The Rising Costs of Youth Sports, in Money and Emotion

Paul Sullivan:

“What I hope parents understand is that there are some three million high school players and by the time they scale that down to the quarterback position there are a couple of hundred thousand starters,” he said. “Then you get to Division I and II, and there are 360 quarterbacks. When you get to the N.F.L. there are 64. When you think about the odds, that’s not very good odds.”

Even so, he said, football can provide children with opportunities they might not have had otherwise. Mr. Trombley agreed, saying he looked at baseball and football as sports that might get him into a better college than he would otherwise.

“There is no question that baseball got me into Duke University,” he said. “I think I lucked out making it a profession. It just kind of happened by accident. It wasn’t all or nothing. We stress that with our kids: It’s wonderful to play a sport, but it could go away.”

Yet today, Mr. Trombley, 47, a financial adviser in his hometown, Wilbraham, Mass., laments that the highest level of youth sports may be out of reach for many children. He said the farthest he ever traveled for a game was a couple of towns over, but recently his family drove hours to a weekend-long high school tournament in New Jersey.

Mark Hyman, an assistant professor at George Washington University who has written books on youth sports, said that parents whose goal is to give their children the best chance in life or to get them a scholarship to college were not looking at the statistics.

“Parents think these investments are justified; they think it will lead to a full ride to college,” he said. “That’s highly misinformed. The percentage of high school kids who go on to play in college is extremely small. In most sports it’s under 5 percent. And the number for kids getting school aid is even smaller — it’s 3 percent.”

His advice? “What I tell parents is if you want to get a scholarship for your kids, you’re better off investing in a biology tutor than a quarterback coach,” he said. “There’s much more school dollars for academics.”

How the “performance revolution” came to athletics—and beyond.

James Suroweicki:

The arms race centers on an obsessive scrutiny of every aspect of training and performance. Trainers today emphasize sports-specific training over generalized conditioning: if you’re a baseball player, you work on rotational power; if you’re a sprinter, on straight-line explosive power. All sorts of tools have been developed to improve vision, reaction time, and the like. The Dynavision D2 machine is a large board filled with flashing lights, which ballplayers have to slap while reading letters and math equations that the board displays. Football players use Nike’s Vapor Strobe goggles, which periodically cloud for tenth-of-a-second intervals, in order to train their eyes to focus even in the middle of chaos.

Training is also increasingly personalized. Players are working not just with their own individual conditioning coaches but also with their own individual skills coaches. In non-team sports, such as tennis and golf, coaches were rare until the seventies. Today, tennis players such as Novak Djokovic have not just a single coach but an entire entourage. In team sports, meanwhile, there’s been a proliferation of gurus. George Whitfield has built a career as a “quarterback whisperer,” turning college quarterbacks into N.F.L.-ready prospects. Ron Wolforth, a pitching coach, is known for resurrecting pitchers’ careers—he recently transformed the Oakland A’s Scott Kazmir from a has-been into an All-Star by revamping his mechanics and motion.

Then there’s the increasing use of biometric sensors, equipped with heart-rate monitors, G.P.S., and gyroscopes, to measure not just performance (how fast a player is accelerating or cutting) but also fatigue levels. And since many studies show that getting more sleep leads to better performance, teams are now worrying about that, too. The N.B.A.’s Dallas Mavericks have equipped players with Readiband monitors to measure how much, and how well, they’re sleeping.

The Places in America Where College Football Means the Most

Neal Irwin & Kevin Quely:

It is hard to explain to someone who grew up in a big city in the Northeast just how big a deal college football is in the Southeast.

College sports, and particularly football, occupy a role at the center of daily life in the South — like in South Carolina, where one of us grew up — that is hard to imagine for many people who grew up in New York or Boston.

Last month we published The Upshot’s map of college football fandom, showing where people root for what college teams. That map offers great detail about what teams college football fans root for in a given location, but nothing about how concentrated college football fans are in that place.

Here, we are looking at another question: not which teams fans root for, but the proportion of the population in various places who are fans of any college football team. We asked Facebook to compile that information, and the results offer a portrait of America’s college-football obsession — or lack thereof. To be more specific:

UNC-Chapel Hill Should Lose Accreditation

Brian Rosenberg:

I have read many responses to the report of corruption at Chapel Hill. Some argue that those at the center of the activities were simply trying to help at-risk students, to which my response is that awarding credits and grades without providing instruction is not “help” in any sense that I can accept. In the case of student athletes, I see it as closer to exploitation for the benefit of the university. Some argue that this behavior is widespread among institutions with highly visible Division I sports programs and therefore should provoke no particular surprise or outrage.

I hope that this last claim is untrue. If it is, however, the only way to alter such behavior is to respond with force and clarity when it is uncovered. Reducing the number of athletic scholarships at Chapel Hill, or vacating wins, or banning teams from postseason competition, is in each case a punishment wholly unsuitable to the crime. The crime involves fundamental academic integrity. The response, regardless of the visibility or reputation or wealth of the institution, should be to suspend accredited status until there is evidence that an appropriate level of integrity is both culturally and structurally in place.

Anything less would be dismissive of the many institutions whose transcripts actually have meaning.

In Context: The big business of high school sports


Illinois based-Paragon Marketing Group is working on a deal to bring high school football to a national audience. The group – which brought LeBron James’s high school basketball games to TV – is currently in negotiations with several states and ESPN to bring some type of high school football playoff to television. ESPN wouldn’t comment on the negotiations, with Paragon saying the talks are ongoing and private.

Yet, at least one contract between Paragon and one of the states it’s working with has been made public: Florida officials have agreed to let two state high schools participate in such a playoff each year.

Paragon Marketing Group will pay the Florida High School Athletic Association $10,000 each year for allowing the state’s schools to participate in a national playoff or bowl series. If two or more teams from Florida are picked to participate by Paragon, the Florida High School Athletic Association would receive $40,000.

Meanwhile, Florida high schools participating in a playoff will receive $12,500 for appearing in the game, and another $25,000 in merchandising fees. Paragon Marketing, the group organizing the event has until October 31st to cancel a playoff or high school bowl series this year, according to the contract the team signed with Florida.

Long Island High School Football Player Dies After Game

Mason Levinson:

A high school football player from Long Island, New York, died after colliding with an opponent in a game last night.

Tom Cutinella, a junior at Shoreham-Wading River High School in New York, died after colliding with a player from John Glenn High School’s team in Elwood, New York, Steven Cohen, superintendent of Shoreham-Wading River School District, said in a statement posted on the district website.

He was the third high-school football player to die in the past week, according to ESPN. Cornerback Demario Harris Jr. of Charles Henderson High School in Troy, Alabama, died after collapsing on the field following a tackle, and linebacker Isaiah Langston of Rolesville High School in North Carolina died after collapsing following pregame warmups, ESPN said.

Vaulting to Great Heights in Allentown

Deb Fallows:

The Parkettes. It sounds like a ’60s girl band, but it’s not. If you’ve dipped into the world of gymnastics beyond watching the Olympics every four years, you probably already know that the Parkettes—the name applies to the team, the building, and the program—is a national training center for U.S. gymnasts in Allentown, Pennsylvania.

In many ways, the Parkettes is indeed a product of the ’60s, and the story of their origin is a heartwarming, classic American saga. Donna Strauss, who founded the club with her husband Bill, told me about its early days as we walked around the cavernous 35,000 square foot space that is its home. The floor was bustling with girls flying from one uneven bar to another, muscling through sets of pull-ups, pounding at top speed toward a leaping flip over the vault, and walking on their hands in rows, with precise upside-down posture across the floor. Doing anything they were doing looked impossibly, implausibly difficult.

Colorado joins campus football arms race with stadium deal

Michael McDonald:

The University of Colorado is joining the athletic-facilities arms race with a $155 million football stadium overhaul as it seeks to revive a struggling program and keep pace with conference competitors.

The public university sold a record $304 million of tax-exempt bonds last month, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. It will use $100 million for the stadium on the flagship Boulder campus, and $25 million will go toward a parking garage. The rest will refinance debt and fund projects such as a $49 million student village, bond documents show.

via Noel Radomski.

25 Maps That Explain College a Football

Jason Kirk:

In 1869, students at Rutgers invited students from Princeton over for sport. They played an evolving New England game sort of like soccer and sort of like rugby and mostly just brawling in a field. A week later, a rematch. And they wanted to have a tie-breaker, but faculty complained about the students spending all their time brawling in fields. And so ended the first season of American football. Since then, not much has really changed, other than it now being inconceivable that academics could ever stop a college football game from happening. And yes, Princeton claims to have won the 1869 national championship.

California lieutenant governor wants ADs’ jobs tied to academics

Steve Berkowitz:

California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom wants the jobs of college athletics directors at the state’s public schools to be tied to athletes’ academic performance.

In letters this week to the chief executive officers of the University of California and the California State University system, Newsom that AD’s contracts “should stipulate aggressive benchmarks for improvement in graduation and academic progress rates” and make the AD’s subject to dismissal if those benchmarks aren’t met.

An “athletic director’s contract should stipulate aggressive benchmarks for improvement in graduation and academic progress rates or face termination, period,” the letter said

The letters went out as three Division I schools in the state — Cal-Berkeley, Fresno State and Sacramento State — are looking for new athletics directors. Andrea Koskey, a spokeswoman for Newsom, said he is seeking to have this stipulation included in the contracts of the new hires, then added to other deals as deals are renewed or vacancies occur.

Justice for Jocks

The Economist:

IT MAY have invented trust-busting, but for decades America has tolerated an insidious cartel. Unlike most price-fixers, who seek to inflate their products’ value, this one acts as a monopsony—using market power to obtain cheaper inputs—to squeeze its vulnerable employees.

The name of this syndicate is the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), the governing body for American college sports. Uniquely among major team sports, the top leagues in basketball (the NBA) and American football (the NFL) do not recruit from lower professional circuits. Instead, they delegate training to universities: the NFL requires new players to finish three seasons in college, and the NBA’s minimum age is 19. This has helped turn the schools into entertainment juggernauts. At $10.5 billion a year, college sports revenues—mainly from TV, attendance and merchandise—exceed those of any single pro league. Even this understates the profitability of college sports, because the NCAA maintains an amateurism policy that caps athletes’ compensation at the cost of their education.

For years we’ve been telling kids to sit still and pay attention. That’s all wrong.

Annie Murphy Paul:

Today’s educational technology often presents itself as a radical departure from the tired practices of traditional instruction. But in one way, at least, it faithfully follows the conventions of the chalk-and-blackboard era: EdTech addresses only the student’s head, leaving the rest of the body out.

Treating mind and body as separate is an old and powerful idea in Western culture. But this venerable trope is facing down a challenge from a generation of researchers—in cognitive science, psychology, neuroscience, even philosophy—who claim that we think with and through our bodies. Even the most abstract mathematical or literary concepts, these researchers maintain, are understood in terms of the experience of our senses and of moving ourselves through space.

