at the truth and Auburn University exposes it.
Perhaps its fitting that a recent ESPN survey on how white people and Black people view athletics shows a deep rift in how each race views the success of Black athletes:
Eighty-two percent of those surveyed believe that sports provide equal opportunities for African-Americans, compared with 55 percent who think the same is true in all other sectors of society. Of those surveyed, 73 percent give a very high rating to the sports world in terms of equal opportunities, in contrast to only 19 percent who give a very high rating to the corporate world.College football is the opiate of America. We will never be able to say what is before our eyes, though Jim Harbaugh hinted at it.
As well, 72 percent believe sports do more to unite people across racial lines, while only 6 percent think sports do more to divide race relations.
However, African-Americans surveyed are less convinced than whites about the extent of the progress in the sports world. Only 36 percent of blacks -- compared with 65 percent of whites -- give sports high marks on the question of whether African-Americans have equal opportunities to succeed.
Most African-Americans surveyed say blacks have fewer opportunities than whites to become owners of professional sports franchises (71 percent); athletic directors at major, Division I universities (72 percent); major league baseball managers (64 percent); NFL head coaches (62 percent); or head coaches at major Division I schools (58 percent). A majority of white sports fans believe African-Americans have equal opportunities.
We have heroes like Michael Vick thanks to this.