I thought of this critique by Orwell when reading the following statement by An Ohio State Universities president E. Gordon Gee on the academic record of his football team:
He said Ohio State’s eighth-ranked football team, which plays rival Michigan on Saturday, is in the top 10 in the nation not only on the field but also in terms of academic progress.
“That’s the kind of balance I want to have,” he said.
Reading this, I thought to myself, that is really impressive actually, a perennial Top 25 team, a contender to lose a national championship game in any season, AND top 10 academics? Impressive, and also completely misleading. See what I didn’t focus on at first is that Mr. Gee claims aOSU is top 10 in academic “progress”, a term left undefined here. Here’s what academic progress means:
The NCAA annually calculates an APR for every team at every Division I school, using data collected over a rolling four-year period. Teams can receive two points per player, one for retaining the athlete in school and another if the athlete makes successful progress toward a degree that year.
And Ohio State does very well in this category, keeping lots of its players in school and ensuring that they make “progress” towards a degree. But wouldn’t you think that Mr. Gee’s number 1 concern would be whether or not his players actually graduate from Ohio State? And isn’t that really the way we judge any institution. You can certainly play games with graduation, but that’s the goal, a college degree.
According to this USA Today article, aOSU is actually 16th in graduating its players. Unfortunately, that’s 16th out of the current BCS top 25 and at 63% they fall below average amongst all BCS eligible teams.
But this AP reporter just throws the term “academic progress” into the article without any clarification of the term, and a lot of people reading it who have better things to do with their lives just think that Gee is doing a great job pushing academics. And before you start saying, “63% ain’t that bad”, let’s remember the course load of one Andy Katzenmoyer, which included golf and AIDS awareness.
My question: How did E. Gordon Gee get to the point that he started using terminology like “academic progress” to hide his institutions failures? Because by using this term, he shows that he thinks he has something to hide. If you didn’t care, you wouldn’t spend the time ignoring the obvious way to judge your program “how many of my players get their degree” and instead focus on a more meaningless metric “how many of my players stay in school and pass at least one class”.
The relationship between the academic institution and the football team that represents it has been damaged for quite a while, but I find it interesting that people like Mr. Gee feel the need to pretend that they care. I think its interesting that he feels the need to mislead people regarding the academics of his football team. But I don’t really understand why he does it if he doesn’t actually care enough to do anything about it.