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  • No More Excuses

    by Mike Coffey

    As we shiver in the cold, we now enter the 40 days of waiting, at the end of which will be a glorious day of resurrection. While it’s not the usual one Catholic folks expect, the 19 years between national title attempts certainly has been more excruciating than the worst Lent I can remember, so you’ll have to excuse me the metaphor.

    As we sit for these 40+ days waiting for the tilt on South Beach, the scribes both national and local will be looking for their angles … after all, one can only write about Manti Te’o so many times (although the awards he’s bound to win will provide fresh material there). While they look, I hope almost against hope the obvious one does not become tiresome for them, and that the beat writers for schools great and small bring that story to their subjects’ doorstep:

    Notre Dame is doing it. Why aren’t you?

    The latest BCS rankings told us what we already know — Notre Dame is the #1-ranked team in the country and will play for the BCS title on January 7th. But another, even more important ranking released earlier this year told us something else we already knew — when it comes to graduating student athletes, Notre Dame is pretty damn good at that, too.

    At Notre Dame, GSR stands for “Graduation Success Rate”, and the Fighting Irish continued their five-year streak atop the FBS rankings, graduating 99 percent of their student athletes overall, 98 percent of their African American student athletes, and 97 percent of their football players. At some of the other institutes of higher learning, where GSR is more likely to refer to “gunshot residue”, they don’t do nearly as well, particularly for their non-Caucasian charges.

    But that was supposed to be the trade-off, we heard for years. You can’t win on the field and in the classroom, they mewled, and the field pays better. They ain’t there to play school, so why bother pretending? That’s how we ended up with schools graduating 11 percent of their players and the discovery that one finds plantations in the oddest places.

    Overall, there has been improvement in this area. That’s good, because the most important thing is to ensure student athletes come out of their college experience ready to be productive members of society, especially for the vast majority of them whose athletic endeavors will not continue after their eligibility is exhausted.

    But the job isn’t done, and Notre Dame is in a unique position to shine a spotlight into the vipers’ nest.

    There’s no excuse for schools not to give their student athletes the opportunity for the best education they can get. Shoving class brochures under their noses and telling them to go crazy is not the solution. Setting expectations and providing guidance from the day they arrive until the day they leave is the way to go. That’s what Notre Dame does, and it’s reflected in the outstanding classroom performance of its players. Other schools should be just as capable, and yet they fall short.

    I realize not everyone graduates from college, athlete or not. But NCAA athletes are being given a unique opportunity — a chance to advance themselves for reduced or no financial cost to them. For a decent percentage of them, this opportunity is one they would not be able to access if they couldn’t leverage their athletic abilities.

    To not allow them to take advantage of that opportunity is awful. To do so while exploiting them financially is criminal.

    Notre Dame has personified what academic eligibility should be for years. Now they’ve done so while achieving at the highest level in the highest-profile sport the NCAA offers. To paraphrase Ron White, we know we can, we’ve seen us do it. Now it’s time for others to do it, and it’s time for the students playing on the field and the people watching in the stands and the folks writing about the programs to start demanding it of themselves and of their schools. Everyone’s out of excuses. Time for some results.

    19 Responses to “No More Excuses”

    1. Perfectly said!!!! I’ve been trying to explain all of this to the mob of SEC fans down here for years, but they just don’t get it.

      • Outstanding. Like most of us, I have been beating this drum for a long time. Unfortunately, it won’t happen. Too many forces like it the way it is – media, NCAA, most college presidents, all are contributing to the plantation mentality. To paraphrase William Hurt (as Hank Paulson) in “Too Big to Fail”, “they were making too much money”

    2. Tom Gabriel. '65 says:

      Beautifully written, beautifully expressed. I hope our coaches show this to the parents of every potential recruit. Well done, Mike.

    3. Well said EK

    4. While you’re absolutely right, I can pretty much guarantee this will result in exactly zero introspection by the rest of the FBS. But, I think you already knew that when you wrote the article, and were just making a point.

    5. GraceHallChapel86 says:

      The truths expressed in your article are part and parcel of WHY so many other schools (and their fans) hate Notre Dame, as paradoxical as that is. Light always makes the darkness resentful.

      It is also why we need to keep on doing what we are doing.

    6. I think catholics vs. the southeastern convicts and Nick Satan has a nice ring to it.

    7. “I think the Pittsburgh Steelers Organization is the BESTEST football team in the league.”

      – Trent Richardson, Cleveland Browns, former University of Alabama football standout.

      Yes, he said that this past Sunday following the Browns win over the Steelers. He is a phenomenal running back, and despite the fact that he plays for Cleveland, I see him having a decent NFL career.