This perspective, known as “embodied cognition,” is now becoming a lens through which to look at educational technology. Work in the field shows promising signs that incorporating bodily movements—even subtle ones—can improve the learning that’s done on computers.

Anatomy of a Swim Meet

Juliana Miner:

I have three kids, and they all swim on a swim team every summer. I decided to capture my experience at a morning swim meet, for those of you not in the water cult.

6:00 a.m.: Wake up, drink coffee. Wake up grouchy children.

6:45 a.m.: Arrive at pool. Parking lot is already full. Let the kids out and park far away. Carry/drag chairs, bags and a cooler as if I were large pack animal. It occurs to me suddenly that as mother of three there is no denying that I am a large pack animal.

6:58 a.m.: Small miracle occurs. I find a great place to set up chairs, etc. Next to friends. With a good view of the pool. In full shade. Wish I’d brought a sweatshirt actually, it’s kind of chilly.

7:00 a.m.: Kids jump into the freezing cold pool for warm-ups and exchange looks with each other like — WHY DO WE DO THIS AGAIN?

7:30 a.m.: Children begin harassing me for money for the snack bar. I try to hand them something healthy from the cooler. Suddenly every other kid at the swim meet is eating large, chocolate-frosted doughnuts.

The Rise Of The A**hole Sports Dad (And How To Avoid Turning Into One)

Drew Magary:

Children, in general, suck at sports. And as a parent, watching them suck evokes all kinds of emotions—fierce protectiveness, embarrassment, self-loathing (Oh God, I gave them those genes)—which many of us have difficulty handling. My kid played second-grade basketball this winter, and when she failed to make a shot the entire season, it took everything in my power not to storm the court, clear out an area around the basket with police tape, and let her shoot until she got the fucking thing in.

Being a sports parent is a remarkable test of self-restraint. We’re so used to being sports fans and watching pro and college sports played at a high level that it’s jarring to witness children flail as they learn the idea of sports: competing, knowing the rules, positioning yourself to make a play, etc. This is assuming your child even wants to learn. Half the time, my kid stood at midcourt chatting with friends, only to have the ref come up and say, “Hey, guys, you have to actually play now.” And this is before you factor in all the other parents and coaches acting like dicks and raising your blood pressure even more.

That’s when the yelling begins. That’s when you go from silently clapping to breaking the ice with a “Get back on D, son!” to going Full Pitino. That crazy dad next to you, drenching everyone in frothed spittle? He was you once. And if you aren’t careful, you could become him. Here’s how to keep that from happening.

1. Only the coach gets to coach. He (or she) is the one who volunteered his time for the gig. He’s the one who planned the practices and coordinated the schedule and reserved court time at the nearby Sportsthunderplex. He’s the one who drags that big-ass mesh bag filled with balls from his car every weekend. If you’re not willing to make that sacrifice, you don’t get to show up on game day and act like you’re Nick Saban.

2. Don’t get too jealous of that one good kid on the field. Every kiddie game features at least one child who is a genetically superior mutant sent from the future. She can make shots. She plays tight defense. She runs fast. She never gets distracted by shiny whistles. This mini Bron-Bron will NEVER be your kid. Your kid will look like an invalid by comparison, and that is (deep breath) okay. At this level, every sports league is an experiment. Some kids get the hang of it right away. Some kids are late bloomers. And some kids want practice to end so they can go watch Frozen for the sixtieth time. So don’t get discouraged when a ringer comes along. Chances are that kid will burn out and become an alkie by 17, and you’ll have the last laugh!

Why Free Play Is the Best Summer School

Jessica Lahey:

Most schools across the nation have marked the end of another academic year, and it’s time for summer. Time for kids to bolt for the schoolhouse doors for two long months of play, to explore their neighborhoods and discover the mysteries, treasures, and dramas they have to offer. This childhood idyll will hold true for some children, but for many kids, the coming of summer signals little more than a seasonal shift from one set of scheduled, adult-supervised lessons and activities to another.

Unscheduled, unsupervised, playtime is one of the most valuable educational opportunities we give our children. It is fertile ground; the place where children strengthen social bonds, build emotional maturity, develop cognitive skills, and shore up their physical health. The value of free play, daydreaming, risk-taking, and independent discovery have been much in the news this year, and a new study by psychologists at the University of Colorado reveals just how important these activities are in the development of children’s executive functioning.

Executive function is a broad term for cognitive skills such as organization, long-term planning, self-regulation, task initiation, and the ability to switch between activities. It is a vital part of school preparedness and has long been accepted as a powerful predictor of academic performance and other positive life outcomes such as health and wealth. The focus of this study is “self-directed executive function,” or the ability to generate personal goals and determine how to achieve them on a practical level. The power of self-direction is an underrated and invaluable skill that allows students to act productively in order to achieve their own goals.

Sports Should Be Child’s Play

David Epstein:

The heightened pressure on child athletes to be, essentially, adult athletes has fostered an epidemic of hyperspecialization that is both dangerous and counterproductive.

One New York City soccer club proudly advertises its development pipeline for kids under age 6, known as U6. The coach-picked stars, “poised for elite level soccer,” graduate to the U7 “pre-travel” program. Parents, visions of scholarships dancing in their heads, enable this by paying for private coaching and year-round travel.

UW Badgers rank second in country for athletic spending

Rich Kirchen:

The University of Wisconsin-Madison athletic department spent the second-highest amount of money on its athletic program among public universities in 2013, trailing only the University of Texas, according to new figures compiled by USA Today.

UW generated $149.14 million in revenue through athletics and spent $146.7 million, USA Today said. Texas collected $165.7 million and spent $146.8 million.

Wisconsin’s expenditures jumped more than $44 million in 2013 primarily due to higher buildings and grounds costs. However, UW’s contributions, which count as revenue, increased almost as much, by about $39 million.

UW ranked first among Big Ten schools. Michigan was fourth overall with $131 million in expenditures and $143 million in revenue and Ohio State was fifth overall with $116 million in expenses and $139.7 million in revenue.

How Much Does It Cost to Recruit a Star College Athlete?

Jonah Newman:

My colleague Brad Wolverton has a terrific story this week that takes you inside the big-time college-sports recruitment process through the eyes of Marvin Clark, a promising high-school basketball player who dreams of playing in the NBA.

Mr. Clark was heavily recruited by half a dozen colleges, whose coaches flew to Kansas to see him play, brought him and his mother to their campuses for VIP tours, and gave him hours of personal attention on top of the hundreds of text messages they sent him. Mr. Clark’s story got us thinking: What does it cost for a college to recruit a single athlete?

We looked at four of the universities that pursued Mr. Clark most vigorously: Indiana University at Bloomington, and Iowa State, Kansas State, and Michigan State Universities.

“I want…N.C.A.A. machinery dismantled. I want faculties to take back their universities from athletic depts.”

Joe Nocera:

Mary Willingham remembers the exact moment when she realized she had to go public. It was at the memorial service in the fall of 2012 for Bill Friday, the former president of the University of North Carolina. During his long career, Friday had championed the amateur ideal — the notion that college athletes needed also to be students, and that academics mattered as much as wins.

Willingham went to the university in Chapel Hill in 2003 as an academic adviser to the school’s athletes, primarily its football and basketball players. She was a reading specialist, a refugee from corporate America who had become a teacher in midlife. “Mary is one of those people who believed in the mythology, that you can do both athletics and academics,” says Richard Southall, who runs the College Sport Research Institute at the University of South Carolina.

But right from the start, she realized that there was a problem: Many of the athletes were coming into college unequipped to do college-level work. Around 2008, she recalls, after the N.C.A.A. changed its eligibility requirements — depending on their G.P.A.’s, athletes could now get in with lower S.A.T. scores — the situation became dramatically worse.

Check out the terrible paper that earned a player an A- at North Carolina

Jay Busbee:

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is one of our nation’s finest universities, ranking 30th in the latest U.S. News and World Report list of top schools and eighth on Forbes’ list of top public colleges. And the bit of drivel above apparently earned an A-minus, according to ESPN.
 Why? Simple. That paper was written by an athlete for a class specifically designed to keep them moving through the university.
 “Athletes couldn’t write a paper,” Mary Willingham, a specialist in the school’s learning-support system-turned-whistleblower, told ESPN. “They couldn’t write a paragraph. They couldn’t write a sentence yet.” She said that some of the students were reading at a second- or third-grade level, which is considered illiterate for a college-age student. As Willingham notes, in the “AFAM” classes, players were notching As and Bs, but in actual classes such as Biology and Economics were receiving Ds and Fs.

Large majority opposes paying NCAA athletes, Washington Post-ABC News poll finds

Alex Prewitt:

A new Washington Post-ABC News poll finds that a large majority of the general public opposes paying salaries to college athletes beyond the scholarships currently offered.

Only 33 percent support paying college athletes. At 64 percent, opposition is nearly twice as high as support, with 47 percent strongly against the idea. Nearly every demographic and political group opposes it except non-whites, for whom 51 percent support. The breakdown among whites (73 percent oppose, 24 percent support) tilted strongly in the opposite direction, echoing the perspective of NCAA President Mark Emmert.

“We have long heard from fans that there is little support for turning student-athletes into paid employees of their universities,” Emmert said in a statement. “The overwhelming majority of student-athletes, across all sports, play college athletics as part of their educational experience and for the love of their sport — not to be paid a salary.”

The Myth of the ‘Student-Athlete’

Gary Gutting
People often dismiss philosophical disputes as mere quibbles about words. But shifts in terminology can turn the tide in public debates. Think of the advantage Republicans gained when discussion of the Affordable Health Care Act became discussion of “Obamacare.” (Conversely, suppose we talked about “Bush-ed” instead of “No Child Left Behind”). Or consider how much thinking about feminism has changed with the demise of “men” as a term for people in general.
These thoughts about philosophy and language occur to me as a significant portion of our nation takes part in the mounting frenzy of “March Madness,” the national college basketball championship. Throughout the tournament, announcers and commentators careful enough to heed the insistence of the National Collegiate Athletic Association, will refer to the players as “student-athletes.”
But is this term accurate? Or should we perhaps leave it behind for a more honest and precise name?
The term “student-athletes” implies that all enrolled students who play college sports are engaged in secondary (“extra-curricular”) activities that enhance their education. Their status, the term suggests, is essentially the same as members of the debate team or the band. As the N.C.A.A. puts it, “Student-athletes must, therefore, be students first.”
There are, of course, many cases of athletes who are primarily students, particularly in “minor” (i.e., non-revenue producing) sports. But what about Division I football and men’s basketball, the big-time programs with revenues in the tens of millions of dollars that are a major source of their schools’ national reputation? Are the members of these teams typically students first?
The N.C.A.A.’s own 2011 survey showed that by a wide variety of measures the answer is no. For example, football and men’s basketball players (who are my primary focus here) identify themselves more strongly as athletes than as students, gave more weight in choosing their college to athletics than to academics, and, at least in season, spend more time on athletics than on their studies (and a large majority say they spend as much or more time on sports during the off-season).

