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Academic casualties proof that foundation at Notre Dame remains

Feb 13, 2014, 3:37 PM EDT

Brian Kelly

Earlier this week, freshman basketball player Demetrius Jackson didn’t play against Clemson, causing Irish basketball fans heart palpitations. The highest profile basketball recruit in recent memory has started his Irish career slowly, and Jackson’s mysterious absence had many believing that the future star and coach Mike Brey were on the road to a messy break-up.

But Brey reported after the game that Jackson was taking some time away from basketball to get his academics in order. The South Bend native was just the latest in a run of high profile student-athletes to have their obligations as students get in the way of their starring roles athletes.

Before Jackson it was senior guard and leading scorer Jerian Grant. Notre Dame’s hockey program lost its top defenseman Robbie Russo. Wide receiver DaVaris Daniels is spending the semester at home, with his academic affairs out of order. And nobody has forgotten Everett Golson, an academic blow from which the 2013 football season never recovered.

Five high profile athletes — arguably among the most important on campus — have been toppled over by the always delicate balance of being a student-athlete at Notre Dame over the past 12 months. Whether acknowledged or not, it’s created a ripple effect across college sports.

Right now, it’s been seen mostly on the recruiting trail. The departure of Golson and Daniels was fodder for opponents, very visible data-points used by some to present the narrative that Notre Dame struggles to protect its own.

In good times, Notre Dame’s academic rigors are used as a beacon for what’s right about college sports. During the Irish’s run to the BCS title game, Notre Dame had the No. 1 ranked football team and the No. 1 rated graduation rate, a double-double likely never before pulled off. That this fact was only a fractional piece of media coverage heading into the Irish’s game with Alabama tells you something.

Of course, those wondering if things are crumbling beneath the Golden Dome are also missing the big picture. Notre Dame’s academic support system, the very same one that rightfully received kudos for the work of its small, but dedicated staff, remains unchanged.

That 18-to-21 year olds falter in the classroom and make short-sighted decisions is an evergreen problem. It’s a universal coaching point that can never be overstressed to every kid in the dorms, not just the ones in monogram jackets. In times like this, while tomatoes fly in from the cheap seats, those working are best to just keep their heads down and stay the course.

So if you are looking for an address from the athletic department or a change in the process, it isn’t likely. But in essence, Brian Kelly took on the topic on Signing Day, reaffirming his commitment to the virtues of a four-year degree from Notre Dame, one of the most valuable undergraduate diplomas in the country.

It wasn’t exactly President Andrew Shepherd, but it wasn’t too far off:

 

“When we’re on the road recruiting, we were talking about 8,000 students here at Notre Dame.  We were talking about a faith‑based education.  We were talking about a competitive academic environment.  We were talking about community and living, residential life.  We were talking about all those things, and at the same time being able to talk about winning a National Championship. So both of those things are important, as well as a 40‑year decision, not a four‑year decision.

“When we were having this opportunity to recruit a young man, they had to have a passion for wanting to get a degree from Notre Dame and winning a National Championship.  If they want to come here just to hang their hat to play football and go to the NFL, we passed on some pretty good players, because I don’t want guys to come here and not finish their degree.  I want guys to come to Notre Dame, get their degree, help us win a National Championship, and be the No.1 pick in the NFL Draft.  That’s what I want, if that’s what they want.

“So that was our charge going out is looking for guys that wanted a degree from Notre Dame, help Notre Dame win a National Championship, and then if they wanted to go to the NFL, that they would play on one of the greatest platforms in college football.  They’d play at Notre Dame.  They’d be on NBC.  They’d be on national television.  They’d be under one of the great opportunities to be seen on a day‑to‑day basis.

“So when you look at the list of guys, we vetted them out just like they vetted us out.  So recruiting is a two‑way street.  A lot of times our fans ask why didn’t they recruit this guy or they recruited this guy; it’s a two‑way street when it comes to the recruiting process.  So we are really, really pleased with the work that our coaches have done, our recruiting staff.”

For those thinking that the struggles of Jackson, Grant, Russo, Daniels and Golson are fractures in the system, Notre Dame would likely argue that it’s proof that the foundation still stands strong.

That all of these athletes have pledged to come back and compete again with their teammates and represent their university, deserves appreciation, the road less traveled compared to a transfer or scramble for higher ground.

One of the biggest worries about Brian Kelly heading to Notre Dame was that he might not be able to deal with the culture of the university and the concerns that an outsider might not be willing to embrace Notre Dame’s charge of being different. While some bumps in the road have been painful, it’s pretty clear that Kelly’s resolve, and the pledges of the student-athletes facing adversity, represents the opposite.

No coach ever won a recruiting battle by telling an athlete it’d be easy.

Now more than ever, it seems Notre Dame accepts and embraces it.

120 Comments (Feed for Comments)
  1. paulhargis53 - Feb 14, 2014 at 12:40 PM

    I was, I was typing 1 handed…you caught me…..oh wait, nevermind.