      Having said that, though, he personifies everything that can (and should) be said about the overall educational system within the SEC – especially for the teams that dominate that conference year in and year out. Trent had no business being in college, and most likely would never have finished high school had it not been for his talent on the field.

      It’s nice to see my alma mater doing what is right for these kids who give their blood, sweat, and tears to play football at Notre Dame – doing what is right by educating them first, then teaching them how to play football at the highest level.

      Good luck to the Irish on the field come January 7th. Let the “smartest” guys on the field be victorious!

    8. its all landing into place for notre dame. The last four years i would sit there and watch stanford take it too us. you know there standards are just as tough as notre dames.The lingering question i had has been answered to the fullest . go irish

    9. irishhawk50 says:

      If the NCAA was really interested in dealing with this problem they would tie graduation rates to scholarship numbers and punish the schools with scholarship losses pro rated on graduation rates. That would get the attention of these schools. I know there is always the problem with basket weaving 101 type classes,but try. A friend is a Dean at a D-I baskeball power and said the football coach always had graduate assistants check on class attendance of his players, but the basketball coach never did. The school won the NCAA basketball title a few years back. What message does that send?

      • GraceHallChapel86 says:

        Excellent idea. Real academic oversight linked to a school’s accreditation. Bonus scholarships for schools that do well, docking of scholarships for schools that do poorly.

      • It’s a great idea but ultimately just one more avenue for potentially cheating the system. Likewise if the NCAA raised its academic standards for either incoming freshmen or for continued eligibility, I’m sure the member schools would find plenty of ways to have their players meet those rules too.

        The only way this would not happen is if there were viable minor-league alternatives in football and basketball, which are admittedly unlikely. The hockey model is far from perfect, but at least young players have viable options that do not require the pretext of academics.

    10. Jason Wlson says:

      A very interesting study would be to lay out the comparative stats across non-NFL, college football-playing graduates in terms of the percentage with graduate degrees (indicative of value of undergrad degree towards graduate program admission; in other words peer-to-peer assessment of the undergrad institution), income levels (value of degree), managerial position (career progression), net worth (another way to value a degree(s)). ND talks about high school kids selecting a school not just as a 4 year decision, but as a 40 year decision. I wonder whether ND is only telling part of the story about high graduation rates. So you graduate. What’s that degree really worth? My guess is that when high school kids and their parents see those stats, those dollars and cents will really register, far more than simply a high 90’s graduation rate.

    11. Let’s flood Rick Reilly. This sort of article is right in his wheelhouse, and would be exactly the type of story he could use to weasel out of his start of the season shenanigans, saving face while giving Notre Dame some love.

      Sure, I’d prefer he be forced to bow down to ND’s greatness… but isn’t this story more important than getting an “I told you so?”

    12. Can you look at the next 3 (SEC) schools in the rankings?

      What is grad rates?

      More importantly can you tell how many of their entering freshmen football players were allowed 4 years on scholarship to complete their degrees? And how many had their 1 year scholarships removed prior to the 4 year point (perhaps so a more “deserving” or “better” incoming freshman could hav the spot)?

      One of the ugly sides of “gray shifting” appears to be football players not making the 2 deep by the beginng of thier junior year don’t seem to be on the team any more.

      This is anecdotal. Data on this migh be very telling.

      If you have access to this type of research I think we would all be interested in seeing it. It would also say something a out why graduation rates are so low at some schools.

    13. Giving those students/athletes an opportunity! Nothing better comes to mind when ND gave an opportunity to Chris Zorich and Tony Rice! That is what an CATHOLIC EDUCATION is all about! Some of you younger IRISH fans should check out these two former players from the last National Title team! Great success stories for them!

      GO IRISH!!!!!

    14. Being #1 in the land in football and #1 in the land in GSR is something to be very proud of. It’s never happened before and if it ever happens again it’ll probably be ND that does it.

      That having been said.

      Notre Dame does a lot of things well, but humble ain’t one of them. For a so-called ‘catholic’ (small c) university that ain’t too good.

      Pride goeth before the fall.

    15. I am one of the subway alumni who wishes he had a ND degree let alone a sports scholarship too. I have not the God given talent for either but one thing I do share with Domers is character and that is what separates this football team led by Manti Te’o.

    16. Fearless Flea says:

      Ladies and Gentlemen: Terry made a very good point. We need to remain humble, as good Catholics and Christians, and be thankful for the blessing of this good season. All victory is fleeting, as we have seen for more than the past decade. Arrogance is an ugly personality trait, and an indication of a weak and mean character. One successful season does not indicate a return to prominence, but many successful seasons over many years. As my father used to say, you’re getting a little too big for your britches. God Bless and Go Irish!