Over the course of the last few days, and the last few decades, for
that matter, I've heard analysts, commentators, radio hacks, and
fans defend Joe Paterno by saying that "he graduates his players."
Nobody ever backs up the statement with a hard number, but
people usually believe everything they hear, so they often run with
On November 3rd, just a few days before the scandal hit, Penn
State put out a press release saying they were tied for 10th among
FBS schools (the ones you see on ESPN every weekend) in
graduation rates. The data was accumulated from players entering
school from 2001-2004.Yes, they tied with Stanford for 10th place,
graduating 87 percent of their players from 2006-10. That can
be a little misleading because Penn State is no Stanford when it
comes to academics. The curriculum at The Farm is much, much
more difficult than the one in Happy Valley, and sorry Nittany Lions,
the entrance requirements are far more difficult. I don't think I'll
get much argument there.
More shocking is the team that finished ahead of Penn State.
Coming in tied for 8th place in with a graduation rate of 88 percent
is none other than the University of Miami. I thought it was a misprint,
too, after all, nobody ever thought players from "The U", did anything
other than play football and take money from agents and boosters.
But it's fact, the University of Miami football program had a higher
graduation rate than the storied, squeaky-clean, success with honor
program at Penn State. They say numbers never lie, but I'm sure
there are thousands of PSU graduates yelling and screaming and
asking for a recount just about now.
Whatever. Let's get a few things straight. Joe Paterno, Nick
Saban, or Les Miles don't "graduate" their players. Jo Pa
doesn't sit with Silas Redd after practice and quiz him on
multiplication tables. He doesn't test him on chapter five
of "Death of a salesman." Neither does any other head
coach in college football, its not their job. Every player
in major college football programs is set up with tutors,
academic advisors, counselors, in academic centers that
look like the buildings of the CIA. In other words, they
are set up to succeed. If they fail, its because they didn't
do the work, or simply didn't show up. It has nothing
do with Joe Paterno or Lane Kiffin or Mack Brown.
And really, it's not that hard to graduate from college.
Why do some people try to make it as difficult as
cooling down a nuclear reactor in Japan after an
earthquake and tsunami? I'm far from being a rocket
scientist, but I graduated while playing baseball at
a major college while enjoying the the good life-a lot.
The hours and travel for a 60-game baseball season
is a lot more than football. That's not hyperbole, but
Bobby Knight graduated more than 90 percent of
his players, Ty Willingham sent along 97 percent of
his to get their diplomas. But who's talking about them
as great educators? Nobody. Does Albert Pujols
ever credit his hitting coach? Don't think so. Never
heard Steven Jobs thank any of his high school teachers.
That's because nobody hits or thinks for them. It's
all them. So please, let's stop the noise about coaches
who graduate players. They've never taken a single test
for any one of them.