  2. ndtemplar - Feb 14, 2014 at 12:54 PM

    It seems that no one is dealing with the “elephant in the room.” Do we really believe that “dumb” players are “better” than “smart” players? Why?

    Is RGIII “better” than Andrew Luck?

    Please name a “dumb” Tight End who was “better” than John Carlson (top-grade scholar)…

    Academic standards should be raised, not lowered.

    Smart players are BETTER than dumb players!

    • NotreDan - Feb 14, 2014 at 5:30 PM

      The point, not the elephant, is that intelligence is distributed in a population according to a bell curve. The population of athletes that are really smart is significantly smaller than the population that is of average intelligence.

      The population of athletes that are 4 and 5 stars is significantly smaller than the population that are 2 and 3 stars.

      These two qualities are to a degree “genetic” and not “teachable. They also happen to have almost nothing to do with each other.

      The population that is really smart AND a 4 or 5 star is obviously MUCH smaller than either alone.

      So, while I agree with you, smarter is better, there just isn’t a whole lot of players in the AND grouping.

      • irishdog80 - Feb 15, 2014 at 11:03 AM

        I have noted before that a big part of the challenge for ND has been the competition on the recruiting trail from Stanford, Vanderbilt, Northwestern and even Duke. In years past and going back to the glory days of the 70s, Vanderbilt, Duke and Northwestern would have combined for maybe 5 victories and a total of 5 players on their teams that ND would have even shown any recruiting interest in. Now those same schools regularly bring in quality talent thus the need for coaching them up, nutrition and chemistry between coaches and players to achieve lofty goals on the playing fields.

    • onward2victory - Feb 14, 2014 at 6:25 PM

      GRONK!!!

      • irishpuma - Feb 15, 2014 at 1:28 AM

        Gronk, Hernandez, Graham, to name a few, bad point “plar” Carlson has done next to nothing at the next level. Let’s not get it twisted it can help at QB and maybe linebacker the more cerebral positions but talents trumps all, maybe not 40 years ago but today!!! Come on speed, size, natural talent or instinct that is what plays now a days. One of the greatest boxers of all time Tyson is no thinker my friend. Add to that list most boxers, to agree with Dan if you have a 5 star brain to go along with 5 star talent (it is rare) you have a high probability of being exceptional like a brady, manning etc. but not even then all of the time, look at Hendrix, smart, a beast, skilled, power arm….put him in the game full collapse.

        I guess I would agree with your point if you changed the trait from being intelligent to having internal fortitude or confidence of swagger. Some guys just have the choke in them or the stage is too big regardless of brains, skills etc. And some guys will just win no matter what their skill set is, (montana) its Darwinian.

    • 1notredamefan - Feb 18, 2014 at 8:55 PM

      Not That kind of smart… Everyone is smart in their own way and when street or country smart come in contact with common sense we tend to lean toward the degree of a college as common sense for our own understanding. The value of our students who can graduate is under appreciated by most If not all football freaks… If we don’t seriously think about the lower level human beings struggling to survive in this hypocrisy, we will never understand our recruiting process.

  3. fnc111 - Feb 14, 2014 at 1:18 PM

    PaulHargis wet himself in bed last night.

    • ndfaithful - Feb 14, 2014 at 6:11 PM

      you must have been there with him?

  4. paulhargis53 - Feb 14, 2014 at 1:28 PM

    Last night? I’m good for that 4 times a week at least. Are you now going to bully a bed wetter? I thought you Catholic folk were better than that…

  5. irishdog80 - Feb 14, 2014 at 1:56 PM

    There are two parts to this issue: 1. Managing expectations, 2. Coaching/Talent.

    So long as ND’s and ND’s fan base’s expectations are aligned, we should not have a problem. My expectation is that we are a Top 20 team every year with a shot at the Top 10 and are in the serious running for a National Championship at least once every 4 years. We are currently in good position for achieving that level of performance while still maintaining academic standards as evidenced by our top graduation ranking.

    Kelly has already shown that he can take a team to consistent Top 20 rankings at Cincinatti and at ND. Davies, Willingham and Weis have proven they were not that capable. Our talent is now better aligned with coaching and expectations. The missing ingredient has been QB play. We are now better positioned on that front as well. Good times are ahead for Irish fans.

    Go Irish!

  6. fnc111 - Feb 14, 2014 at 4:46 PM

    I’m Lutheran.

  7. runners00 - Feb 14, 2014 at 5:39 PM

    Here is where college sports are so corrupt when viewed in light of real-world expectations. Take someone like Jamalle Cornelius. Anyone know who he is? He was a captain on the 2006 Florida Gators football squad. He’s gone now — out of football. Here was a captain on a national championship team. He must have a pretty good gig these days, having been a captain on one of the very best college football squads of the last 15 years or so.

