Time for the administration to step up and help MSU athletics!

Hondo S. Carpenter

Time for the administration to step up and help MSU athletics!

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I am not against the occasional JUCO transfer that fits a specific need coming to MSU. A coach needs to have the ability to recruit the JUCO ranks when a rare gem is available or a specific recruit that fills a need. That is the philosophy of many of the MSU coaches.

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According to John Lewandowski, MSU sports information director, whom I spoke with earlier this month, in the fall of 2006 the faculty senate passed a ruling that a C- grade or less was not acceptable from a junior college.Â

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I first learned about this from MSU professors, whom thought that it was absurd. I started to dig as I thought how it might hurt MSU and uncovered many more problems then just that.

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I started doing a much wider look at our competitors in football (OSU, UM, and Notre Dame) and basketball (Duke, UNC and Kansas) to see if our regular admissions and academic requirements were on the same level playing field as these places. They aren’t. Of all of those schools MSU has many of the hardest requirements on student athletes.  Now we raise the requirements on the JUCO’s to a higher level then many of those our coaches are asked to compete against?

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Did you know that MSU, unlike many of our competitors, has a mandatory math requirement? I can tell you for a fact that we have recruits that have no interest in a degree in mathematics or a field that would require such and choose not to go to MSU in order to avoid the embarrassment if they lack the ability to handle the math. That is a FACT! How about that some of our competitors have a Kinesiology program, as does MSU, yet they are very different. What they don’t tell you is that those programs take a “sports management” approach rather then at MSU where the approach is more of a pre-med approach. Again, one is very difficult (MSU) and one is very easy and our competitors funnel many of their less than stellar scholar athletes to that major thus avoiding the embarrassment of the young person not making it academically. Don’t believe me? When our competition comes here read the majors of many of their athletes and ask yourself why do so many “voluntarily” choose a Kinesiology major? Now listen, I am not for giving a kid a degree. That is crap. I am for however looking to see if we are asking our coaches to compete on a playing field that isn’t fair.Â

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Did you know about the restrictions on independent study programs? Many school have their kids travel and play basketball in the summers and they can get independent studies credits while on those tours (many times accumulating as many as 9-12 credits) but often times MSU players can’t. The restrictions on independent studies came about when the independent studies programs were misused by the football program in the past. So we logically punish today’s coaches for yester year errors? One highly regarded member of the MSU family told me that MSU is much stricter with the independent studies program and he knew that it was hurting our coaches badly and that it is a fact that other competitors aren’t that restrictive. He openly acknowledged that MSU is hindered by not creating an atmosphere that is more helpful to the student athlete. It is killing us and it is being hammered to recruits. Many of our competitors let recruits know that they have a “loose” independent studies program to make obtaining a degree significantly easier while MSU requires more actual class time while they balance the difficult schedule of a student athlete.

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I understand that within academia often times there is frustration with sports being so large and prominent. MEMO: get over it. It is a reality. I can understand that they want to safe guard a MSU degree to have it mean something but let me tell you something, fans give millions and the University makes millions off of the athletic programs. I honor what this great University means. I believe that independent study credits should be real but to punish this present set of coaches with the stupid errors of the past is something that the intelligence of MSU should be able to decipher. You wouldn’t enter me in a bikini contest and expect me to win? Why tell our coaches that we expect them to compete for the same kids and beat people that have fewer restrictions?

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One professor speaking with anonymity told me, “Hondo, they feel that a JUCO credit just isn’t as valuable as a MSU credit, and they don’t want them. So many kids have come in and failed that they think it is just a bad idea.”Â

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The NCAA already has new standards that hold schools accountable for graduation rates so why does MSU create a double jeopardy situation? It is absurd that when the playing field with the teams that we ask all of our coaches to compete against starts out uneven. Why shackle them with more useless rules and regulations? I agree that many kids have failed coming here from the JUCO ranks. I also know that many have made it. Why deny them that opportunity and our coaches from doing what they are paid to do…WIN! If it accountability you crave, the NCAA is already touting that it is in place to do that now, even if that program is less then feasible in my opinion.

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Another professor who is a huge athletics supporter emailed me and said, “I think there is a faction that is so angry at the size and scope of athletics that they will do anything to hamper it. I really believe Hondo that they would love to turn us into an Ivy League type school where athletics is marginalized. I can tell you that many of them want a NCAA study to try to limit the size of athletics.” ABSURD!