The business of high school sports drives Wisconsin tournament fight

Kevin Binversie:

Like it or not, sports is a business. From big-time professional leagues like the National Football League to local high school action, sports have been a reliable revenue stream for decades.
At the college level, successful athletic programs have paid dividends for their schools by generating cash. Sporting events boost local economies in tourist dollars, money spent at bars, restaurants and hotels, and of course tax revenue for local government.
It’s the fight over local business and tax revenue that has become the real center stage in a battle over tournament scheduling and the location of tournaments that is raging between the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Athletic Department and the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association, which officiates high school sports in the Badger State. At issue is where the boys and girls state basketball tournaments will play in 2013 and beyond.

Texas school district cuts sports in desperate attempt to improve grades and prevent shutdown

Associated Press:

Eliminating high school athletics during a school year is unusual, especially in a sports-loving state such as Texas.
But that’s exactly what’s happening in this small ranching community where the school district is taking desperate measures to prevent a state-mandated closure due to poor academics.
The Premont Independent School District is even deploying its superintendent, a constable and high school principal to the homes of truant students in an effort to improve dismal attendance.

Do Sports Build Character or Damage It?

Mark Edmundson:

Do sports build character? For those of us who claim to be educators, it’s important to know. Physical-education teachers, coaches, boosters, most trustees, and the balance of alumni seem sure that they do. And so they push sports, sports, and more sports. As for professors, they often see sports as a diversion from the real business of education–empty, time-wasting, and claiming far too much of students’ attention. It often seems that neither the boosters nor the bashers want to go too far in examining their assumptions about sports.
But in fact, sports are a complex issue, and it’s clear that we as a culture don’t really know how to think about them. Public confusion about performance-enhancing drugs, the dangers of concussions in football and of fighting in hockey, and the recent molestation scandal at Penn State suggest that it might be good to pull back and consider the question of athletics and education–of sports and character-building–a bit more closely than we generally do.

Sun Prairie’s $2.4M Ashley Field Construction


How does a project increase 42% in less than a year? How does it mushroom 83% in less than 2 years?
WHY WHY WHY does this district continue to pound for more than more, better than best? And how do these numbers keep growing? What originally was discussed as a maximum taxpayer commitment of $475,000 has ballooned into the idea of going to referendum with the “new building (elementary school) referendum? Note once again that no decision has been made to even BUILD a new building…but athletic director McClowry and district administration put forth a Situation Report that sure seems certain that that is what’s going to happen?
Let’s stroll back through time, shall we? Take a look see at how the landscape of the Ashley Project has changed.

More, here.

Academic Emphasis forces High School Football Coach to Resign

Jeff Greer:

Former Glades Central football coach Jessie Hester resigned Thursday as coach at Suncoast after just 10 months at the school.
Hester, 48, said the job at one of Palm Beach County’s top academic public schools “wasn’t the right fit” for him. The academic pressures the students faced made it difficult for the football team to practice and prepare for games, Hester said, adding that his team would go weeks without a full practice because his players had other school obligations.
The Chargers finished 4-6, missing the playoffs and tying for third in a five-team district.
“There are great, great people at the school, and great kids,” Hester said, “but it was just not a good fit for me. It was too difficult to do the things I wanted to do in that situation.”
It was no secret that Suncoast, with its nationally ranked academic programs and rigorous academic requirements, would be a more challenging job than Hester’s previous job at his alma mater.

Meet the former high school quarterback who lost a LEG playing football… and is now inspiring Tim Tebow

Associated Press:

Jacob Rainey is inspiring people all across the sports world – and no more so than giants from the NFL.
The Virginia prep quarterback who had to have part of his right leg amputated has moved the likes of Alabama coach Nick Saban, Green Bay Packers linebacker Clay Matthews and Denver quarterback Tim Tebow.
A highlight film of Rainey on YouTube shows why college coaches had taken notice.
It shows the once-promising quarterback at Woodberry Forest School throwing a 40-yard dart for a touchdown, running into the line on a quarterback sneak, then emerging from the pile and sprinting 40 yards for a TD. There is also of clip of him running a draw for another 35-yard score.
All that was taken away, without warning when he was tackled during a scrimmage on September 3. He suffered a severe knee injury and a severed artery and part of his right leg had to be amputated.

College Football Wins Lower Guys’ GPA

Tom Jacobs:

The gap in grade point averages between male and female students widens when their college football team is winning.
As the college football season approaches its climax, a just-released set of statistics should give fans of Bowl-bound teams pause.
According to three University of Oregon economists, when a university’s football team has a winning season, the grade point average of male students goes down.
At least, that was the case at their own school over the course of nine recent seasons. Given that the University of Oregon is “largely representative of other four-year public institutions,” they have no reason to believe the equation won’t apply elsewhere.

Charter school accountability debate

Katy Murphy:

Yesterday, the California Charter Schools Association caused a stir. The pro-charter group came out with a list of 10 independently-run schools it deemed underperforming — and encouraged their respective school districts to close them when their 5-year contracts expire!
That list included West County Community High in Richmond, as my colleague Hannah Dreier reported in today’s paper. Leadership High in San Francisco was also on it.
The complete list included 31 schools, but the association only published the names of those that are nearing the end of their 5-year terms and seeking a charter renewal.
Here’s the reasoning behind the mov, from the news release:

Athletic Hours Sample

I recently received a history paper submitted by a high school Junior who was kind enough
to enumerate the hours he has spent on athletics in a recent year:
Football: 13 hours a week, 13 weeks per year. (169 hours)
Basketball: 12 hours a week, 15 weeks per year. (180 hours)
Lacrosse: 12 hours a week, 15 weeks per year. (180 hours)
Summer Lacrosse: 10 hours per week, 15 weeks per year. (150 hours)
This yields a total, by my calculations, of
169 + 180 + 180 hours = 529 hours + 150 in the summer, for a new total of 679 hours.
We are told that there is no time for high school students to write serious history research papers, which they need to do to prepare themselves for college academic requirements. It seems likely that this young man will be better prepared in athletics
than in academics.
If it were considered important for all students to read history books and to write a serious history research paper, 679 hours (84 eight-hour days) might just be enough for them to manage that.
This particular young man made the time on his own to write a 28-page history research paper with a bibliography and 107 endnotes and submit it to The Concord Review, but this was not his high school requirement.
“Teach by Example”
Will Fitzhugh [founder]
The Concord Review [1987]
Ralph Waldo Emerson Prizes [1995]
National Writing Board [1998]
TCR Institute [2002]
730 Boston Post Road, Suite 24
Sudbury, Massachusetts 01776-3371 USA
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Tracking Caribou, Shooting Hoops, Winning Trophies

William Yardley & Erik Olsen:

Spring means murre eggs and bowhead whales. Summer is seals and salmon and berries. Fall and winter are a time to track caribou.
And then there is that other season here at the edge of the earth, the one that never seems to end.
It is called basketball season, and it, too, has become crucial to existence.
“When I leave school I don’t have to think about it, I know I’m coming here,” said Caroline Long, 18, a senior at Tikigaq School. “I know for a fact that this is where I’m going to be.”
The “this” Ms. Long was referring to is this tiny village’s magical redoubt from the dark and forbidding Arctic and one of the secrets of its outsize stature in Alaska sports lore: open gym.

‘Unions’ empower parents to push for reform

Christina Hoag:

Choehorned into a small living room in a South Los Angeles apartment, a dozen parents discuss why their kids’ school ranks as one of the worst in the nation’s second-largest school district.
The answers come quickly: Teachers are jaded; gifted pupils aren’t challenged; disabled students are isolated; the building is dirty and office staff treat parents disrespectfully.
“We know what the problem is — we’re about fixing it,” said Cassandra Perry, the Woodcrest Elementary School parent hosting the meeting. “We’re not against the administrators or the teachers union. We’re honestly about the kids.”
School parent groups are no longer just about holding the next bake-sale fundraiser. They’re about education reform.

How Sports Can Help High Schools

Jay Matthews:

Education writers rarely examine high school sports, but something is happening there that might help pull our schools out of the doldrums.
In the last school year, a new national survey found, 7,667,955 boys and girls took part in high school sports. This is 55.5 percent of all students, according to the report from the National Federation of State High School Associations, and the 22nd straight year that participation had increased.
Despite two major recessions and numerous threats to cut athletic budgets to save academics, high schools have found ways not only to keep sports alive but increase the number of students playing. We have data indicating sports and other extracurricular activities do better than academic classes in teaching leadership, teamwork, time management and other skills crucial for success in the workplace.
Coaches may be the only faculty members still allowed by our culture and educational practice to get tough with students not making the proper effort. They have the advantage of teaching what are essentially elective non-credit courses. They can insist on standards of behavior that classroom teachers often cannot enforce because the stakes of dismissing or letting students drop their courses are too high.

Academic Performance and the BCS

John V. Lombardi , Elizabeth D. Capaldi and Craig W. Abbey:

Those of us who inhabit the core of the university’s academic environment share the enthusiasm for measuring and evaluating the quality of our institutions, although we have less enthusiasm for the endless ranked lists that appear in popular publications.
While some dote on the U.S. News rankings, which like their BCS counterpart rely on hugely unreliable opinion surveys, we, however, prefer our own system for evaluating the Top American Research Universities that recognizes the importance of successful performance among highly competitive institutions without requiring a simple top to bottom ranking that often distorts more than it informs.
For over ten years, The Center for Measuring University Performance, now located at Arizona State University, has produced an annual report on the Top American Research Universities that uses objective data on nine measures to put universities into categories according to their performance.

The Case for Paying College Athletes

Ben Cohen:

Somebody will win Saturday’s football game between Ohio State and Miami, which has been jokingly dubbed “the IneligiBowl.” But no matter the outcome, neither team can fairly consider itself a winner.
Both of these football powerhouses are under NCAA investigation for alleged rules violations in which athletes were given cash, gifts and services ranging from tattoos to wild parties on a private yacht. The NCAA, which is rightly determined to make sure its championships can’t be bought, forbids athletes from taking anything from supporters beyond the benefits in their scholarships.
As the muck thickens, the narrative that has taken hold is that the lucrative end of college sports–particularly football–is a fetid swamp that needs to be drained and disinfected. But amid all the righteous indignation, there’s a small but incongruous fact lurking just outside the picture: In most cases where college athletes take money, the sums are pretty small.