    What does he do these days? He was an undrafted free agent when he signed a short-term contract with Buffalo, but I don’t believe he ever played a down in the NFL. So, where is he? He coaches school kids in Polk County, Florida. Now maybe that’s a decent job for some people but football in high school is, well, a three- or four-month gig.

    The problem with college football is that the schools like Florida, who load up on these athletes, run the show. There are 98 underclassmen who are trying to play football professionally later this calendar year. 98. I suspect there are very few Louis Nix’s in that group (i.e. kids who left their school with a college degree). Sure, there are some college graduates. But of the ninety-eight, I’d be willing to bet two-thirds are leaving without a college degree. So what are they going to do at 35? Sure, there will be first-round picks who will get a fat signing bonus but most aren’t going to be in that bucket.

    As long as this is the system, we are going to struggle to compete year-in and year-out. Simply, the academics at Notre Dame are very rigorous. Sure, there is a great academic support team to help the athletes with the academics but when your competitors have a different standard (i.e. just keep kids eligible under NCAA guidelines vs. work toward graduating the kids on time), it’s difficult.

    This doesn’t mean the “smart kids” are inferior. It means the smart kids — those planning for life at 35 — have more obligations and more going on than the kids who are there to stay eligible till they’re juniors.

    • NotreDan - Feb 14, 2014 at 8:50 PM

      Good post dude

    • irishpuma - Feb 15, 2014 at 1:30 AM

      it was better when Maroon said it.

    • nudeman - Feb 15, 2014 at 1:07 PM

      Excellent post. Agree with 100% of it. But …

      … I’m like you and others here. I went to college, not on a scholarship and have worked all my life in the white collar world. In other words, I’m a working stiff, no more/no less. And like you’ve done here, I’ve wrung my hands many times at the disservice these schools do to these kids. It’s not criminal but it is the very worst as far as exploitation goes. But …

      … the kids are responsible too. They’ve been told that a degree is meaningful. They know learning matters. They know they’re one ACL injury from working at Denny’s. And so when they go to college and major in Football with a minor in Weed, they’re at least 50% as responsible as the coaches, administrators, and Board of Trustees who look the other way.

      I did not go to ND but have immense respect for their refusal to play that game. If they ever became like FSU or UF, I’d tune them out in a heartbeat and probably just give up on CFB. Would rather see a 9-3 ND team done the right way than a perennial 11-1 or 12-0 team that’s run like, per the SI story, Oklahoma State.

      • jerseyshorendfan1 - Feb 16, 2014 at 1:36 AM

        Wait, it’s possible to minor in weed? Nude, well said, as usual.

      • runners00 - Feb 16, 2014 at 9:38 PM

        Thanks.

        The thing that is so hard about a lot of this corruption is that while the kids share a lot of the blame, they’re kids. They know nothing. They may have parents who have struggled but they are seeing the high life in college. If they go to a bowl game or bowl games, they see life at a Marriott or 4 Seasons and they think they’re so close to it. And they may be – with a NFL team. But getting there is brutally difficult.

        So that puts these kids back in with the rest of the world. Spending a couple of years in Gainesville or Seattle and leaving without a degree means they’re much more likely to see the inside of a Marriott as an employee than as a guest. Now there is nothing wrong with Marriott employees, but you have to work a long time at 12 or 14 dollars per hour to retire with any financial security. And everyone at 20 thinks there is a pro team that will sign them. Kelly, at least, openly talks about the degree and the need for it. But so many other coaches ignore this – and promise a path two richness through the NFL.

      • papadec - Feb 16, 2014 at 10:24 PM

        joisey – not in every state YET!

  8. steele9153 - Feb 14, 2014 at 9:47 PM

    what a self important tongue bath

    • dudeacow - Feb 15, 2014 at 2:57 PM

      I don’t think I’ve seen you post before, so welcome to our board! Don’t worry about not being accepted, if you read the comments on this article you will find that we are the only board that is actually concerned about our trolls.

  9. maroon77 - Feb 15, 2014 at 2:20 AM

    I’ve been asked for some evidence. I’ll try what I can do, but this is still as much thought piece as any proof. I offer it here because I am very concerned about this issue. You guys are passionate about ND and Keith has some influence over how things are discussed.

    I continue about the problem of Notre Dame and student athletes.

    Notre Dame claims that 75% of their admitted students get base SAT scores above 1360. The SAT reports on its base tests that a score of 680 on reading is above 93% and on math above 90% of test takers. I don’t know the gender breakdowns for Notre Dame or in general, but they cannot be too far off, males probably slightly lower in math and higher in reading. Also, the COMBINED score total would be a greater percentile than either of the individual alone (as it requires one to do well in both areas). In short, the vast majority of Notre Dame’s academic student body is selected from the top 7 or even perhaps 4% of test takers.

