i Are they given an educational opportunity or the shaft?
I hey don't care about
our education, as long
as you're eligible,"
Lawrence Mouton, UH football player.
The debate raged. Did
athletes come to the school to
play ball, or to get an education?
Were schools really trying to
graduate these student-athletes?
Did the athletes care to get an
It was hard to say.
As allegations about alleged impropriety in John Jen-
kins' football program came up,
many players complained that
they weren't getting a fair shake.
Jenkins was accused of
making practices too long, hav-
ingunreasonable meetings. "You
don't have time to study," said
Jeff Tait, one of the first whistle-
Athletics provided a
study hall, in which attendance
was mandatory for freshman,
junior college transfers and players on academic probation.
Tait said, "Study hall
doesn't help, You can't force
somebody to study. Putting players in a room with a bunch of
guys they see all day long just
Some players also
claimed that the Athletics Academic AdvisingDepartmenttold
them to take it easy to ensure
A unidentified former
player said a number of players
who had used up their live-year
scholarships were scrambling to
get their degrees because they
didn't take the courses they
should have. "As far as looking
out for students, they can't care
Athletics Academic Co
ordinator Michelle Matticks said,
"We don't tell them to take easy
courses. They must follow the
degree plan for their major, so we
we just council them, they fill out
their own registration form."
"It's atrocious to think
that we are at a 20 percent graduation rate," said new athletic director, Bill Carr, who inherited
the problem from former AD
RudyDavalos. "I'm embarrassed,
humiliated to think that they are
that low. It won't stay that way."
The data came from a
study of athletes who began college in 1986. Out of all those
student-athletes, only 20 percent
graduated in six years. It was the
lowest graduation rate in the
for those who graduated at another school.
"It also doesn't include
students like Andre Ware, who
haven't graduated in six years,
but are still working toward their
degree," said Matticks.
Women's sports at the
university had better graduation
records than do men's. Part of
this was attributed to the lack of
women's professional opportunities, but also because of the
women's coaches commitment
to getting their athletes a degree.
The university didn't
have the greatest rates for graduation either, out of all UH students, only 31 percent get a degree in six years. Bill Carr said
that shouldn't be an excuse.
1 'What you have here is a
commuter campus, with many
different types of people attending, but our athletes are more
reflective of a traditional college
student," said Carr. "There's the
traditional age, and they are all
What di d it take to change
the graduation rates? First, a commitment to improving the academic performance of the department through stricter study hall
rules and hiring coaches and staff
who would be dedicated to the
athletes and not just the team's
Second, stress and keep
stressing that an education was
what the college was here for, and
that graduation was a fulfillment
of the student's education.
Third, find a better athlete.
"We have to bring here
student-athletes who are capable
of graduating," said Carr. "They
may be in a position where they
need some structure and assistance, we'll be happyto help them
in that regard, but if they come in
here with a bad attitude, I can't
"I don't care how good an
athlete they are, over time they are
going to hurt us," said Carr. "It
will take time, but we will have to
be more selective in our recruiting."
Part of the crack-down
had already begun. New football
coach Kim Helton had started
"The Breakfast Club." If one of his
players missed class or study hall,
he would be expected to see the
coach at 4 a. m. for a disciplinary
run. Those who missed the run,
would be dismissed from the
having to work hard to get their
priorities straight, and still trying
to have successful teams. The lesson to be learned though, was that
programs that made student-athlete-graduate were successful programs. -Michael Edwards