Taking the Dread Out of Phys Ed

Sue Shellenbarger:

For many middle school students, the words “Phys Ed” are enough to provoke fear–fear of getting dressed in the locker room, of wearing a nerdy uniform, of looking clumsy, of being picked last.
Tammy Brant, a gym teacher at Selma Middle School, in Selma, Ind., is rethinking the way schools have taught girls and boys about fitness. Instead of group calisthenics and contests that favor the most athletic kids, Ms. Brant, like many other teachers nationwide, devotes class time to fitness instruction and to games structured so that more kids can play and enjoy.
Instead of pushing everyone to hit specific performance targets, she urges them to progress toward individualized “fitness zones.” She teaches the stages of a workout–warm-up, training, cool-down–and straps a heart monitor on each child. The goal is to instill healthy habits for life.

Donna Shalala in the news: Stanford, Notre Dame and … Miami?

Allie Grasgreen:

With the institution she leads, the University of Miami, in the midst of a football scandal that threatens to be among the worst in National Collegiate Athletic Association history, Donna E. Shalala might be forgiven for trying to change the conversation about Miami’s sports program away from acknowledged rule breaking by current and former players, possible wrongdoing by university employees, and the potential imposition of the NCAA’s “death penalty.”
In the latest in a series of public statements she has made since the controversy broke several weeks ago, Shalala shifted the focus this week to the academic performance of Miami’s athletes. In doing so, however, she engaged in some hyperbole about the institution’s standing and the company it keeps.

On the Size Increase in Football Players

Gregg Easterbrook:

Randy White of the Dallas Cowboys, star defensive tackle of the 1970s, member of both the College Football Hall of Fame and Pro Football Hall of Fame: What a joy it was to watch him play! White was a master of leverage, burst and anticipation. Today, he might not even make an NFL roster. If White got on the field, he’d be crushed.
White played defensive tackle at 257 pounds, across from centers weighing 240 or 250 pounds and guards who were considered huge if 265. Last year’s Super Bowl featured defensive tackles B.J. Raji (337 pounds) and Casey Hampton (330 pounds) versus guards Chris Kemoeatu (344 pounds) and Josh Sitton (318 pounds). Either guard would have steamrolled Randy White as if he wasn’t there.
As for today’s biceps: Your Honor, I call to the stand America’s leading expert on these matters, Mel Kiper Jr. Everyone assumes today’s football players are bigger, faster and stronger than those who came before. But what does the data show? No one is better suited to answer that question than Kiper.
Far, far in the past — about 1980 — the United States was not obsessed with the NFL draft. Of course that’s hard to imagine today. Once, bread did not come sliced. But I digress.

The 2011 College Football Grid of Shame

Darren Everson:

College football, to put it as charitably as possible, had a less-than-ideal offseason.
From the Southeast to the Pacific Northwest, a series of scandals, controversies, academic outrages and incidents of boorish behavior has taken a toll on the good names of several schools.
This weekend’s spotlight game, for instance, pits No. 3-ranked Oregon, a school that’s under NCAA investigation for possible recruiting violations, against No. 4 LSU, whose top quarterback, Jordan Jefferson, is suspended for his part in a brawl outside a campus watering hole called Shady’s.

Time to focus on excesses of football practice

Gregg Easterbrook:

From the standpoint of most spectators, football is all about the game. From the standpoint of most players, football is all about practice. What players go through at practice, particularly two-a-days, can be more grueling than what they go through during games. When coaches tell players, “Compared to practice, the game will be fun,” they aren’t kidding.
Though spectators and viewers think of games as the dangerous part of football, because it’s during games that injuries are widely seen — coaches whom I have interviewed think players are more likely to be injured at a practice than during a game. Partly this is simply because players spend so much more time practicing than performing, meaning more hours of risk.

WIAA vs. the taxpayers

Steve Prestegard:

At first glance, the ongoing lawsuit between the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association and Gannett Newspapers might seem like the Iran-Iraq War, or a Bears-Vikings game — fans of neither side might wonder if both could lose.
The WIAA, the sanctioning body for Wisconsin high school athletics, sued Gannett after The Post~Crescent live-streamed several football playoff games in 2008. If a media organization wants to broadcast or stream postseason games, it must get the WIAA’s permission, pay a fee, and adhere to various other rules:

Internet blogs, forums, tweets and other text depictions or references are permitted and are not subject to rights fees unless they qualify as play-by-play (see definition below) or are not in compliance with the media policies of the WIAA. Play-by-play accounts of WIAA Tournament Series events via text are subject to text transmission rights fees.

What does it mean to be a proficient 8th grade reader in Georgia? Not much.

Maureen Downey:

The U.S. Department of Education released a new analysis of state standards this week that maps the standards against federal ones to assess rigor. We don’t look strong on the mapping, especially in eighth grade reading where we trail the nation.
The analysis using National Center for Educational Statistics data superimposes a state’s standard for proficient performance in reading and mathematics onto a common scale defined by scores on NAEP, a federal test administered to student samples in every state to produce a big picture view of American education. (This report offers a lot of data and great graphics.)
The most alarming mapping revealed that Georgia’s standard for proficiency in 8th grade reading is so low that it falls into the below basic category on NAEP scoring. (We don’t look in 8th grade math, either, but the feds warn that our change from QBE standards to Georgia Performance Standards undermines comparisons.)

Jocks vs. Pukes

Robert Lipsyte:

In the spring of that hard year, 1968, the Columbia University crew coach, Bill Stowe, explained to me that there were only two kinds of men on campus, perhaps in the world–Jocks and Pukes. He explained that Jocks, such as his rowers, were brave, manly, ambitious, focused, patriotic and goal-driven, while Pukes were woolly, distractible, girlish and handicapped by their lack of certainty that nothing mattered as much as winning. Pukes could be found among “the cruddy weirdo slobs” such as hippies, pot smokers, protesters and, yes, former English majors like me.
I dutifully wrote all this down, although doing so seemed kind of Puke-ish. But Stowe was such an affable ur-Jock, 28 years old, funny and articulate, that I found his condescension merely good copy. He’d won an Olympic gold medal, but how could I take him seriously, this former Navy officer who had spent his Vietnam deployment rowing the Saigon River and running an officers’ club? Not surprisingly, he didn’t last long at Columbia after helping lead police officers through the underground tunnels to roust the Pukes who had occupied buildings during the antiwar and antiracism demonstrations.

Ivy League to Limit Full-Contact Football Practices

Ken Belson:

The Ivy League will announce on Wednesday that, in an effort to minimize head injuries among its football players, it will sharply reduce the number of allowable full-contact practices teams can hold.
The changes, to be implemented this season, go well beyond the rules set by the N.C.A.A. and are believed to be more stringent than those of any other conference. The league will also review the rules governing men’s and women’s hockey, lacrosse and soccer to determine if there are ways to reduce hits to the head and concussions in those sports.
The new rules will be introduced as a growing amount of research suggests that limiting full-contact practices may be among the most practical ways of reducing brain trauma among football players. According to a study of three Division I college teams published last year in the Journal of Athletic Training, college players sustain more total hits to the head in practices than in games.

Football coaches get big bucks, as states cut education budgets

Carol Forsloff:

Wisconsin union protests may not be national front page news, but as its model is picked up nationwide, educators worry as childrens programs are cut while football coaches continue to earn big bucks.
In Wisconsin, educators worry about children’s programs like Headstart being trimmed, and feared cut, as well the breakfast programs for hungry children being eliminated, as football coaches get first rank in the hiring and firing parades.
The FASEB Journal examines the problems of education, as the editor wonders, as educators do, what has happened to education and the value placed on it in the decisions made by politicians. He uses some of what happened in Wisconsin as a model to look at this issue. The Journal points out the United States will continue to pedal backwards in relationship to the accomplishments of other countries, as children fall further and further behind youngsters of comparable ages in other countries. Right now only Luxembourg , among the developed countries, is the only one that pays less per child on education than the United States.

Combining exercise with school lessons could boost brain power

Jeannine Stein:

Physical education classes may be scarce in some schools, but an activity program combined with school lessons could boost academic performance, a study finds.
Research presented recently at the Pediatric Academic Societies meeting in Denver looked at the effects of a 40-minute-a-day, five-day-a-week physical activity program on test scores of first- through sixth-graders at a public school. This program was a little different from most, since it incorporated academic lessons along with exercise.
For example, younger children hopped through ladders while naming colors found on each rung. Older children climbed on a rock wall outfitted with numbers that challenged their math skills. The students normally spent 40 minutes a week in PE class.

Carolina’s Students Get Educated The School’s Elite Men’s Basketball Team Hits the Dormitory Courts to Play Classmates–Just for Fun

Ben Cohen:

College basketball doesn’t get any more glamorous than it does at North Carolina, a school that boasts one of the sport’s most prestigious programs. On this campus, the basketball players are lords of the manor.
But this spring, Carolina’s men’s team has started a new tradition, one that stands in sharp contrast to the booming prominence of the sport.
Since they bowed out of the NCAA’s Elite Eight last month, members of North Carolina’s Tar Heels have been showing up a campus dormitory courts to play five-on-five pickup basketball games with students. We caught up with some of the players at a recent session.
Since they bowed out in the NCAA Tournament’s Elite Eight last month, the players have been killing time before finals exams by showing up at outdoor courts at campus dormitories to play five-on-five pick-up games with students–just for fun. To make sure they draw a crowd, the players announce their plans beforehand on Twitter.
On a cloudless afternoon last week, five Carolina players showed up to the outdoor court at Granville Towers. As spectators in sunglasses and sundresses dangled their legs over the brick walls, a pack of would-be student challengers in sneakers and t-shirts made a beeline to the free-throw line, where the first five to sink shots would earn the right to play.

Freshmen Ineligibility: An Old-but-Wise Approach to Improving Academics in College Basketball

Maggie Severns:

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan ushered in the NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament earlier this month with an op-ed in The Washington Post arguing that schools should only qualify for post-season play if they are on track to graduate at least 40 percent of their players.
The argument by Duncan, who is a basketball player and fan himself, has been made by many critics, including the Knight Commission for Intercollegiate Athletics, which proposed restricting participation to only those programs that graduated more than half of their players. And rightfully so: men’s college basketball does a poor job of graduating its players, with 10 of the original 68 teams in the tournament not meeting the “50 percent” benchmark this year. This leaves players who don’t go professional — the vast majority of them — without the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in the real world. Many sportswriters and fans, on the other hand, think that Duncan’s viewpoint is out of touch –and that critics of NCAA basketball and football need to come to grips with the fact that, for many athletes who play for hugely popular athletics programs, the sport is simply more important than the degree.

