How real are Josh Rosen’s claims about the lives of college athletes? A closer look
‘No one in their right mind should have a football player’s schedule and go to school’
Recently, Josh Rosen has made headlines not for his performance on the field, but for what he's said off of it.
During an interview with Bleacher Report, Rosen revealed his feelings about the life of a collegiate athlete.
"Look, football and school don't go together. They just don't. Trying to do both is like trying to do two full time jobs," Rosen told Bleacher Report last week.
While some may disagree with his statement or the way he phrased his opinions, Rosen has a point: universities recruiting athletes advertise a "great education," yet often spend more energy focused on the "athlete" portion of "student athlete."
UCLA's Athletic Department website advertises that the Bruin Student Athlete Development Program will "support the development of a well-balance [sic] lifestyle" for student athletes. Students like Rosen that actually experience this give-and-take between athletics and education point out that athletics seem to come first.
"You have a bunch of people at universities who are supposed to help you out, and they’re more interested in helping you stay eligible," Rosen said.
Staying eligible, though, should not be the ultimate goal, though. According to NCAA standards, college athletes need to only pass 6 units per quarter, which is typically about 2 classes, to stay eligible. Furthermore, "At the start of a student-athlete's Senior Year (Completed 9 full time terms), [student athletes] must have a 2.0 cumulative GPA each quarter to be eligible." The standards are lower for students going into their sophomore and junior years, as they only need to maintain a 1.8 GPA and a 1.9 GPA, respectively.
One argument for these low standards is that, as Rosen said, "Any time any player puts into school will take away from the time they could put into football." You see, there is not enough time to fully commit to two extremely demanding activities as football and college, and unfortunately, education ends up getting the short end of the stick.
A common recommendation is for college students to study two hours per hour spent in class, which comes out to be about between 20 and 30 hours a week. During Finals Week, UCLA students can spend up to over nine hours a day studying. This does not include the time spent in class. Student athletes, particularly football players, spend between 40 and 50 hours a week practicing, which is the equivalent amount of time spent on a full time job. With so much time being spent on football practice (not to mention physical therapy, game day, watching tapes etc), it is no wonder that education gets neglected.
With UCLA Athletics racking in almost half of its multi billion dollar revenue from football, it is clear why the athletic department puts so much emphasis on the sport. But by not completely fulfilling their end of the deal by providing a quality education for recruits, the university can give the impression that they are taking advantage of their student athletes for monetary gain. And if students like Rosen speak out and is supported by his teammates, we ought to listen.
I'm not saying UCLA is an evil institution that enslaves its football players just so they can make money, but there is definitely a systematic problem with the overemphasis on athletics causing a neglect of education. And this isn't a problem central to UCLA. Universities across the nation are guilty of neglecting education in the name of sports. A 2015 study of over 400 PAC 12 athletes discovered that 80 percent of the subjects missed a class of competition and 54 percent said they did not have enough time to study for exams. There was even a lawsuit at UNC and the NCAA with the plaintiffs claiming the institutions had abjectly failed "to safeguard and provide a meaningful education to scholarship athletes who agreed to attend UNC."
Furthermore, some universities seem to give little consideration to education when recruiting student athletes, as alluded to by Rosen. Rosen stated, "There are guys who have no business being in school, but they're here because this is the path to the NFL. There's no other way." A 2014 study from University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and further analysis from CNN (with UCLA included in the investigation) found this to be true.
According to the study, some college football players only had elementary school level reading abilities. UNC, where the original study was conducted, has a 26 percent general acceptance rate but admitted student athletes when "92 percent scored below the low average for admissions standards at UNC; 22 percent scored below a 400 on the SAT verbal test; 37 percent had a 200 point gap in SAT verbal scores, compared to the average student at UNC."
At UCLA, "the average athlete score on the SAT Reading was 489, on the SAT writing it was 482, and the average score on the ACT was 21.5." Compare that to the average SAT reading and writing scores of 619 and 645, respectively, and the average ACT score is 28 for admitted freshmen. What's more, as a Division I school, recruits can be admitted with as low as a 2.3 GPA on the NCAA sliding scale (meaning students can compensate for what they lack in GPA with their standardized test scores).
Despite the NCAA's 2.3 GPA minimum, the UC system requires a 3.0 minimum GPA, though final decisions about recruits at UCLA are made by a panel composed of university faculty. And while UCLA states that student athletes undergo rigorous academic evaluations (said to gauge how much academic support they will need), only about "half of student athletes make the Athletic Director's Honor Roll," which requires a minimum of a 3.0 GPA in at least 12 units.
Rosen's claims seem to check out. Being a collegiate athlete often means more time is spent on the field than hitting the books, at least in college football. While this doesn't necessarily mean that universities don't try to help student athletes or that these issues are present in every single college sport, or even that UCLA is the worst of the offenders, the issues brought up by Rosen are worth being looked at by universities like UCLA. In Rosen's words, "That's a problem within the system and the way we're preparing student-athletes for the future away from football."