    There are approximately 124 FBS teams and each may give 85 scholarships for football. Rarely is this quota completely filled, but we have a maximum total of 10540 of the best collegian football players available. Let us assume that academic excellence among football players is arrayed in the same way as the rest of the nation. (I do not believe this is so at all, given the time constraints and socioeconomic backgrounds of many athletes, but for the argument). If Notre Dame wants football players to compete evenly with its other students, then 75% of the team must be chosen from 7% of these 10540. ND must get 64 out of 738 guys. It needs to get 8.6%. That’s a lot against 124 other teams. And wait a second. Does ND really want to look at all these athletes? All 124 teams are not evenly constructed with talent. Only 40 of them have ever won a mythical national title. Doesn’t ND expect to be top ten or twenty? If so, then the 10540 is wildly inflated, as is the 738 super smart guys. If the top 40, then it’s only 238; if top 20, only 117; if top ten, only 59. That last number means ND CANNOT EVEN FIND ENOUGH IN THE TOTAL ELITE POOL EVEN IF IT TAKES EVERY ONE.

    Remember, these numbers are based on the almost certainly false assumption that the pool of football players is academically the same as the pool of other college applicants.

    Now, obviously, there are students at Notre Dame with lesser credentials, but my numbers should give pause before thinking recruiting competitive students is an easy task. And it should give some sense of the huge task we set for athletes at Notre Dame who are virtual professionals in time demands and yet have to compete straight up against more prepared and proficient students on their turf.

    It is no wonder at all that cracks and strains have appeared. I don’t know what the solution is, but it is foolish to pretend that Notre Dame’s academic/athletic foundation is as sound as Keith claims. There’s a problem. A lot of problems. Academic violations, withdrawals, and recusals; recruits turning; player transfers and leaving without graduating: all of these may hit Notre Dame’s graduation statistics, but even more they indicate something wrong. And this is happening to the biggest stars. I was perhaps too nasty to the academic support system, responding more to Keith’s Polyanna assertion that everything was the same and going great.

    Things are NOT the same. Things do not look great. And I hope that the support team did screw up and is as frustrated and more panicked than the fans, because if they are truly doing the best they can, ND’s days as a top dog college player are possibly as over as all the pundits have said for two decades.

    • goirishgo - Feb 15, 2014 at 9:20 AM

      You mention that your assumptions may be somewhat faulty but, at the very least, they are directionally correct and add some real perspective to this conversation. Top ten recruiting classes are monumental achievements. Consistent top 20 teams – especially when playing very difficult schedules – would also be noteworthy. Playing for the NC would be (and was) an astounding accomplishment.

      There are clearly things to clean up at the university. Keeping athletes on track academically is an important task and needs to improve. On the other hand, some pretty remarkable things are happening – and not just in football.

      BTW, great posting. Especially impressive is the 2:20am time stamp…wow!

    • nudeman - Feb 15, 2014 at 10:30 AM

      Again I ask … why would anyone give this a thumbs down? If you disagree with the man’s point, fine. But he’s taken the time to articulate his position in a most thoughtful manner; better than most posters here are ever capable. Lighten up.

      As for his assertions, I tend to agree. Like Vandy, Stanford, Duke, et al, lhe challenges ND faces due to its academic integrity are profound. That does NOT mean they will never again be a top 10 team on a regular basis; nor does not mean that they will never win a NC again. It simply means this: Their margin for error in other aspects of the program – coaching, recruiting, training, injuries, etc – is very very small. Much smaller than Bama, FSU, tOSU, etc etc.

      As for his point that “I hope that the support team did screw up”, that’s the right thing to hope for because that is fixable. I believe that’s maroon’s point there.

      Last point: Keith as a Pollyanna. I like Keith a lot and think he does good work here. But he most definitely comes down on the sunshine side of most issues. Is that because he’s un-objective and incapable of seeing things the way those of us with a more critical eye see them? I doubt it. Whether it’s never being able to criticize Tommy Rees or this academic piece, I’d like to believe it’s because he works for NBC, NBC has a contract with ND and they don”t want someone pounding their golden goose.

      • maroon77 - Feb 15, 2014 at 12:15 PM

        Nude, here, and others earlier, get me. I’m not trying to be hostile. I’m worried, very worried, that one of my great pleasures in life, cheering on the Irish to victory, is slowly fading. I’m also afraid that if Notre Dame cannot compete at the highest levels, then its influence wanes and the cause of serious COLLEGE athletics in the commercial sports is totally doomed. I think it is great to have high academic standards and offer athletes a quality degree. Nothing less should be the goal of all colleges with teams. But it, unfortunately, is not. My main goal was to set out why the academic/athletic difficulties may be occurring and why they may become more serious and permanent so that, just as Nude says, we fans have realistic expectations about the achievements of coaches and players, but also, that we don’t accept propaganda or spin, when that will not help matters.

      • papadec - Feb 16, 2014 at 10:37 PM

        I cannot help but wonder what will happen when the ncaa approves paying football players, as employees of their respective institutions. It will happen as a result of law suits or the threat of those law suits – sooner or later.