After Amputation, Wrestler Tries to Ease Rival’s Pain

Dirk Johnson:

When Heriberto Avila lost his leg as a result of an accident during a high school wrestling match in January, he and his family could have started calling lawyers. They could have turned bitter or angry.
But on the day Heriberto, a Belvidere North High School senior known as Eddie, woke up in a hospital bed and tearfully struggled to deal with the shock that his left leg had been amputated, he reminded his family and his pastor, who were in the room with him, that he was not the only one who needed solace.
He was worried about his wrestling opponent, Sean McIntrye, a senior at Genoa-Kingston High School, whose legal take-down had caused the broken bones and the rupture in a blood vessel that led to the amputation.

High School Football Recruiting’s New Face

Pete Thamel:

Sony Michel is still a high school freshman, yet he has shown flashes of Hall of Fame potential. A tailback for American Heritage in Plantation, Fla., Michel has rushed for 39 touchdowns and nearly 3,500 yards in two varsity seasons.
“He’s on par to be Emmitt Smith, on par to be Deion Sanders, on par to be Jevon Kearse,” said Larry Blustein, a recruiting analyst for The Miami Herald who has covered the beat for 40 years. “He’ll be one of the legendary players in this state.”
Michel’s recruitment will also be a test case for a rapidly evolving college football landscape. The proliferation of seven-on-seven nonscholastic football has transformed the high school game, once defined by local rivalries, state championships and the occasional all-star game, into a national enterprise.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: University of Wisconsin Athletic department’s budget is increased 6.3% (!) to $88.368 million for 2011-12

Andy Baggot:

The University of Wisconsin Athletic Department had its operating budget request of $88.368 million for 2011-12 approved without rancor or debate Friday.
Members of the UW Athletic Board voted unanimously to allow the department to spend $5.29 million more than its current operating budget of $83.219 million, an increase designed primarily to address two major capital projects.
The matter-of-fact process and calm pulse of the meeting was in contrast to the mood at the Capitol, where protesters, controversy and edgy rhetoric defined a state budget crisis.
Asked to weigh the two developments, UW athletic director Barry Alvarez acknowledged that sooner or later they will become one.

The Tragedy of Elgin Cook & Other Milwaukee Public Schools’ Black Athletes

The Milwaukee Drum:

I’m certain many of you read (or heard) about Milwaukee Hamilton star basketball player Elgin Cook’s sudden departure from the team. I’m also certain you heard his mother has taken him out of state fearing for her son’s life due to his (alleged) role in what led to the Milwaukee King basketball player being shot. If not, click here to read the story on jsonline.
My comments aren’t going to address the drama Cook and the other boy got themselves caught up in. I’m focused on a tragedy that continues to occur with the Black Student-Athlete over and over in Milwaukee Public Schools. I’m sick and tired of reading and hearing about OUR BEST (and average) student-athletes being academically ineligible before, during and after the sports season. What the hell is going on when kids who are being offered scholarships to play in college cannot maintain a simple 2.0 gpa?
Let’s look at Cook for a moment. In the jsonline article, it mentions that he missed the first 3 games of this season due to being academically ineligible. Yet, in October he signed a letter of intent to accept a scholarship to play basketball at Iowa State. How is this possible? It’s one thing for OUR kids to be lacking the grades and preparation for higher learning, but it is another thing when large colleges and universities know they aren’t ready but bring them in anyway.

Stanford Corners the ‘Smart’ Market After Its Best Football Season in Years, School Chases Top Recruits With Elite Grades; Building Robots

Darren Everson & Jared Diamond:

As college football’s 2011 recruiting classes took shape last week, much of the talk was dominated by the usual question: Which team pulled in the richest talent haul? Some say it was Alabama, others Florida State.
What was not acknowledged, or even noted, was the impressive and unusual incoming class assembled by Stanford.
The school, which is coming off its best football season in 70 years, didn’t land the most physically talented class of high school football players. The consensus says their crop ranks somewhere around No. 20 in the nation among all the major college programs. What stands out about Stanford’s class is something entirely different: what superior students they are.
Wayne Lyons, a four-star defensive back from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., who has a 4.96 weighted grade-point average and likes to build robots in his spare time, is widely considered the best student among the nation’s elite recruits. When he visited Stanford, he said he was whisked to a seminar on building jet engines and to a facility where robots are built.

High-schoolers’ ‘recess’: Benefit or brain drain?

Jay Matthews:

There is no limit to what you learn about schools if you listen to teachers. Did you know, for instance, that Fairfax County, the Washington region’s largest school district, is using 10 days a year of valuable instruction time on do-what-you-like recesses for high school students?
I didn’t, either. West Springfield High School physics teacher Ed Linz says this program, designed to help struggling students, is a waste. At his school, students get 90 free minutes a week, which they can use to find dates for Saturday night or check basketball scores, if they want. But his principal, Paul Wardinski, says most students do homework, work on group projects and enrich their studies. It helps teachers to be creative, he says, even if some students look for imaginative ways to goof off.
Linz disclosed the recesses to the county School Board last month. Like President Obama, he said that this is our Sputnik moment and that we can’t win the future throwing away precious class time.

A $60 Million Palace for Texas High School Football

Greg Bishop:

From his office window, Steve Williams surveyed the chaos of construction. His view consisted of rocks and dirt beneath bulldozers and cranes, but where others might see excess, he saw something brazen, bold and gloriously Texan.
The $60 million football stadium at Allen High School, where Williams is the district athletic director, was starting to take shape.
This is no ordinary stadium, in no ordinary state, where football ranks near faith and family. Super Bowl XLV will take place a short drive southwest next Sunday at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, but while the “big game” will repeatedly highlight football’s oversize importance in Texas, the folks in Allen need no reminders. Here, every game is big.
Williams — Bubba to his friends — arrived long before the boom, when Allen was more speck than sprawl, and now he cannot fathom all the fuss over this stadium, the calls from England, the Pacific Northwest, New York.

Federal judges consider Wisconsin high school sports case

Associated Press:

A Wisconsin case that could have nationwide implications for how reporters cover and how parents watch high school sports is making its way through the courts, with crucial constitutional arguments taking place Friday in federal court in Chicago.
The case pits community newspapers against the association that oversees high school sports in Wisconsin. Fans in many states rely on community newspapers for news about high school teams, and the newspapers say they need easy, unencumbered access to sporting events to provide that coverage. But the association says it can’t survive if it can’t raise money by signing exclusive contracts with a single video-production company for streaming its tournaments.
The newspapers argued Friday before the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals that the First Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of press should enable them to put such publicly funded events online as they see fit, free of charge.
The case began in 2008, when the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association sued The Post-Crescent of Appleton after it streamed live coverage of high school football playoff games. After a U.S. District judge sided with the association last year, saying its exclusive deal with a video production company didn’t impinge on freedom of the press, the newspaper’s owner, Gannett Co., and the Wisconsin Newspaper Association appealed.

St. John’s program helps athletes make transition to collegiate level

Rob Reischel:

Myles Henry had no idea what his future held. The former Nicolet standout was struggling with his ACT scores last summer and his collegiate choices were limited.
Russell Finco was equally confused. The former Arrowhead standout went to St. Cloud State in June to begin a football career. But Finco suffered the latest in a string of concussions, was told to quit football and was in limbo.
Neither player ever dreamed he’d wind up being part of the postgraduate basketball program at St. John’s Northwestern. Today, both are thrilled to be Lancers.
St. John’s began a basketball program this season for high school graduates who have the potential to play collegiately but need an extra year of preparation. The student-athletes retain all their collegiate eligibility and get an extra year to improve their games and their grades.

As salaries rise, Fresno State coach Pat Hill takes pay cut

Steve Wieberg, Steve Berkowitz and Jodi Upton

Pat Hill came cheap when he broke into college football coaching a little more than 3½ decades ago.
He worked his first job at a California community college without pay, making ends meet by moonlighting Tuesdays and Thursdays as a pinsetter at a bowling alley and Fridays and Saturdays, when football allowed, as a bouncer. He lived for a while in his Chevy van.
“I’ve never been a monetary guy,” he says.
The contract that will take him into his 15th season as head coach at Fresno State offers further testament.
Hill will take a more than $300,000 cut in guaranteed pay in 2011, an extraordinary concession to a school budget stretched thin by the troubled economy. His guaranteed take of $650,000 remains considerable, but he’ll have to cash in heavily on incentives to match, or even approach, his nearly seven-figure earnings in 2010.

Teen Football Player died from subdural hematoma

Wayne Drehs

A Kansas coroner confirmed Thursday that the brain injury that killed Spring Hill High School football player Nathan Stiles on Oct. 29 came from a part of the 17-year-old’s brain that had bled earlier this year.
Michael Handler, the Johnson County corner and a neuropathologist, informed the Stiles family Thursday that the exact cause of death was a subdural hematoma, which Nathan Stiles likely suffered Oct. 1 during Spring Hill’s game against Ottawa.
“[Handler] said it was a perfect example of a subdural hematoma,” Connie Stiles said. “You could see where his brain had been healing. You could see where it was starting to get better. It seems like everything can be traced back to that first hit. That’s what he thinks.”
The morning after the Ottawa game is when Stiles, Spring Hill’s homecoming king and team captain, first began complaining of headaches. Five days later Connie Stiles took her son to Olathe Medical Center, where he underwent a CT scan and was diagnosed with a concussion.

The Tax-Exempt Status of the NCAA: Has the IRS Fumbled the Ball?

Brett Smith

Maybe the IRS actually knows what it is doing. With any luck, they can look at the overwhelming number of athletic departments that are not earning a profit and realize that removing the NCAA’s tax-exempt status would only have a nominal return. Perhaps the IRS realizes that the nominal return that such a tax would generate would have such a sweeping effect on collegiate athletics that it may actually hurt schools more than it would help. Whether they realize this or do not want to overturn a long-lived precedent, the IRS has not fumbled its duty concerning the tax-exempt status of the NCAA. At this point, there is no reason to disrupt the current tax-exempt status of the NCAA, and there is no evidence that points to a change being necessary in the near future.

