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What's your major?

When Jim Harbaugh turned states evidence against Big Blue it got me thinking about the way schools lie to kids on the recruiting trail. Schools posture as if they're looking out for a superstar athlete's best interest, but they know that just processing a kid 'through the system' won't help them when the NFL doesn't pan out (and it doesn't even for most of the best recruits.) No one's going to want hire a kid with a low GPA in non-standout major even if he has a degree from a decent school. And a lot of schools are decent. Which also means there's a lot of competition for those jobs.

Here's what Harbaugh, the former Wolverine who's the new coach of Stanford, said that's turned Big Blue, yellow.

"Other schools which have good academic reputations have ways to get borderline athletes in and keep them in.” “Michigan is a good school and I got a good education there,” he said, “but the athletic department has ways to get borderline guys in and, when they’re in, they steer them to courses in sports communications. They’re adulated when they’re playing, but when they get out, the people who adulated them won’t hire them.”

And here's the truth that confronts most kids who are lured in by the "we've got a good academic reputation" promise. That doesn't guarantee you a good job. Here's a look at the majors for Michigan's upperclassmen:

  • * American Culture (1)
  • * Biology (2)
  • * Biopsychology (1)
  • * Economics (2)
  • * English (1)
  • * General Studies (35)
  • * History (1)
  • * Movement Science (2)
  • * None Declared (4)
  • * Philosophy (1)
  • * PhysEd (1)
  • * Psychology (3)
  • * Spanish (1)
  • * Sports Management and Communications (7)

Easy to see that they pack two-thirds of their kids into majors that won't land them great jobs. Here's a look at the majors for Florida's upperclassmen:

  • * Recreation Programming 6
  • * Sport Management 2
  • * Sociology 11
  • * Criminology 1
  • * Anthropology 6
  • * Family, Youth, and Community Sciences 3
  • * Building Construction 1
  • * Telecommunications 1

Who knew there was such an interest in Anthropology at Florida? Florida and Michigan are both good schools on the spectrum, but just graduating with a breeze through major and an okay GPA won't land you a great job when the NFL doesn't sign your paycheck.

Now, I'M NOT denigrating these majors. You can be very successful with almost any major if you're near the top of your class, work hard and make the right connections. But that's not what happens with many football players in "football majors." When you start to see these concentrations in softer majors, warning signals should be going off. And when you get the sales pitch about school reputation and even grad rates, it's important to look a little deeper at what's really going on here, because the number one thing that helps drive success is the environment you're in. If you're at a school that has a decent reputation, but are sheltered in a football environment, good luck to you. Because as Harbaugh points out, in the end, no one's going to hire you unless you can help them be better at their business.

Bad enough that kids don't graduate at most top football schools, but it doesn't help them much more to stick them in a "football major" -- this is where "grad rates" and "reputation" can be very deceiving.


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