by Mike Coffey
I’m taking a break from linking the headlines this morning to bring you this rant. And yes, a rant it will indeed be.
As I was going through the UND main page, I came across this article about the recently-released GSR results. Let me be clear I think graduating our student athletes is critically important and is not a goal of which we should lose sight. But “Notre Dame Wins Graduation National Championship” is the kind of headline that gets my blood pressure skyrocketing.
First off, it’s misleading. ND had the highest overall GSR among the FBS schools, which means we had the highest graduation rate of our entire pool of student athletes among all the top-level football programs. This certainly is a good thing, no doubt about it. But we didn’t have the highest football GSR in that football-related group, nor did we have the highest overall GSR in Division 1, so this smacks of statistical cherry-picking to try to support an already-reached conclusion. Setting aside for a moment that ND has among the highest number of sports being rated, if we’re going to rate ourselves in the FBS group, we should use the metric applicable to all the schools in that group — the GSR for the football team. If we’re going to use our overall GSR, which includes a large number of sports besides football, we should compare ourselves to the overall crowd, not just the football powerhouses. Neither of those choices would result in Notre Dame being ranked #1, so while I’m happy about the Fighting Irish’s excellent performance, such blatant and borderline-dishonest marketing hype galls me.
Second, and far more aggravating to me, is the use of the phrase “National Championship” to describe this result. National Championships are won on the field, and while things that happen off of it are important to me (and to all ND fans and people who have at least a modicum of respect for the concept of the student-athlete), using that phrase to describe those things is incredibly inappropriate, especially in the context of FBS schools. We all know what happened on January 7th when the actual FBS National Championship was contested, and the continuation of Notre Dame’s success in providing its student-athletes with meaningful degrees doesn’t make the result in Miami any less embarrassing to me. Pretending the GSR results are in any way equivalent is, in my opinion, a transparent attempt to diminish the importance of that result. Yes, graduating players is important, but what those players (and the men who coach them) do during the games is just as much so.
Quite frankly, I would have been happy with a GSR number 10 points lower if it meant a much different result against Alabama. I realize that’s not a zero-sum equation, but I also realize a lot more people recognize (and care about) 42-14 than 99. There’s a happy medium, and finding it is not a sin.