      • goirishgo - Feb 16, 2014 at 11:02 PM

        Papa,

        Keep in mind that paying athletes means they are employes (of the NCAA? Of their schools?) that can organize and ultimately collectively bargain. The NCAA and University Presidents DO NOT want that potential headache.

    • dsharp86 - Feb 15, 2014 at 2:47 PM

      Both your posts were very good, and in the second you present a lot of evidence that it is difficult for ND to recruit athletes who can compete in the classroom and also against elite athletes on the field, which I agree with, and did not question. In terms of my assertion that the academic support team is doing a great job, which only involves the athletes who are at Notre Dame, I see no real evidence refuting this.

      Let’s look at the last 4 football recruiting classes and the individuals who have left. I will not include 5th year transfers (Heggie, Hendrix, Welch, Wood) as these are playing time decisions, and they need to have their undergraduate degree to do this, therefore the academic system worked for them. It also does not include players who left for the NFL without a degree (Atkinson, Niklas, Tuitt), as I don’t see this decision being made due to lack of academic support. And I obviously don’t include players who left the team for medical reasons, and as far as I know they are all still at the university academically (Roberson, Nichols, Carrico). I also don’t count Vanderdoes, who never showed.

      Chris Badger playing time/family illness
      Spencer Boyd family reasons/probably academics
      Derek Roback wanted chance at playing qb
      Aaron Lynch be closer to girlfriend/child
      Justin Ferguson playing time/could have been academics
      Gunner Kiel playing time
      Davonte Neal be closer to child
      Tee Shepard personal reasons/rumored to be academics

      And then we have the suspensions of Golson and Daniels, who both accepted full responsibility for their shortcomings and either have, or plan to return and earn degrees, which to me indicates the system is working for them, holding them accountable, and making them better men. I recall Tuitt being suspended one game his freshman season for missing a class, but can recall no other short term suspensions.

      So in four classes we have 3 players, Boyd, Ferguson, and Shepard, who permanently left the university possibly due to academics, and 2 one semester academic suspensions. And a whole lot more players staying eligible and on track to a degree. Also, all 5th year players have undergraduate degrees and are enrolled in graduate school. Not sure how this is evidence that cracks and strains are appearing and there are a lot of problems with the academic support system, and odd that this would lead you to hope they screwed up.

      Once again, a lot of the other points you raise are insightful and appreciated.

      Let’s go Irish!

      • nudeman - Feb 15, 2014 at 4:07 PM

        Just a couple clarifications:
        1) Lynch’s GF (ex-GF now) never had a child. Not sure what happened there, but no kid.
        Doesn’t alter your point, though
        2) Davonte Neal, had he not had a preggers GF was going to get tthe boot for behavioral and/or academics. His GF was in fact pregnant, but that was a convenient out. I know he was never ND material. Given more time, would definitely flunked out, regardless of the amount of help. .
        3) Shepard was a colossal screw up by Admissions, I think. He was never qualified and never should have been admitted (or recruited, for that matter)

        Lastly, Maroon didn’t say the academic support system is failing. He just laid that out there as a theoretical possibility.

      • maroon77 - Feb 15, 2014 at 7:22 PM

        dsharp86, I take your points, and if I take your perspective, I see the glass is three-quarters full, which is a decided improvement over the half-full glass we’ve been drinking from for so long. But I am afraid the glass may have some cracks in it, since some pretty big seepage (not just in football) has lowered it from an even higher level. It’s hard enough to find the water to put in the glass, so if the support staff doesn’t look for these cracks and fill them in, I don’t think the brim is ever likely.

        Isn’t it worth asking, “Are we doing something wrong? Could we do something better?”

      • dsharp86 - Feb 15, 2014 at 8:10 PM

        Enjoyed the debate guys. Glad we’re all Irish fans.

    • bernhtp - Feb 15, 2014 at 4:38 PM

      Scholarship athletes at ND, especially in the big sports, have always had much lower academic admissions requirements. What has changed a bit from years past is:

      – ND average admission qualifications have risen over the years and thus there is a slightly wider academic/intellectual gulf between the average football player and normal students.
      – Top football programs have gotten better at finding supreme athletes among a population that would not have been seen as eligible for college previously.

      The two factors combine to make a smaller percentage of elite athletes able to be admitted into ND. A friend who is in position to know says that ND can admit about 20 of the ESPN100. A coach is allowed an occasional stretch for someone he really wants and is willing to commit heavily to helping through the academic rigors. ND offers many more, but an initial offer is just the start of the conversation and information gathering. Many of these never get very far in the process, which is generally very quiet and out of public view. We’ve seen a good number that have some interest in ND, but ultimately pick another school. It is very often not their choice.

      Even more problematic than the admissions requirements is the academic workload. This is often difficult for the modal student with their 1450 math/verbal SATs. It is amazingly difficult for athletes admitted under a much lower threshold, especially when needing to manage time across practices, weight training, playbook and film study, travel, games, etc. Because ND has no non-academic majors (e.g., education, particularly PE), the athletes must slug it out with their much smarter brethren in difficult courses.

