Another College Football Sham
By now you probably realize that I have an issue with the NCAA and much of what it encompasses. In addition to pretending to be watching out for the student-athlete, the organization also keeps a close eye on the coaches who oversee those student-athletes. The coaches are asked to not only teach these kids the skills of their particular sport, but also to guide them through the educational process. Which brings me to Louisville football coach Bobby Petrino. It was recently revealed that he stands to make an additional $500,000 based on the classroom work of his players. That is a huge bonus for academic performance – other coaches with similar bonuses can earn $25,000 to $100,000. Petrino’s is one of the largest academic bonuses in NCAA history. The NCAA has something called the Academic Progress Rate or APR, that is a calculation of a particular sports academic progress towards a degree. Sounds all fine and good, but in reality it’s more of a PR smoke screen to make people (parents, school presidents, alumni, media) think the players are truly getting an education while working the equivalent of two full-time jobs.
Petrino stands to earn the bonus based on his team maintaining an APR of 935 for the past year. That’s significant because Petrino only started the job in January of this year, yet he gets credit for last fall’s marks when Charlie Strong was the head coach. Nevertheless, he’ll get the bonus for half a year’s work. One of the big problems I have with the coaches salary being tied to academics is what has come to light at North Carolina. Over the past 20 years, North Carolina was found to have directed student-athletes into useless classes or no classes at all, in order to earn easy A’s and remain eligible. When a coach has half a million dollars on the line, it seems more than a little tempting to have that coach influence his players to take the easiest classes possible. After all, the players are there to play football, very few care much about earning their degrees, so if they’re told to take a class with little or no work and can still make good enough grades to stay eligible, hey no problem.
In Petrino’s case, his academic bonus is twice as big as his potential bonus if Louisville were to win the national championship. Did you understand that? Petrino–the football coach–gets twice as much for his team’s classroom work as for their football performance. In theory, it appears that Louisville and Petrino are putting a lot of emphasis on the kids’ school work, which should thrill the parents and NCAA. In reality, Louisville and Petrino’s agent found the easiest way to bump up his $3 million dollar annual salary with a historic bonus that he has much more control over. Winning the national championship is a pipe dream at Louisville, shuffling players into basket weaving 101 is much easier and, for Petrino, much more lucrative. Asking a coach to oversee the academics of his team is the proverbial fox watching the hen house. When word of Petrino’s bonus gets out around the country, just watch all the top coaches suddenly care a lot more about academic progress. At least that’s what they’ll call it.