‘Dumb Jocks’ Not True At WVU
MORGANTOWN — “Dumb jock.”
How many times have you heard the phrase? It’s pretty common, really.
And once upon a time it was true.
If you went to college 10 years ago, it probably had a place in the vernacular.
Twenty years ago, you probably saw it in practice.
Thirty years ago, you probably had classes with athletes but didn’t know they were athletes … or students. They weren’t there.
Times have changed and student-athletes have become students in addition to athletes.
This is no different at West Virginia University than across the board in college sports, as evidenced by the Academic Progress Rate (APR) that is used to track graduation rates of athletes, based on four-year segments.
At WVU the rate was 985 this year, the highest in the 15 years. It has used this method as part of a new emphasis that was put on getting athletes diplomas to go with the headlines they earned as athletes.
It was put in under the title “NCAA Academic Performance Program” as a way to address what was a low graduation rate among student-athletes, putting the NCAA member schools in a position to see that their student-athletes received education along with scholarship money.
WVU has taken it seriously. Each year the APR has crept up as resources were put into tutoring, study halls and guidance for athletes.
Was it purely humanitarian? Hardly.
With the amount of money now involved in athletics — especially football and men’s basketball — athletes become valuable assets of the university. It is on them to keep them eligible and to retain them as student-athletes.
This has led to a change even in the type of coaches the schools were hiring. It became necessary that they have as part of their basic fiber the idea of producing the complete product through athletics.
Neal Brown, WVU’s new football coach, is one such type of coach and he indicated when he was hired that this is key in his approach to coaching football.
“What I told them was, at West Virginia, we were going to be about three things,” Brown said, referring to his first meeting with his players. “No. 1, we are going to develop young men. I love football and I’m passionate. Athletics has given me every opportunity that I’ve ever had in my life. I think it’s a tool to develop young men.
“No. 2, we’re going to graduate student-athletes and set them up for their future endeavors.
“No. 3, we’re going to win football games. We accomplish these goals by being a player-first program. We build a program around our student-athletes. They are all why we are here and why we do what we do.”
In Brown’s last year at Troy his football team set an all-time high in APR for the program at the school.
He is going to have to push it at WVU, for this year’s report had Dana Holgorsen’s football program at 953, rated lowest among sports at the school. It wasn’t floating low enough to threaten scholarship losses or reduced practice time, but with the assets devoted to the program’s academic development that wasn’t considered reaching potential.
Four programs at WVU — Bob Huggins’ basketball team, golf, rifle and tennis — attained top scores of 1,000 while Mike Carey’s women’s basketball team came in at 996, making them one of three programs with cross-country and rowing to surpass 990 in the ratings.
Huggins’ success at WVU with the APR has been eye-opening for he was often criticized about his graduation rate at the University of Cincinnati, which was maybe the one criticism that really got to him.
While with the Bearcats, Huggins at one time had a zero graduation rate and it seemed no one wanted to listen when he explained that part of that was due to bringing in a great number of transfers who would graduate but did not count on his totals.
The fact of the matter is that now Huggins has had a great many players who did their thing in the classroom as well as on the basketball court, players such as Jevon Carter, who not only had a career that sent him to the NBA but that earned him academic honors along with his degree.
All of this, of course, helps all the players but the few who go on to the NFL or the NBA or even some of the lesser paying sports will have used college to reach seemingly unreachable goals, but the others are the ones who really need to take advantage of the opportunity.
They have a second chance at life, for if their goals of professional athletic careers don’t pan out, they will have the tools to meet life head on when they put the games on the top shelf of the closet and lay out their career paths.