Yesterday, Matt Hayes did a rather fantastic feature for Bleacher Report, sitting down with UCLA star QB, and future pro, Josh Rosen. I highly suggest every Loyal Reader on our little corner of the internet head over to read the whole thing as it contains one of the better recruiting pitches for Notre Dame that you’ll hear from anyone miles away from the shadow of the Golden Dome.
A little confused on my lede? Isn’t this the same report producing clickbait (which I won’t link) of Rosen saying Alabama players are dumb and that there’s no room for school and football? How is that a pitch for ND, especially from a kid that will soon be playing on Sundays?
Allow me to guide you deeper into the full quotes to see what I mean. Let’s start with the context that preceded what ended up becoming clickbait city:
B/R: Look at the bright side: You got a chance to heal, maybe catch up on school.
Rosen: Don’t get me started. I love school, but it’s hard. It’s cool because we’re learning more applicable stuff in my major (Economics)—not just the prerequisite stuff that’s designed to filter out people. But football really dents my ability to take some classes that I need. There are a bunch of classes that are only offered one time. There was a class this spring I had to take, but there was a conflict with spring football, so…
B/R: So football wins out?
Rosen: Well, you can say that.
This context is rather important because Rosen sheds some light on something that many folks may not realize. If a student-athlete decides that he will walk an academic path less-traveled or, more accurately, a major that isn’t structured to magically fit into a football practice/meeting/film/lifting schedule, things can get messy.
I experienced this personally as a student manager during the 2005 season. Having a major in the College of Engineering, not only did I have required courses with required lab work that made scheduling a headache, but I had to pass on electives that I found interesting and perhaps more of a career-builder than what I did have time for. Further, there are other required courses outside my major that Notre Dame required in order to graduate to further complicate matters.
I did manage to find more flexibility, but before I talk about that, let’s let Rosen continue:
B/R: So that’s reality for student-athletes playing at a major university?
Rosen: I didn’t say that, you did. (Laughs.) Look, football and school don’t go together. They just don’t. Trying to do both is like trying to do two full-time jobs[…]
Here’s comment #1 that saw the clickbait rounds. With the context above, you can see why he made this statement and, quite frankly, he’s right. This is exactly how I described my time as a manager while I worked football exclusively. The 2005 season was absolute hell for me and, while I did have to attend every practice, home game, and two away games, I did not have to find myself involved in team meetings, workout sessions, film study, or squeeze in extra time in the training room to take care of my body from being banged up every day.
Plus, due to a lab in my academic schedule that I couldn’t avoid, I was able to be excused Monday afternoon/evening game prep (aka helmet prep for painting back when we did that). So I had a little extra flexibility there, but at the cost of missing the team/victory meal on Monday evenings.
Now, even though this semester was incredibly difficult, I wouldn’t say it was impossible. Much like Rosen, I’d use “hard” is an accurate descriptor. Doing both football and school is an incredible ask. Thankfully, Notre Dame offers loads of academic support to help student-athletes and managers alike in this struggle, but more on that later–let’s get to clickbait #2:
[…]There are guys who have no business being in school, but they’re here because this is the path to the NFL. There’s no other way. Then there’s the other side that says raise the SAT eligibility requirements. OK, raise the SAT requirement at Alabama and see what kind of team they have. You lose athletes and then the product on the field suffers.
“No business in school” may sound hard, but Rosen is pointing at the clear reality that some players have no interest in hitting the books. They want to play on Sundays, but, with no minor league, the NFL is happy to leave that mess to the NCAA and its member institutions.
While the folks at SBNation saw this quote as a clear issue with the NCAA, I choose to aim my blame cannon squarely at the NFL for passing the buck. The NCAA is ill-equipped to handle any form of minor league yet are forced to do so while the NFL kicks back and enjoys paying zero dollars while the NCAA attempts to regulate college football with laughable or stupid attempts to preserve amateurism.
