UW-Madison Football Players Must Meet Academic Criteria, Coaches Need To Stay Quiet

Once again we are witnessing a story where the tail is attempting to wag the dog.

This time it is taking place at the UW-Madison where University of Wisconsin football coach Paul Chryst and UW athletic director Barry Alvarez are seeking to change the process concerning appeals on behalf of prospective student-athletes who do not meet the required academic standards.

The strange story of the coaches not knowing who is the final decision-maker for admissions came to a head this week over Jordan Stevenson.  He is a running back from Texas who was denied admission into UW by the admissions board based on academic concerns.  The player found a school that would take him. But it was rival Nebraska and the UW football coaches started to fume and plot.

About five years ago a policy change took place at the UW where coaches could no longer make appeals on behalf of prospective student-athletes to individual schools and colleges within the university.   The reason for the change is clear on its face.

But now the coaches want to change that policy.

The UW-Madison is a quality school of higher education and if one does not meet the academic standards or is proven to be unable to master the rigors of the classroom they need to seek another college.  Nothing more should be required to be heard on the matter.

That common sense thinking runs counter to what the football program cares about. For the coaches it is all about racking up a winning score on Saturday afternoon.

Many believe that only the best recruits for the classroom should be the ones selected to attend the UW. Some semi-illiterate player who will spend much of his time lifting weights or pondering the deeper world of a film major do not fit in with the values that most place on higher education.

When I talk to my friends around the country I am always proud to discuss the UW, a place recognized far and wide as a top-ranked global research university.

But what people like Chryst and Alvarez desire is to continually promote and enlarge the image of the UW as a NCAA powerhouse. Cut corners over who is allowed to be a student and work overtime to blunt the negative stories that arise from young people being tossed into the cash-ridden NCAA.

Many families across this state scrimp and save so they can hopefully send an academically-worthy child to the UW-Madison to mine the books.  It is therefore a slap to those families if a person who can only throw a football, but has high priced coaches working on his behalf, can also attend the school.

There is a sign on a building going up the hill towards Bascom Hall that speaks to the desire that real students had for attending this university in its formative days. Those students needed to make sure they obtained wood to keep the stove supplied for fire. It was not easy to be a student in those days, but they fully understood the value of an education and so did what was needed to attain it.

It is those same values that must lead the UW today. We can not allow the football coaches to water down the process of admissions.