No High School Scholars Need Apply

Today, The Boston Globe published the latest in a long series of special “All-Scholastics” 14-page (12×22-inch) supplements on good local high school athletes from a variety of sports. These celebrations are produced three times a year (42 pages) with lots of pictures and little bios and lists of all-stars from the Boston area.
Again this Fall, there was no room for any mention by The Boston Globe of any noteworthy academic achievement by local students at the high school level. Christiane Henrich of Marblehead HS, in Marblehead, Massachusetts, wrote a 7,360-word Emerson-prize-winning history research paper on the quality (good for the day) of U.S. Civil War medicine. It was published in the only journal in the world for the academic papers of secondary students…No room in The Boston Globe for that to be mentioned. She is now at Stanford and doesn’t mind, but I mind about all the Boston-area students who are fed a constant diet of praise for athletic achievement by their peers and at the same time are starved of any and all news of the academic achievements of their peers.
In fact, over the years I have published a good number of exemplary history papers by high school students from the Boston area and they did not and do not get mentioned in The Boston Globe, nor do the academic achievements of our high school students in foreign languages (e.g. National Latin Exam, etc.), AP subject tests in Calculus, Chemistry, European history or in any other field, receive any notice from the Globe.
International competitions reveal that we are below average in Reading, Math and Science. Perhaps we should just explain that we don’t care about that stuff as much as we do about swimming, soccer, cross-country, football, golf, field hockey, and volleyball, because achievement by our high school students in those efforts are what we really like to pay attention to, (not that academic stuff), at least when it comes to The Boston Globe.
The Boston Globe (and its subscribers) are, in this way, sending a constant stream of clear messages (42 pages at a time in supplements, not to mention regular daily columns on HS sports) that in Boston (The Athens of America) what we care about is kids doing well in sports. If they do well in academics we don’t think that is worth mentioning. Sick, sad, and self-destructive, but there we are.
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UK School sports cash plans criticised


Education Secretary Michael Gove’s decision to end ring-fenced funding for school sports “quite frankly flew in the face” of the UK’s commitment to a lasting sports legacy after the 2012 Olympic Games, Labour has claimed.
Shadow education secretary Andy Burnham said there was widespread disbelief over Mr Gove’s £162 million cut in sports funding for English state schools.
And he seized on an Observer report that suggested Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and Health Secretary Andrew Lansley had expressed concerns in Cabinet over the decision.
Mr Gove has insisted that overall spending in schools has increased and it is up to headteachers to decide their own priorities.
But Mr Burnham told Sky News’ Sunday Live: “I remember the 1980s when school sports dried up and when I worked in government I was on a mission to rebuild it and that’s what we’ve done in the last 10 years.

Hartland Arrowhead High School responds to Title IX complaint

Arrowhead High School will pay for girls lacrosse and alpine skiing programs following an investigation by the U.S. Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights, according to documents provided to the Journal Sentinel.
It was the second such major investigation into how the Waukesha County high school treats the athletic interests of boys and girls, protected under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, in the last four years.
According to an Oct. 29 letter from Jeffrey Turnbull with the OCR’s Chicago office, the federal government concluded “that the District is not currently fully and effectively accommodating the interests and abilities of its girls.”

Schools Wary of Prep Powerhouses in Football

Harvey Araton

The fans in the home team rooting section were stunned when visiting Don Bosco Prep called a timeout with about two minutes remaining in the first half in an attempt to regain possession of the football.
Their version of “Friday Night Lights” was devolving into Friday Night Spite, a rerun of the 71-0 shellacking they had witnessed the year before. And when Bosco quarterback Gary Nova hit a receiver over the middle, in full stride, for an 80-yard touchdown with no time on the clock, the Clifton High School fans responded in full-throated frustration.
The booing started and someone yelled, “bush league,” and another fan sarcastically encouraged Bosco to go for a 2-point conversion.
Instead, Bosco kicked the extra point and settled for a 48-0 halftime lead.

Should We Teach Kids to Play to Win?

Ilya Somin

Political scientist Barry Rubin has an interesting column criticizing the modern tendency to teach kids that playing to win is bad:

My son is playing on a local soccer team which has lost every one of its games, often by humiliating scores. The coach is a nice guy, but seems an archetype of contemporary thinking: he tells the kids not to care about whether they win, puts players at any positions they want, and doesn’t listen to their suggestions.
He never criticizes a player or suggests how a player could do better. My son, bless him, once remarked to me: “How are you going to play better if nobody tells you what you’re doing wrong?” The coach just tells them how well they are playing. Even after an 8-0 defeat, he told them they’d played a great game.
And of course, the league gives trophies to everyone, whether their team finishes in first or last place…..
[A]m I right in thinking that sports should prepare children for life, competition, the desire to win, and an understanding that not every individual has the same level of skills? A central element in that world is rewarding those who do better, which also offers an incentive for them and others to strive….

Small colleges find that adding football pays off in a lot of green, and more

Daniel de Vise

Then came football.
Stevenson spent $500,000 this year to create an intercollegiate team from scratch, largely as a means to fill the campus with tuition-paying men. The program has drawn 130 players, raising the male share of the freshman class from 34 to 39 percent in a single year at the 3,075-student university.
The suburban Baltimore school is one of at least a dozen small, private colleges in the United States that have added or rebuilt football programs in the past three years, usually with the dual purpose of feeding the bottom line and narrowing the gender gap.
For many small, regional colleges facing a bleak admissions landscape, the gridiron is a beacon of hope. The college-age population is leveling off. The economy is sluggish. Private colleges must offer ever-larger tuition discounts to fill the freshman class.

UC Berkeley’s sports dilemma

San Francisco Chronicle:

Credit Cal with taking up a third-rail topic: the runaway costs of college sports. After trimming academics, the campus heeded an outcry and ordered up a study on its athletic department.
The fix-it suggestions include the usual: more fundraising, better management and a call for thrift in the face of a $10 million-and-rising yearly deficit. There’s another idea in the report written by alumni and faculty leaders: Consider cutting five to seven teams from Berkeley’s roster of 27 sports squads.
Campus higher-ups may make a decision within the next two weeks on cutting teams. If it happens, it will be an emotional, complicated but necessary calculation. Sports knit the campus together. Headlines and broadcasts give Cal visibility. Check-writing alums start out donating to athletics, but later contribute bigger sums to academic causes and building projects. These benefits can’t be ignored.

Poor economy cuts into college athletics

Alan Scher Zagier:

Count college sports among the sagging economy’s latest victims.
A newly released NCAA report shows that just 14 of the 120 Football Bowl Subdivision schools made money from campus athletics in the 2009 fiscal year, down from 25 the year before.
Researchers blame the sagging economy and suggested that next year’s numbers could be even worse.
The research was done by accounting professor Dan Fulks of Transylvania University, a Division III school in Lexington, Ky. It shows the median amount paid by the 120 FBS schools to support campus athletics grew in one year from about $8 million to more than $10 million.

UW pushes for $76.8 million athletic center: Football uber alles

Colin Fly:

University of Wisconsin athletic officials are asking for a $76.8 million athletic performance center in the next two-year state budget, just five years after a $109.5-million expansion of Camp Randall Stadium.
The UW System Board of Regents will review the request, which does not involve any tax dollars, Thursday.
The proposal includes a new multistory building used primarily for football with new locker rooms and weight training facilities. The Regents agreed to a similar $67.2 million plan in the last budget cycle two years ago, but it was spiked by state officials in the approval process.
The proposal includes money to update the sound system and scoreboards at Camp Randall, add new locker rooms for other athletic teams and replace the FieldTurf installed six seasons ago.
The McClain Center, where several teams now practice, also would be updated.
The new facility would be located north of Camp Randall between the Lot 17 parking ramp and the adjacent complex for the UW School of Engineering.
“A whole new facility would really bring this program to a top-notch level where you could say it’s second to none,” quarterback Scott Tolzien said. “We’d have the locker room right there, the stadium right here and all those facilities literally just footsteps away. I think that would be huge with recruiting and with trying to raise this program to the next level.”

High school football still feeling effects of economy

Michael Carvell:

If you received a scouting report from high school football coaches on the economy and its impact on their sport, it would read a little like this: It’s about the same as last year, but we seem to be making wiser spending decisions.
Things don’t seem to be as gloomy as months ago, when head coaches were being released because of layoffs. Then again, no one is quite ready to claim victory and predict an economic turnaround.
“It’s too early to see what the impact of all these things is going to be,” said Ralph Swearngin, executive director of the Georgia High School Association.

Shaping Up PE: The rise in childhood obesity prompts a gym class makeover

Daniele Seiss:

Teacher Donald Hawkins shouts enthusiastically to his 3- and 4-year-old students: “Can you name any animals that hop?”
The answers trickle in from the sleepy but smiling youngsters: a kangaroo, a frog, a rabbit. They decide to mimic the frog. It’s 9:30ish in the morning inside Browne Education Campus’s comfortably warm gymnasium in Northeast Washington. Fast-tempoed music gets the kids in the mood to hop, and off they go, rhythmically squatting and bouncing across the room. When the music stops, the children rise, a little more awake.
“Are you ready?” Hawkins yells. “I can’t hear you!”
“Ready!” they reply.

Fractures among high school athletes have serious implications, study finds

Jeannine Stein:

High school sports are becoming increasingly popular with teens, and with that comes injuries. A new study reveals that fractures are not to be taken lightly. They are they fourth-most-common injury and can cause players to drop out of competition and rack up medical procedures.
The study, published recently in the Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine, looked at fractures that occurred among high school athletes at 100 randomly selected high schools around the country from 2005 to 2009. The injuries were categorized to determine who gets them, what causes them and what effect they may have.
Fractures were the fourth-most-common injury after ligament sprains, muscle strains and bruises. Football had the highest fracture rate, and volleyball had the lowest. Fractures happened more often during competition than in practice for every sport except volleyball.

UWM students unhappy about basketball trip, Despite Budget Deficit

Don Walker:

The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Student Association is grumbling about the decision to send the school’s basketball players, staff and some guests on a trip to Italy next month.
The association – the same organization that backed a $25 per student per semester fee to raise money to renovate the Klotsche Center or build a new arena – argues this is no time to be heading overseas while the Athletic Department has a deficit as high as $8 million.
The trip is expected to cost $160,000.
“The fact that the UWM Athletics Department continues to spend outside of its means is troubling. The department simply cannot afford to go on such an extravagant trip regardless of where the money is from,” said Travis Romero-Boeck, president of the Student Association.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: LeBron’s Tax Holiday

The Wall Street Journal:

We come not to praise or bury LeBron James, but only to note that by moving to Miami he’s going to save a bundle on taxes. We’ll take the King of ESPN’s word that he’s jumping to the Miami Heat from the Cleveland Cavaliers mainly for basketball reasons, but it is also true that Florida has no income tax. The rate in Akron, Ohio is a little over 7%
Mr. James figures to earn close to $100 million in salary over five seasons in Miami. According to an analysis by Richard Vedder, an economist at Ohio University, Mr. James’s net present value tax savings on his salary are between $6 million and $8 million by living in Miami versus his home town of Akron. Professional athletes do have to pay other state taxes for the dates they play in visiting team arenas, but most of Mr. James’s considerable endorsement income would be taxed at Florida rates.
The tax comparisons looked even worse for two other teams in the LeBron bidding, the New York Knicks and New Jersey Nets. The New York Post estimated that New York City and state taxes of 12.85% on high income earners would have taken more than $12 million from Mr. James. New Jersey’s rate is nearly 9%. Both of those teams are lousy, but it can’t help their free-agent sales pitch to start out $9 billion to $12 billion in the after-tax hole.