      Finally, ND used to get the pick of most of those those that qualified. The emergence of Stanford, in particular, has created more competition for the minuscule number of elite athletes that qualify for this level of school.

      With that said, ND’s academic support for athletes is best of breed. Development is improving. While ND won’t ever get top 5 classes every year (like Alabama), some combination of great recruiting, development and luck will occasionally elevate our team to national prominence ala 2012.

      • nudeman - Feb 15, 2014 at 5:34 PM

        20 out of 100. Wow.

        Considering that, it’s amazing they ever put together a roster like they’ve got now. I have banged on Kelly for poor game coaching and until I see something different, I’ll stick to that assessment. But he’s undeniably a hell of a recruiter and program builder. Really, I can’t think of anyone better. Saban and Meyer are great as well, but could they get it done at ND? I think the constraints would drive both crazy and they’d leave after one cycle of recruiting and keeping kids in class.

        This team, particularly on offense, is fairly loaded and at this point they’re all Kelly guys.

      • maroon77 - Feb 15, 2014 at 8:29 PM

        bernhtp,

        The 20 out of 100 floored me too, which may come as a surprise after I’ve argued how statistically hard it is to recruit strong academic athletes. But this threshold is just to basically qualify, not even be near the academic credentials of the vast majority of students. Your stat shows how difficult is ND’s recruiting task.

        I have been more concerned, though, with the second thing you mention: the difficulty for athletes to compete academically with much better prepared students while also essentially having a job. As time goes by, the two arenas seem more and more demanding on students stuck between a rock and a hard place.

        You are correct that ND’s record in academic achievement for athletes is truly exceptional and that, given the mounting demands, athletes and staff deserve general commendation. But recently there have been a series of issues. Is this just an anomaly, a coincidence of idiosyncratic happenings to be ignored? Maybe. But my training as a researcher tells me to be aware that, when patterns appear, GENERAL explanations may be more appropriate.

        If I were in academic support, I’d be saying, “Men overboard. How do we save them? How do we prevent a similar wave washing over us again?” It’s really hard enough to find and get these guys in the first place. Once they’re here, don’t we want to keep them? Losing star talent is debilitating to team function, demoralizing to fans, and scary to prospective recruits. And crushing to the player, even when primarily precipitated by his own actions. When there are multiple failures of individuals, you’ve got to ask whether the system is at least partly – not necessarily at blame – but responsible.

      • bernhtp - Feb 15, 2014 at 8:56 PM

        We’ve had a bunch of athletes in the past get suspended and need readmission. But this is a large group. Statistical cluster or trend? I hope the former.

        It’s clear that some of our stretches were way too risky. I don’t know how Kelly talked Admissions into Shepherd. I guess everyone has their lapses.

        But as I said about a week ago, other schools will certainly use this recent history against ND for top recruits and it will often be effective.

      • drdannddad - Feb 16, 2014 at 7:38 AM

        The overall quality of the classes has tended to improve over time as well. As an example, our daughter was admitted in December 1999 as a member of the class of 2004. Immediately her class was heralded as the best academic class EVER enrolled at ND. However, the very next year, the class of 2005 blew hers out of the water with their overall academic credentials. And then THAT class was surpassed by the class of 2006, and so it goes. That is the backdrop for the student-athletes who are recruited and eventually enroll at Notre Dame. It’s a daunting challenge that only become more daunting with each new class of students.

      • irishpuma - Feb 17, 2014 at 4:25 AM

        Bern, maroon great posts and totally agree. A possible solution that no one will like is allowing the athletes to major in P.E. or more less time consuming electives but then we become every other place. You cannot cut down on practice time because you have to stay competitive so that is out. The only other option is to keep up the good fight and support the athletes under the dome.

        Now to play devils advocate it is not as outrageous and difficult or as bleak as proposed. First I think a misconception in your ESPN top 100 theory is to generalize that these 100 every year have to be dullards. Some years there may be 50 capable of good college work but I would agree 20 or so seems more likely, But you never know. On top of that how many of the top 100 actually pan out into talents? So to be fair lets open it up to the top 300. Assuming the same approach that gets us up to 60 we could recruit who would be eligible per year and in some years there could be 100 eligible if you get a gifted board. Now If we get 10 of those to enroll that would be a pretty good class as top 300= 4 star recruits. We have 10 4stars this year depending on who you listen to. And we all agree this is a good class. So we can get talent on campus and Kelly has shown this year after year. Now we need to keep them!

        As far as competing for the more educationally talented I think the real issue is Stanford. They are our main competitor in the good program great school market. If they exited the market and went back to mediocrity than I believe that could help us immensely, outside of that not much we can do. This is the business model of ND and it aligns with our culture, so we might as well embrace it. We don’t want to be an SEC team or school so that option is out. Focus on what you can control and that is the support and mentoring we provide to these athletes who do make it to campus. And I agree with Maroon that there is a scary trend developing.