However, solely blaming the NFL isn’t wise on my part, and thus, I also toss a fair amount of blame to NCAA member institutions for helping foster this environment. Rosen used Alabama as an example here. Their athletic focus is purely wins, not so much assisting on the academic side of excellence. I’d wager if you had an honest talk with anyone screaming “ROLE TIDE”, they’d admit as much. So, as Josh points out, if your (terrible) solution to this problem is to weed out kids by requiring higher SAT scores, that will quite likely have a ripple effect on the Tide’s roster as admission policy would be required to change.
And, let’s be honest, this isn’t just an Alabama or even just a football problem (see: North Carolina). There are loads of NCAA member institutions that place athletic results above academic excellence and, at worst case, academic integrity. This is why I’ve long said that schools actually giving a damn about the “student” side of student-athlete is the real solution to this problem.
And so, Rosen hits the nail on the head with his Alabama comparison and, as he continues, begins to inadvertently preach to the Notre Dame choir, much to my delight:
B/R: Wait, some players shouldn’t be in school?
Rosen: It’s not that they shouldn’t be in school. Human beings don’t belong in school with our schedules. No one in their right mind should have a football player’s schedule, and go to school. It’s not that some players shouldn’t be in school; it’s just that universities should help them more—instead of just finding ways to keep them eligible. Any time any player puts into school will take away from the time they could put into football. They don’t realize that they’re getting screwed until it’s too late. You have a bunch of people at the universities who are supposed to help you out, and they’re more interested in helping you stay eligible. At some point, universities have to do more to prepare players for university life and help them succeed beyond football. There’s so much money being made in this sport. It’s a crime to not do everything you can to help the people who are making it for those who are spending it.
It’s almost like Rosen is advocating that playing college football should be a forty year decision instead of a four year decision…
But, in all seriousness, this should have you jumping for joy as a Notre Dame fan, especially considering how this interview has made the rounds in the past 24 hours. Most of the national media has been nodding their heads in agreement and failing to realize they are co-signing an opinion that Notre Dame has been preaching for decades.
Hell, one of our own writers, Lisa, has been doing that for years in her “Where Are They Now?” series. She has also published not one, but two books on the topic. The South Bend Tribune, in their preseason magazine, highlights Brandon Wimbush’s academic and business desires in-depth. It takes little to no effort to find examples of success stories of what Rosen may consider his gold standard of what college football and academics should be like.
Swinging back to my personal experience as a manager, I was able to benefit from the assistance that Notre Dame granted all athletes. I had the first D.A.R.T (class selection) time window possible to give me the best chance to fit needed classes in my crazy schedule. I had also had full access to additional academic counseling and tutoring, which I absolutely took advantage of during the 2005 season.
I had a class called “Signals and Systems”, an electrical engineering course that my computer engineering degree required. I had met with my professor, even purchased additional books and study guides he recommended. It wasn’t working. I was on the edge of failure and had a full-blown panic attack over fall break because of it. I walked into the academic support office in Coleman-Morris and requested a tutor for a course no one in that building had ever heard of.
Within that same week, I had a tutor.
While I have zero doubt that the choice to become a student-manager negatively affected my GPA (and perhaps my sanity), I will never regret it. I believe that I would not have graduated in four years without that tutor and the academic support the athletic department provided. It was one course, one extra hour of tutoring a week, but that tutor, one of my engineering peers, helped me grasp concepts that were way over my head, allowing me the chance to kick the final exam’s ass and pass the course.
B/R: How is it, then, that some guys graduate in three years? Deshaun Watson graduated in three years from Clemson. So did his roommate, Artavis Scott.
Rosen: I’m not knocking what those guys accomplished. They should be applauded for that. But certain schools are easier than others.
B/R: It can’t be that simple.
Rosen: If I wanted to graduate in three years, I’d just get a sociology degree. I want to get my MBA. I want to create my own business. When I’m finished with football, I want a seamless transition to life and work and what I’ve dreamed about doing all my life. I want to own the world. Every young person should be able to have that dream and the ability to access it. I don’t think that’s too much to ask.
It isn’t too much to ask. The belief that every player should have a successful life after football is practiced daily at a very real place. You’ll find it in South Bend, Indiana under the shine of the Golden Dome.