NCAA cracks down on correspondence courses

Alan Scher Zagier:

The NCAA has a message for would-be college athletes hoping to use online courses to bolster their high school transcripts: proceed with caution.
The organization announced Tuesday that it will stop accepting course credit from two virtual schools based in Utah and Illinois as part of a move to strengthen high school eligibility standards in Division I.
That means no more high school credit from Brigham Young University’s independent study program. The school in Provo, Utah, has previously been targeted by NCAA investigators and federal prosecutors pursuing claims of academic fraud at Missouri, Kansas, Mississippi, Nicholls State and Barton County Community College in Kansas.
Also on the prohibited list is the American School, a correspondence program based in Lansing, Ill.
New NCAA rules approved last month require “regular access and interaction” between teachers and students in the 16 core courses required to establish initial eligibility for new college athletes.

On runoff scholarships and college hoops

Eamonn Brenna:

You know what would be, like, a total buzzkill? Signing a scholarship to play collegiate basketball at a major institution, making good on your end of the commitment, and then finding out after a year — or two or three — that, hey, thanks for coming, but we kind of need that scholarship for someone vastly more talented now. Would you mind transferring? This is where we the school will kindly remind you that your scholarship is a one-year, merit-based, renewable document, and we are under no obligation to extend it for another year should we choose not to. Any questions?
Harsh, bro. Harsh. The practice of sending players away via transfer to make room for scholarships is called a runoff, and it happens more frequently than it should — which is to say it shouldn’t happen at all.
Typically, runoff players transfer quietly, moving on from their schools with little protest. Sometimes, though, a player or a player’s family gets angry about what they see as a raw deal. Sometimes they talk to the media. These are important moments; they draw the curtain back on one of college basketball’s most unfair, exploitative policies, and they’re worth discussing when they arrive.
Last year’s biggest such moment came when Kentucky coach John Calipari oversaw the transfer of seven players leftover from Billy Gillispie’s tenure at the school. Several of those players publicly claimed they forced out of the program, while Calipari insisted that he merely told those players they likely wouldn’t get much playing time if they decided to stay at UK.

Prep Profile: John Martin, Madison East

Dennis Semrau:

Year: senior
Sports: swimming, tennis, soccer
Swimming highlights: John is a four-time letterwinner and two-year captain at East. He was a member of three state-qualifying relays his senior year. He earned All-State honorable mention for the 200 freestyle relay, which tied for seventh at the WIAA Division 1 state meet. He also swam on the 200 medley relay (16th) and 400 freestyle relay (13th). He earned Wisconsin Interscholastic Swim Coaches Association Academic All-State honors and the team’s Purgolder Award for leadership his senior year. He was an alternate at state as a junior and named the team’s Most Improved Swimmer his freshman year.
Other sports highlights: John is a four-year member of the Purgolders’ JV tennis team as a doubles player. As a senior, he is playing No. 1 doubles with Aaron Lickel and they have a 15-4 record. He earned a varsity letter as a sophomore when was an alternate for East at the state tournament. He played soccer as a freshman and on the JV team as a senior.

Dumbing Down the US Military Academies?

Bruce Fleming:

Instead of better officers, the academies produce burned-out midshipmen and cadets. They come to us thinking they’ve entered a military Camelot, and find a maze of petty rules with no visible future application. These rules are applied inconsistently by the administration, and tend to change when a new superintendent is appointed every few years. The students quickly see through assurances that “people die if you do X” (like, “leave mold on your shower curtain,” a favorite claim of one recent administrator). We’re a military Disneyland, beloved by tourists but disillusioning to the young people who came hoping to make a difference.
In my experience, the students who find this most demoralizing are those who have already served as Marines and sailors (usually more than 5 percent of each incoming class), who know how the fleet works and realize that what we do on the military-training side of things is largely make-work. Academics, too, are compromised by the huge time commitment these exercises require. Yes, we still produce some Rhodes, Marshall and Truman Scholars. But mediocrity is the norm.
Meanwhile, the academy’s former pursuit of excellence seems to have been pushed aside by the all-consuming desire to beat Notre Dame at football (as Navy did last year). To keep our teams in the top divisions of the National Collegiate Athletic Association, we fill officer-candidate slots with students who have been recruited primarily for their skills at big-time sports. That means we reject candidates with much higher predictors of military success (and, yes, athletic skills that are more pertinent to military service) in favor of players who, according to many midshipmen who speak candidly to me, often have little commitment to the military itself.

Bruce Fleming website

Bud Selig Wins Award for PED Education, Destroys Concept of Irony

Andy Hutchins:

If I were looking for people who had done much to curb the use of performance-enhancing drugs, I think I might take Arnold Schwarzenegger over Bud Selig. Apparently, the Taylor Hooton Foundation thinks differently.

NEW YORK — Commissioner Bud Selig was named the first recipient of Taylor’s Award, presented by the Taylor Hooton Foundation to an individual who has made a major impact on efforts to educate and protect American youth from the dangers of using performance-enhancing drugs.

No Tackling, but a Girls’ Sport Takes Some Hits

Katie Thomas:

Flag football, long relegated to family picnics and gym class, has quietly become one of the fastest-growing varsity sports for high school girls in Florida. A decade after it was introduced, nearly 5,000 girls play statewide — a welcome development in a state that, like others, has struggled to close the gender gap in high school athletics.
Jupiter High School’s Megan Higgins facing Dwyer High School in a game in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. Flag football has become one of the fastest-growing varsity sports in Florida.
But rather than applaud the new opportunities, some women’s sports advocates call it a dead-end activity. Flag football is played only at the club and intramural level in colleges, and unless one counts the Lingerie Football League, no professional outlets exist. Alaska is the only other state that considers it a varsity sport.
“No one is saying flag football isn’t a great sport to play,” said Neena Chaudhry, the senior counsel at the National Women’s Law Center, which has brought several cases against high schools alleging violations of Title IX, the federal law mandating gender equity in education. “But I do think it’s relevant to ask questions about whether girls are getting the same kind of educational opportunities as boys.”

A Few Words on Teachers

I had the wonderful opportunity to attend the 2010 Wisconsin Solo & Ensemble Festival. It is a true delight to enjoy the results of student and teacher practice, dedication and perseverance.
I very much appreciate the extra effort provided by some teachers on behalf of our children.
I thought about those teachers today when I received an email from a reader asking why I continue to publish this site. This reader referred to ongoing school bureaucratic intransigence on reading, particularly in light of the poor results (Alan Borsuk raises the specter of a looming Wisconsin “reading war“).
I’ll respond briefly here.
Many years ago, I had a Vietnam Vet as my high school government teacher. This guy, took what was probably an easy A for many and turned it into a superb, challenging class. He drilled the constitution, Bill of Rights, Federalist Papers and the revolutionary climate into our brains.
Some more than others.
I don’t have the ability to stop earmark, spending or lobbying excesses in Washington, nor at the State, or perhaps even local levels. I do have the opportunity to help, in a very small way, provide a communication system (blog, rss and enewsletter) for those interested in K-12 matters, including our $400M+ Madison School District. There is much to do and I am grateful for those parents, citizens, teachers and administrators who are trying very hard to provide a better education for our children.
It is always a treat to see professionals who go the extra mile. I am thankful for such wonderful, generous people. Saturday’s WSMA event was a timely reminder of the many special people around our children.

Driven Young Man With a Basketball Mission

Daniel Libit:

De La Salle and Foreman High Schools battled for the 4A state basketball sectional semifinals March 10 in a packed Maywood gym, but in many ways, the most interesting action was unfolding in the north bleachers. There, two rows up from the floor, Daniel Poneman held court in his usual fashion.
Every few moments, Mr. Poneman stood up to greet someone he knew, and by the end of the evening, it seemed as if he had exchanged handshakes and hugs with half of those in attendance. The gym was one giant flowchart before him. Even as Mr. Poneman tracked the action, a recruiter from Purdue, a local basketball legend, and a former Foreman coach who has since moved to Niles North High School all passed — very noticed — before Mr. Poneman’s well-trained eyes.
“I really wouldn’t call him a scout,” said Nate Pomeday, an assistant coach at Oregon State. “I would call him more of a professional networker.”

First choice for charters, second (or third) chance for players

Josh Barr:

Check out at the boys’ basketball rosters for Friendship Collegiate and the Kamit Institute for Magnificent Achievers and the number of transfers on each team is striking. Nearly all of the players on both rosters started their high school careers elsewhere before transferring to one of the two D.C. public charter schools.
“We’re cleaning up, we’re the last stop,” KIMA Coach Levet Brown said. “Do you think I could get a Eugene McCrory if he was doing well somewhere else?”
Indeed, McCrory — who has committed to play for Seton Hall and was selected to play in the Capital Classic — attended C.H. Flowers and Parkdale in Prince George’s County and Paul VI Catholic in Fairfax during his first three years of high school.

Eye-Opener: NCAA’s “Dirty Dozen” down to 4

Tom Weir:

Good morning. U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan must be fairly pleased with the NCAA tournament results so far. Of the 12 teams he branded as unworthy of being in the tourney because of their graduation rates, eight have been knocked off.
Gone from the “Dirty Dozen” that didn’t meet Duncan’s standard of at least a 40% grad rate: Arkansas-Pine Bluff (29%), California (20%), Clemson (37%), Georgia Tech (38%), Louisville (38%), Maryland (8%), Missouri (36%), New Mexico State (36%).
Still alive in the Sweet 16: Baylor (36%), Kentucky (31%), Tennessee (30%), Washington (29%). Washington will be an underdog to West Virginia, as will be Tennessee to Ohio State. Baylor will be favored over St. Mary’s, and the most interesting matchup of the minds will be Kentucky, facing the Ivy League’s Cornell.

The Academic Performance Tournament

David Motz:

For the fifth consecutive year, Inside Higher Ed presents its Academic Performance Tournament – a unique look at what the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament would look like if teams advanced based solely on their outcomes in the classroom.
The winners were determined using the NCAA’s Academic Progress Rate, a nationally comparable score that gives points to teams whose players stay in good academic standing and remain enrolled from semester to semester. When teams had the same Academic Progress Rates, the tie was broken using the NCAA’s Graduation Success Rate – which, unlike the federal rate, considers transfers and does not punish teams whose athletes leave college before graduation if they leave in good academic standing.

DC high school football team gets female coach

Joseph White:

The football players at Calvin Coolidge Senior High School, Mayor Adrian Fenty and a room full of cheering staff needed only one word to describe her: coach.
Natalie Randolph, a 29-year-old biology and environmental sciences teacher, was introduced Friday as the coach of the school’s Coolidge Colts. She’s believed to be the nation’s only female head coach of a high school varsity football team.
“While I’m proud to be part of what this all means,” Randolph said, “being female has nothing to do with it. I love football. I love football, I love teaching, I love these kids. My being female has nothing to do with my support and respect for my players on the field and in the classroom.”
The news conference drew the kind of attention usually reserved for the Washington Redskins and was delayed nearly two hours so Fenty, who is up for re-election this year, could be there and proclaim “Natalie Randolph Day” in the city.

