Last month, the football coach at Rutgers University got into trouble following allegations that he tried to pressure a part-time faculty member into raising a player's grade. Which raises the question: Rutgers has a football team?
Many people are outraged, claiming that scandals like this hurt the integrity of big time college athletics. However, since there is no integrity to Division 1 college athletics, I'm not sure if a simple "grade changing" scandal makes a difference. It's like criticizing the grammatically flawed instruction note you just handed the teller- because it hurts the integrity of your bank robbery. And yet, sadly, I suspect that most bank robbery notices contain better grammar than, oh, a typical University of Miami defensive back's English paper.
No college professor should ever feel "pressured" into changing a student-athlete's grade. Why? Because there's no pressure. Just do it. Change the grade. Who the f*ck cares? If the beloved coach or a school administrator wants you to pass that star quarterback who has never attended a single class- and probably isn't aware that he's even registered for your class- then give him a damn A. Eh, that might be a little suspicious. Maybe a B+.
Star athletes attend Division 1 colleges to play sports. That's why they're there. They represent their school. But they're not students. Their job is not to attend your class. Their job is to score touchdowns and shoot three-pointers- because that has something to do with college, apparently. So get over yourself. You're not curing cancer; you're teaching intro level political science. Hell, even the actual students find your lectures boring.
The real game is not on the field. Rather, it's this giant, ridiculous lie in which we all have to pretend that college sports is something other than powerful forces colluding to entertain the masses at the expense of ignorant, exploited young athletes. And that's fine. I'm all for exploitation; I DVR the Dr. Phil show. But end this condescending, phony concern about "academic integrity"- whose virtue falls somewhere between televangelism and Jared Fogle's hard drive.
Star athletes simply represent their college, in the same way that Peyton Manning represents the Denver Broncos or that Flo so annoyingly represents Progressive Insurance. But that's different from being a student.
If you're a college professor at Syracuse or Nebraska or Ohio State, and a coach contacts you and asks you to give his linebacker a better grade, otherwise the kid won't be allowed to play in this weekend's important game, you should respond by saying, "Okay. No problem." Don't feel guilty about it. I mean, you let your seven-year-old niece beat you in chess. Do you feel guilty about that? Just give the athletes a passing grade. Tell them they don't even need to come to class. Hell, specify this in your syllabus. And don't feel bad. This has nothing to do with your real class and your legitimate students and your actual, honest grading system.
You give a Division 1 athlete an A that he didn't deserve. So what? Who is it hurting? Don't get all self-righteous about university standards- the same standards that have given us Girls Gone Wild DVDs, fraternity hazing deaths, massive student debt, absurd out-of-control political correctness, and date rape.
You don't think it's fair to give athletes better grades? Fair for who? For the other students? Well don't worry about them. Student-athletes are not competing for your job. Even with a college degree, functional illiteracy tends to catch up with you in the workplace. Whether you give an athlete an A or an F, they're either going pro or they're going back to their hometown to work at some crappy, menial job; they're not taking your spot in medical school. Jameis Winston didn't graduate Florida State thinking, "Should I enter the NFL draft or take that job offer at Apple?" Oh, wait, Winston didn't graduate. Yeah, that's common.
Everyone knows that the grades you give to your sports stars don't really mean anything. It's like how they keep giving Billy Joel these honorary doctorates. We all know he didn't really work for them... except for the PhD he received from the State University of If I Hear 'I Love You Just The Way You Are' One More Time I'm Literally Going To Kill Myself. He earned that one. We all earned that one.
Let me be clear. I'm not opposed to college athletics. I enjoy watching college sports. Rather, I'm opposed to the way society rationalizes unpaid labor by calling the athletes- the workers- "students." Hence, if they're students, they have to keep up their grades... because that's what students are supposed to do... oh, and even though they make money for their schools and the television networks, we don't have to pay them or offer any benefits... because "students" don't get paid.
It's a sick, hypocritical, greedy, corrupt system. It's like Congress, but with shoulder pads and groin injuries... which, coincidentally, describes Ted Cruz's most recent fundraiser.
Too many college athletes should not be in college in the first place. Sometimes people will say, "These kids wouldn't normally have the chance to go to college, and sports gives them that opportunity." Nice sentiment, but, uh, no. Having attended some neglected, underfunded public high school, failing to master even basic academic curriculum, does not adequately prepare one for a college education. Unless, I mean, you're going to UNLV.
College is hard enough for the real students, who spent twelve years preparing for the intellectual challenges of a higher education: learning how to write, learning comprehension skills, math skills, etc. Middle school students and high school students, when they're faced with new academic challenges, sometimes ask, "Why do I have to learn this when I'm never going to need it in real life?" Damn snarky kids. But here's the answer. "You probably won't need it in real life. But you'll need it for college. That's why the stupid kids flunk out after their first year."
Even if you have the incentive to succeed, you can't just "start" at the college level. You'll be lost and confused. It's like starting Game of Thrones in the middle of Season Three. Before you begin college, you need to learn how to learn.
But even the student-athletes with legitimate academic credentials can't expect to get good grades while carrying the burden of a big-time football schedule: games, practices, traveling. When exactly are the players supposed to study their anthropology notes? During halftime? I didn't have any time-consuming extra-curricular activities during my college years and I still barely had time to get all my schoolwork done. Though, in fairness, I also drank heavily and that took up a good portion of the day.
Here's the truth. The athletes have no interest in school. The coaches only care about winning games. The fans just want to be entertained. The television networks crave good ratings. And I just want my teams to beat the spread.
Nobody cares if the Division 1 football and basketball players go to class. Society's fake outrage isn't about academic integrity; it's about racism. It's bad enough that the players- many of them from poor, minority communities- don't get paid for their athletic performance. We want to further humiliate and degrade them with the threat of expulsion. In exchange for entertaining us with your on-the-field exploits, we'll give you... no, not money, but the obligation to finish your ten-page Greek History paper by Friday. This is white America's passive-aggressive way of telling young black men, "We hope you appreciate all that we've done for you. At least you better."
If men could get pregnant, abortion wouldn't be a controversy; it would be an Olympic sport. Similarly, think what would happen if college roles were reversed. What if college football players were all wealthy, middle-aged white men? What if college coaches and university presidents and television network executives were nineteen-year-old black kids from the inner-city? Well, for one thing, the games would suck. But also, you can be sure that the players would demand to be paid. And the rest of society would agree.
"A free education? Take that free education and shove it up your ass! We're making you millions of dollars while risking serious injury. We want a piece of that delicious economic pie. And if, as a requirement to play, we need to maintain a B average... then force the professors to give us a damn B!"
Here's my advice to college professors being pressured to change student-athletes' grades...
Save yourself the hassle. Do yourself a favor. Make things easy on yourself. Change their grades. Let them pass your class. Delete that 19 in your grade book and make it an 87. Give them extra credit for, oh, I don't know, drawing a smiley face on the back of their midterm. Whatever. It doesn't really matter. Nothing really matters. In a few years, nobody will remember that you changed a grade so that a college athlete could play in a game. And in a few years, nobody will remember the game, either.