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Josh Rosen Comments Highlight A Major Problem With College Football

 

Josh Rosen is no stranger to speaking his mind. It has been reported since last year that his position coach budgets time to start each meeting by allowing Rosen to speak extemporaneously about whichever topics he chooses. Neither is Rosen unfamiliar with controversial comments. He has, at various times throughout his career, been accused of being condescending, focused on issues above his paygrade, and prone to enjoying the sound of his own voice. His most recent comments about college football, as it is currently practiced at the highest levels, and college school work being incompatible are, thusly, not a surprise. Josh Rosen likes to talk about issues.

 

On the eve of a season that will determine the future of his coaching staff, and many of his teammates collegiate future, he should probably be more focused on his job as quarterback. He also has likely only considered his own experiences, and is thus, speaking with a strong bias. And as Charles Barkley, and others, have pointed out, a white kid from a prosperous background probably isn’t the best spokesman or advisor for the majority of college football players who are overwhelmingly people of color, and overwhelmingly poor. He is also, on this issue, 100% right.

 

Look, Barkley’s comments as they pertain to Rosen’s privilege and the associated racial implications are both timely and valid. But while Barkley is speaking out for a just cause, he’s missed the point of Rosen’s original comments. At no point did Rosen advocate for limiting academic requirements. He simply pointed out that the requirements for a college degree and the requirements of being a football player in a Power 5 Conference are both full time pursuits. So while Barkley is correct that Rosen should not be speaking for black students from an impoverished background, that is not what Rosen was doing. He was simply making an observation. Sir Charles, and others, should simply move on here and not confuse the issues.

 

If we consider the graduation rates of college football players, as well as the degrees they receive, and how they complete those degrees, Rosen’s comments still ring true. At major college football programs graduation rates among football players vary from 41-97%. It is not shocking that the better teams at graduating players are typically not winning programs. Only TCU, LSU, and Stanford have played in major bowl games in the last decade. None have made the playoffs in the last 3 seasons. Additionally, there have been major allegations regarding the quality of degrees available to college athletes. From coaches steering players out of more time consuming (ie legitimate) majors to the proliferation of online independent study courses during the season the graduation rates for many schools are skewed. North Carolina and Auburn have both come under fire for their online independent study programs in recent years.

 

So what do these comments mean? It is telling that a college athlete would be so direct about their time constraints in August. It’s not really news. Anyone that has spent time around a power 5 football program knows that the athletes are stretched for time, it's why they are given preference during registration for classes. It seems like Rosen’s comments are yet another example of people speaking out about the inequities that are rampant in college sports these days. There was a time when football coaches made roughly the same money as college professors and deans. There was a time when student athletes could cover the entire cost of study, including living expenses, with a scholarship and a pell grant. In both cases those days are gone. It is becoming increasingly difficult to justify not paying college football players when coaches routinely make 7 figures and athletic departments pull in tens of millions in profits. The time constraints placed on students is simply one aspect of the overall inequity. College athletes are steered towards easier majors - with lower career prospects - so that they can focus more on football. That’s the main issue that has been ignored thus far. It isn’t being overlooked by Rosen though, who said, "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.”

 

And that is the real issue.

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