A Little Fiction

Will Fitzhugh
The Concord Review
February 3, 2010
I got a call the other day from the head football coach at one of the larger state universities.
He said, after the usual greetings, “I’ve got some real problems.”
“Like what?” I asked.
“The players I am getting now are out of shape, they don’t know how to block or tackle, then can’t read the playbook and they can’t follow their assignments.”
“That does sound bad. What is your record this season?”
“The teams we play seem to have similar problems, so all our games are pretty sad affairs, ending in scoreless ties.”
“Also,” he told me, “During breaks in practice, most of them are text-messaging their friends, and almost half of them just drop out of college after a year or two !”
“Have you talked to any of the high school coaches who send you players?”
“No, I don’t know them.”
“Have you visited any of the high school games or practices?”
“No, I really don’t have time for that sort of thing.”
“Well, have you heard there is a big new push for Common National Athletic Standards?”
“No, but do you think that will help solve my problems? Are they really specific this time, for a change?”
“Absolutely,” I said. “They want to require high school students, before they graduate, to be able to do five sit-ups, five pushups, and to run 100 yards without stopping. They also recommend that students spend at least an hour a week playing catch with a ball!”
“That is a start, I guess, but I don’t think it will help me much with my problem. My U.S. players have just not been prepared at all for college football. I have a couple of immigrant kids, from Asia and Eastern Europe, who are in good shape, have been well coached at the secondary level, and they have a degree of motivation to learn and determination to do their best that puts too many of our local kids to shame.”
“Well,” I said, “what do you think of the idea of getting to know some of the coaches at the high schools which are sending you players, and letting them know the problems that you are having?”
“I could do that, I guess, but I don’t know any of them, and we never meet, and I am really too busy at my level, when it comes down to it, to make that effort.”
[If we were talking about college history professors, this would not be fiction. They do complain about the basic knowledge of their students, and their inability to read books and write term papers. But like their fictional coaching counterpart, they never talk to high school history teachers (they don’t know any), they never visit their classrooms, and they satisfy themselves with criticizing the students they get from the admissions office. Their interest in National Common Academic Standards does not extend to their suggesting that high school students should read complete nonfiction books and write a serious research paper every year. In short, they, like the fictional head coach, don’t really care if students are so poorly prepared for college that half of them drop out, and that most of them do not arrive on campus prepared to do college work. They are really too busy, you see…]
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US Education Chief Criticizes NBA and the NCAA

Katie Thomas:

Education Secretary Arne Duncan entered some of the most contentious debates in college sports on Thursday when, in a speech at the N.C.A.A. convention, he called for stricter consequences for college teams that do not graduate their athletes and said the N.B.A.’s age-minimum policy sets up young athletes for failure.
“Why do we allow the N.C.A.A, why do we allow universities, why do we allow sports to be tainted when the vast majority of coaches and athletic directors are striving to instill the right values?” said Duncan, who was a co-captain of his Harvard basketball team and played in an Australian professional league from 1987 until 1991.
He said his time as a college athlete was one of the most valuable periods of his life, but feared the N.B.A.’s age rule, which requires that a player be at least 19 years old and at least one year removed from high school before entering the league, does a disservice to athletes.

Texas QB Colt McCoy keeps close ties to tiny high school home despite family moving on

Schuyler Dixon:

They call this McCoy Country – or TuscolTa, with a Texas Longhorn “T” dropped in for good measure.
This tiny West Texas outpost is home to quarterback Colt McCoy. It doesn’t matter that he’s getting ready to lead his second-ranked Longhorns against No. 1 Alabama for the national title, or that his dad (a coach) moved the family for another job about the same time he left for Austin nearly five years ago.
“I don’t go back probably as much as I should, but when I do I really enjoy it,” McCoy said Sunday in Newport Beach, Calif., where the Longhorns are based this week. “There’s a lot of down-to-earth people. They really keep in touch with me. They support me. That really is pretty neat.
“I wouldn’t change where I came from at all.”
It’s evident his hometown loves McCoy right back.

A remarkable journey to the Rose Parade for blind marching band

Dan Abendschein, via a kind reader’s email:

Their journey to the 121st Rose Parade is a marvel even to the Ohio State School for the Blind’s marching band leader Dan Kelly.
“It’s very exciting,” said Kelly, who also teaches technology at the school. “It started small, but it’s grown and snowballed – and here we are.”
Back in 1998, the Ohio State School for the Blind’s music program involved only vocal music. Now, just over a decade later, the school’s marching band will perform in one of the world’s top showcases for marching bands – the first blind band ever to march in the Rose Parade.
The band was one of 19 that performed at the two-day Bandfest, which ended Wednesday at Pasadena City College’s football field. It featured all of the marching bands that will appear in the Rose Parade.
But the event also gives the bands a chance to showcase their performance abilities in a larger arena, performing formations they will not be able to do at the parade.

Happy New Year!

Keeping Score When It Counts: Assessing the 2009‐10 Bowl‐bound College Football Teams – Academic Performance Improves but Race Still Matters

Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports [182K PDF]:

Overall academic progress continued while the gap between white and African‐American football student‐athletes increased slightly for the 67* Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) schools (formerly known as Division I‐A schools) playing in this year’s college football bowl games according to a study released today by The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport (TIDES) at the University of Central Florida.
Richard Lapchick, the Director of TIDES and the primary author of the study Keeping Score When It Counts: Assessing the 2009‐10 Bowl‐bound College Football Teams – Academic Performance Improves but Race Still Matters, noted that, “The academic success of big time college student‐athletes that grew continuously under the leadership of the late Dr. Myles Brand continued this year and will be part of his legacy. The new study shows additional progress and reinforces the success of Dr. Brand’s academic reform package. This year, 91 percent (61 of the 67 schools), the same as in the 2008‐09 report and up from 88 percent in the 2007‐08 report, had at least a 50 percent graduation rate for their football teams; approximately 90 percent of the teams received a score of more than 925 on the NCAA’s Academic Progress Rate (APR) versus 88 percent in the 2008‐09 report.”
The NCAA created the APR in 2004 as part of an academic reform package designed to more accurately measure student‐athlete’s academic success as well as improve graduation rates at member institutions.
Lapchick added that, “In spite of the good news, the study showed that the disturbing gap between white and African‐American football student‐athletes remains a major issue; 21 teams or 31 percent of the bowl‐bound schools graduated less than half of their African‐American football student‐athletes, while only two schools graduated less than half of their white football student‐athletes.”

Beyond the Classroom: Using Title IX to Measure the Return to High School Sports

Betsey Stevenson [317K PDF]:

Previous research has found that male high school athletes experience better outcomes than non-athletes, including higher educational attainment, employment rates, and wages. However, students self-select into athletics so these may be selection effects rather than causal effects. To address this issue, I examine Title IX which provides a unique quasi- experiment in female athletic participation. Between 1972 and 1978 U.S. high schools rapidly increased their female athletic participation rates–to approximately the same level as their male athletic participation rates–in order to comply with Title IX. This paper uses variation in the level of boys’ athletic participation across states before Title IX as an instrument for the change in girls’ athletic participation over the 1970s. Analyzing differences in outcomes for both the pre- and post-Title IX cohorts across states, I find that a 10-percentage point rise in state-level female sports participation generates a 1 percentage point increase in female college attendance and a 1 to 2 percentage point rise in female labor force participation. Furthermore, greater opportunities to play sports leads to greater female participation in previously male-dominated occupations, particularly for high-skill occupations.

Latest College athletics fiscal data hint at moderation

Gary Brown:

ata from the NCAA’s most recent study on revenue and expenses [6MB PDF Complete Report] at Division I institutions show a slight moderation in the rate of spending in the aggregate within the division and a reduced growth in the gap between the so-called “haves” and “have-nots,” though the gap continues to be wide.
The report summarizing Division I athletics program finances between 2004 and 2008 also reveals that 25 schools – all in the Football Bowl Subdivision – reported positive net revenue for the 2008 fiscal year, six more than in the 2006 fiscal year. Only 18 FBS institutions, however, have reported revenue over expenses when the data from all five years are aggregated.
The findings make NCAA officials cautiously optimistic that the advice from former NCAA President Myles Brand’s Presidential Task Force three years ago to moderate spending is being heeded, though those same officials acknowledge that these data through the end of the 2008 fiscal year (June) do not reflect the subsequent economic downturn that may reveal a different story on spending in next year’s report.

Mesquite ISD a pioneer on dealing with student concussions

Karel Holloway:

With a concussion, there is no obvious injury – no blood, no swelling, no arm at an awkward angle.
Coaches and athletic trainers have to look for subtle signs from an athlete, such as a shake of the head, a vacant expression or a long pause before a football player lines up for the next play.
Until the past few years, a student athlete in Mesquite might have gone back into the game after a quick assessment. But that’s changing as officials realize how common concussions are and how profound their effects can be over time.
“If a kid suffers a concussion in Mesquite, they are going to miss a minimum of two weeks,” said Bucky Taylor, Mesquite High School’s head athletic trainer.

Advocating for Girls’ Sports With a Sharp Tongue

Katie Thomas:

Few girls who play sports in suburban Philadelphia would recognize Robert H. Landau, but many coaches and athletic directors know that spotting him in the bleachers could spell trouble.
With a sharp tongue, a refusal to compromise and a well-honed sense of injustice, Landau is that familiar breed of community activist with a knack for pushing public officials over the edge. His specialty is girls’ sports, and his targets are usually wealthy public schools from the Main Line suburbs that pride themselves on being progressive and fair in offering a rich array of opportunities.
No slight to girls is too small for Landau to take on. His victories range from the momentous to the less obvious, like forcing his daughters’ school district to provide more athletic choices, pressuring leagues to showcase their title games and getting a school mascot to perform at their games.
Landau’s complaint against Haverford High School — over issues like publicity for and scheduling of boys’ and girls’ basketball games — has upset even those who would otherwise support him.

Women’s Sports, Title IX And The Cheerleader Option

Frank Deford:

Purists love to play the game, “Is that a sport?” They’ll ask, is synchronized swimming really a sport? Is a dog show? Is poker? Is Ultimate Frisbee? And, the most controversial of all: Is cheerleading a sport?
But it isn’t just the usual arguments that are raised when cheerleading is the issue. Cheerleading, you see, is deeply embroiled in gender politics, and given the demographics of college attendance, cheerleading is surely going to remain a flashpoint.
It all traces back to Title IX, the 1972 law which mandates that, in sports, athletic representation on campus must mirror student enrollment. As the percentage of collegians tilts more and more female, this means, simply enough, that some men’s sports must be eliminated.
Today, at least 57 percent of all American college students are female, and that number is expected to rise. On average in college, there are already 8.7 women’s teams for every 7.8 men’s teams.