        And to be completely honest even at ND, unless things have really changed, these athletes are not competing against the average student so that argument is inconsequential. As Maroon points out the athlete is at a severe disadvantage mentally and time wise against the normal student and I while I agree with this in theory it is simply not the case. This is where analysis by academics and researchers do not hold up to the smell test of what is actually taking place in the real world. Or as I see it the pitfalls of living, thinking, and writing in a bubble without that real world component to your work. Sorry for the rant to my point, even at ND, athletes were given extra credit not allowed to normal students, study groups and notes from former students who took the class, test specific study material and in some cases actual test questions where the football player just had to research on his own what the answer was and remember it for the test so it was not technically cheating. This in some cases puts the regular student at a disadvantage, where they have to spend hours mastering a subject and anticipating test material where an athlete can study just the pertinent information that he has been given, study the actual test questions, and get intensive course specific training that the normal student does not have access to. It comes down to personal choice and if the athletes want it bad enough they are given every opportunity to graduate and stay on course. The hard part is keeping them motivated and following up to make sure 85 players are all doing what they should be, and that is where the support program comes in to play. The graduation rate tells me they are doing a good job. The incidents tell me they should also be staying proactive and manage this trend.

        Regardless where you fall on this issue, life is not fair, the truth usually is found in the middle, ND is doing the best they can to stick to their ideals and field a team that is top notch. Are we perfect no not at all. But we run a better program than most, made the title game a year ago, and keep striving to be better. So all things considered the future looks bright.

        PS sorry for the rant, probably not as coherent as I would like but its 1:30 in the morning and I am on a cell phone lol.

      • runners00 - Feb 18, 2014 at 12:21 PM

        irishpuma wrote:

        Sorry for the rant to my point, even at ND, athletes were given extra credit not allowed to normal students, study groups and notes from former students who took the class, test specific study material and in some cases actual test questions where the football player just had to research on his own what the answer was and remember it for the test so it was not technically cheating. This in some cases puts the regular student at a disadvantage, where they have to spend hours mastering a subject and anticipating test material where an athlete can study just the pertinent information that he has been given, study the actual test questions, and get intensive course specific training that the normal student does not have access to.

        What is the basis for these assertions? I cannot believe that it’s true. Here is the language in the honor code:

        1. All work submitted for a course is accepted as a student’s own work, unless otherwise understood and approved by an instructor.
        2.Students may not, without proper citation, submit work that has been copied, wholly or partially, from another student’s paper, notebook, or exam. Nor may students without proper citation submit work which has been copied, wholly or partially, from a book, article, essay, newspaper, the Internet or any other written or printed or media source whether or not the material in question is copyrighted.

        I think that Subparts 1 & 2 foreclose any opportunity to share with football players or others tests, test questions, and the work of students or former students. It’s possible that the notes of a former student or a current student may be shared with football players, but again, this happens all the time in college — inside athletics and outside of athletics. This example is a very different issue than sharing test questions or test answers or other work that’s been handled by other students or former students, as you suggest.

    • runners00 - Feb 16, 2014 at 10:09 PM

      You raise some critical points. On testing, yes, the middle 50 percent at Notre Dame score between 1360-1500. So, 1360 is a score that is higher than 90 percent of test takers. But 1360 is on the low end of admitted ND students. That said, the program must work very hard at recruiting kids who are bright and it must make sure these kids are taking summer classes and a fairly reasonable fall load.

      I think there must be a sweet spot – where the kids don’t score as high as 1360 but can still compete academically with the kids who achieve that score and higher. And that is the academic support job: making sure these athletes with academic potential are driven to succeed.

      • irishpuma - Feb 21, 2014 at 2:01 AM

        My assertions runners are 100% correct but anecdotal to my time under the dome, so I in no way am saying this is happening today. However systems sometimes remain the same.

  10. yogihilt - Feb 15, 2014 at 7:53 AM

    Wow, Maroon, I don’t think I can post anymore. Nice job. Although you’re also not counting one other important item. Geography, and it’s accompanying weather. Stanford is seen as our equal educationally, and we’re always compared to them but last time I looked, palm trees circled their campus.

  11. candomer - Feb 15, 2014 at 9:08 AM

    You CAN sell academics and football, in one package. David Shaw is doing a great job of that at Stanford. Here is an interesting speech he made on that very point:

  12. billtetley53 - Feb 15, 2014 at 10:01 AM

    I’m really liking the back and forth on this education/football story. I wish I had more time to add my .02.

    Maroon says some of what I’ve been saying, although much more eloquent and much less antagonistic.

    He’s also much more thourough and more researched. I applaud his postings.