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I want to reiterate that MSU has some terrific professors. I am sure that it is frustrating to see real life issues get very little or no attention to a kids TD or a three point shot and I would see why that frustrates some. I would also say that an aristocratic mentality certainly can’t fix it. I realize that this next saying may be too blue collar for some of you but dance with the one who brung ya! Ride athletics rather than hate it.

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The best President in the history of MSU was John Hannah. He knew that there were so many more important issues than sports. He also knew that sports got the University the exposure and dollars it needed to expand those much more important areas. I would suggest that rather than seeing sports as a nemesis, use it for your benefit.Â

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Do you people realize that every time Izzo’s team PRACTICES at the Breslin that they have to write a check from the athletic department to pay rent? Did you read that? MSU basketball has to rent the Breslin.Â

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MSU tells us that the cost of athletics is so high that they have to raise costs to the fan and brag that our athletic department is self-sufficient. For the record I think that a self- sufficient athletic department is admirable and the best way to run a major college program. What they don’t tell you is that they have their hand in the athletic departments pockets for every dime they can get. Buy a hot dog or a pop? Do you pay for parking when you go to a game? Guess what? That isn’t money that the athletic department gets, that goes to the University. It is not like the athletic department is out there making a living independent of the University. The University profits from the athletic department.Â

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Did you know that every scholarship athlete (even the sports that make little or no money) has his/her scholarship paid for from the athletic department budget and the athletic department gets no discounts from the University when it comes to those fees? Sure the athletic department is self-sufficient, it also funds huge amounts of money to the University. Plainly MSU has to have a vibrant and successful athletic program, it would cost them too much money if they didn’t.Â

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Again, we have to look at our competitors that we expect our coaches to compete against and win. Are our academic requirements the same? Are they close? Certainly the University gets huge cash from athletics you would think they could at least attempt to help it. I want to say it again. I am not saying MSU should be a diploma factory. I also think that it shouldn’t have expectations on coaches and not help them to reach them by doing all they can do. We all have screamed about the football facilities and guess what? Improvements are on the way because we needed it to compete. Now these issues have to be looked at in order to help them.

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I don’t think you “dumb” things down but you sure as heck don’t hinder the people you hold accountable to win. They want the money that a successful athletic program generates but ignore (in my opinion) some of the very things athletics needs to succeed. Hey people when the athletic department succeeds, it is a fact that applications and donations skyrocket to all departments.
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How many millions have our coaches raised for the University outside of athletics.  A fund raiser with Izzo or Dantonio as the guest speaker will get a lot more attention then a Vet school student, of which my lovely niece is one of them. She is great but people aren’t going to give millions for the library to her, to Tom or Mark they might. Like it or not academia, athletics is the face of the University and that is how it shall remain.

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I asked a MSU professor who contacted me, what could be done to fix the JUCO rules or the admission and academic performance regulations for that matter. He told me “Hondo, it is tradition that when it comes to academics that the University doesn’t overrule the faculty senate.” Well I say forget tradition, this is America; LAKS needs to step in, do a complete evaluation and make the playing field even. If our standards are as low as they should be (and that may be a fact) then she needs to pressure the Big Ten to make a uniform code.Â

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As far as teams having to pay rent to use the facilities built for their use that is just stupid and needs to stop.  With all of the money that the revenue producing sports generate stop insulting them, it is just absurd. Don’t ever tell us that the prices have to go up while the University gains millions from the athletic department. Today’s average family in the Spartan Nation would struggle to attend a game with costs and food and parking yet when was the last time prices went down?

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One recruit that picked one of the schools mentioned above instead of MSU told me recently, “I didn’t pick MSU, it was just too hard to play and go to school there.” This great University stands tall as one of the first Land Grant institutions in the nation. It was founded to give all an opportunity. Sadly, some see it as Harvard and it is not. To discount the JUCO student and to have requirements that are hindrances to kids makes me believe that MSU needs to get back to what it is supposed to be. Let the people that want us to be Harvard go to Harvard. I say we should be proud of a heritage of opportunity and embrace that.

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Sadly, MSU athletics pays the price for the short sightedness of a few. They have lost focus and the administration needs to remind folks that this is the peoples University. Not theirs. It is the property of the people of the State of Michigan and sadly many Michiganders couldn't attend MSU the way it is today, athletes or not. A group of leaders who write bad policy shouldn’t have the protection of being invincible.Â

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I can tell you that it costs us recruits and it may cost us coaches who can’t compete against the very schools that the Spartan Nation expects them to because the University handcuffs them.

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There has to be a better way. I am fully confident that the faculty senate surely is more then smart enough to get it. If not, the administration has to.

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