Mule': Grading SEC men & women academically

It's an academic question, but fitting since we're at the end of the academic year: How much real (education) does anyone receive at any truly committed big-time athletic program?

Common sense says the answer is somewhere between minimal (meaning enough to stay eligible) and passable (enough to use in varying degrees after graduation) – unless we take into account female athletes. The women really do use their educational opportunities to the max, the men less so, if a sample of the recent Academic Progress Rate is any indication.


Women, if individual school comparisons are accurate, do a wonderful job of balancing school and sports. The findings are not school specific, but information on some institutions has been released, and this is a sterling example: Tennessee's Lady Vols under basketball coach Pat Summit graduated 100 percent of its players the last six seasons. The men Vols have graduated 18 percent.


The comparison holds almost across the board, and across the nation.


Football, men's basketball and baseball are the bottom-feeders in this regard. In one sense, it's hard to find fault. These guys, in essense, are holding down full-time, year-round jobs. Most of them enter college thinking they are on the inside track to professional sports. The trick for them is to continue improving – and staying eligible – for at least three years. Women don't have the same pro opportunities, so they put a real effort into acquiring a real education. Their futures depend on it.


For the men in the three sports in question, it's often not so much "education'' as a "process,'' with the schools finding a series of courses and instructors who take into account the situation of the athletes. It hardly seems coincidental that of the 65 LSU football players profiled in the 2006 press guide, 38 list their major, not as a specific academic discipline, but as general studies. It's hard to escape the notion that somebody in Tigertown has found the course of least resistance.


On the other hand, anyone would be naïve to think this isn't commonplace across the collegiate sportscape, from the East Coast to the Pacific, from the heartland to the Gulf of Mexico, which brings to the reason of this discourse. There's nothing quite so invigorating as rubbing the noses of the haughty and arrogant in the, uh, mud.


Remember the insulting missive of Big Ten commissioner Jim Delaney after Florida mauled his league's representative, Ohio State, in football's national championship game. The stung Delaney sent out a letter more or less stating, "yeah, we didn't win, but that was because our lesser athletes are better students than those in the SEC.''


Here are the key elements of Delaney's message: "I love speed and the SEC has great speed, especially on the defensive line, but there are appropriate balances when mixing academics and athletics. . . . I wish we had (seven) teams among the Top 10 recruiting classes every year, but winning our way requires some discipline and restraint with the recruitment process.


"Not every athlete fits academically, athletically or socially at every university. Fortunately, we have been able to balance our athletic and academic mission so we can compete successfully and keep faith with our academic standards.''


Ironically, his defensive posture must have been jolted again three months later when Florida again bested Ohio State for the NCAA championship in basketball.


Those damned smart Big Ten guys can't seem to get out of their own way, at least when playing those slow-witted Southerners.


J. Bernard Machen, president of the University of Florida (the first school to own both major championships in the same academic year) gives Delaney the razz.  "It's ridiculous,'' Machen said, pointing out Big Ten is no different in athletics than any other major conference. "What a homer! I was at Michigan (as provost and dean of the School of Denistry). I know how they get in at Michigan. Don't talk to me about the Nobel laureates at Michigan.''


Then Machen challenges the Big Ten apologists to "Just look at (Ohio State All-American) Greg Oden's class schedule this semester.''


On top of that came the release of the latest Academic Progress Rates report: As a league, for the second straight year, the SEC fared better than the Big Ten, an average of  941.7 to 931.2, both above the red flag barrier of 929, a figure that equates to an approximate 60 percent graduation rate.


Given all the circumstances of Katerina, a special tip of the hat should go to Tulane, where every Green Wave sport placed in the more-than-acceptable rungs. But, it should be noted that LSU's football team turned in a higher score, 941, than the Green Wave, 940.


Does that give LSU bragging rights?



This is how the 12 SEC football teams scored:


Auburn: 967


Georgia: 963


Florida: 961


Vanderbilt: 955


Kentucky: 946


Alabama: 942


LSU: 941


Tennessee: 938


Ole Miss: 937


Arkansas: 934


Miss. State: 921


South Carolina: 913



Marty Mule' can be reached at

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