  13. deaconjack - Feb 15, 2014 at 2:29 PM

    Irish puma. Your notion of respect just doesn’t get it done either for me or many others. You seem to have good comments to offer that are meaningful. Why not concentrate on that?

    • irishpuma - Feb 17, 2014 at 4:37 AM

      Deacon you are speaking for others now too? I am sorry if my respect does not cut it for you but let the others address me themselves,unless they called you and asked you to convey it for them than fine . If we met in the real world I would show you nothing but respect as I do everyone every day. However this is a football blog and my jokes, innuendo, insights are mine to post and yours to read or not read. Freedom of speech, expression, religion, are all tenets of this great land. I suppose your views, your religion, your judgements on acceptability are the only viable takes and everyone else is under you judgment. Might want to change the screen name to Preacher or judge but anyway as usual I am only messing with you. Since you started doling out the advice mine to you would be to relax and figure out when someone is just playing with you.

      I am also a little hurt you have not taken up arms against some of the more vulgar posters on here besides little ol me, don’t worry Deac I have been saved and am on the right path.

  14. dudeacow - Feb 15, 2014 at 3:06 PM

    We got to the championship, we are loaded and deep at every position, recruiting is up, and the University obviously still puts academics first. Case closed. I’m happy where Notre Dame is right now.

  15. bernhtp - Feb 15, 2014 at 4:43 PM

    To whom it may concern:

    http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/climate_desk/2014/02/internet_troll_personality_study_machiavellianism_narcissism_psychopathy.html

    • dillonbigred - Feb 16, 2014 at 10:30 PM

      That study is a great argument for just ignoring the trolls, although that is easier said than done at times.

  16. paulhargis53 - Feb 15, 2014 at 6:00 PM

    Narcissism, sadism? The article says it like those are bad things.

    By the way, welcome back Nudeman, you were missed.

    I’m tapping into my bottle of Basil Hayden
    I expect to be righteously sloshed later this evening.
    In other words deacon, I’m going to get f***ed up.

  17. ajw21 - Feb 15, 2014 at 11:06 PM

    The rule change proposed that won’t let the offense snap the ball until a certain time on the play clock has not been passed. Voting is on March 6.
    Go Irish!

  18. deaconjack - Feb 16, 2014 at 4:27 AM

    Paul Hargis–your choice. Been there done that but the last time was over 41 years ago. Don’t miss it one bit. Cunning, baffling and powerful. I will say one for you.

  19. nchdomer - Feb 16, 2014 at 6:16 AM

    Very good discussion and analysis. Had stayed away for awhile when the discussions had slipped to trading insults and barbs. Nice to see it back to what originally attracted me to this site. My son plays D3 football and talks about his struggles to find time for academics since football demands so much of his time. And he is very focused on a business degree and career. He knows there is no NFL for him – only a career from his academics and a desire for playing time. The challenges facing ND and its student athletes to compete for titles is much harder than people think, especially sportswriters. The posters here articulated that challenge very well.

  20. bernhtp - Feb 17, 2014 at 8:25 AM

    From the SBT: Swarbrick on the issue.

    On the recent wave of academic issues with quarterback Everett Golson last May, and men’s basketball player Jerian Grant and hockey standout Robbie Russo this winter, all of which resulted in university-imposed suspensions:

    “What we’ve had in this instance is three that are very high profile that have caused a greater degree of attention to fall on it,” Swarbrick said. “In terms of numbers, it represents neither a trend nor an unusual statistical result in my experience here. It’s just the profile’s different. But having said that, I want to stress again that one is too many, so we have to do a better job.

    “We have great resources. We have great people available to help, but I think there are things we can do better, especially in our communication with our student-athletes about expectations and approach. And we’re committed to do that.”

    • irishpuma - Feb 18, 2014 at 2:19 AM

      Swarbrick konws how to make a statement. Thanks for the share Bern. Gotta love Captain Jack!

  21. deaconjack - Feb 17, 2014 at 11:55 AM

    Iris puma. I have indeed taken issue with the more vulgar posts on this site. I respect very much the right of free speech. Yours as well as mine. I don’t intend to judge you but plead with you to realize that none of us on this site truly know many who visit here. I have been known to be crude but only with those that I know I will not offend.

    • irishpuma - Feb 18, 2014 at 2:18 AM

      Fair enough Deacon!

      Huge front end disclaimer here “it is not my intent to offend anyone on here except Knute/Wisner, maybe getsome and I would love to offend dickasman” but I believe that task would be impossible unless I said HIllary Clinton can really fill out a pant suit.

      • nudeman - Feb 18, 2014 at 1:01 PM

        As far as endeavoring to offend getsome/Knute … IN

      • irishpuma - Feb 21, 2014 at 2:03 AM

        lol Nude….Agreed douche ghost would be a more fitting moniker.

  22. acieu - Feb 22, 2014 at 7:46 AM

    First thing the college players union will negotiate away will be academic requirements. A good union protects the lowest common denominator among its members. Thus this discussion will soon be moot.

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