Michigan’s Schlissel Talks about the Fight Club

“We admit students who aren’t as qualified, and it’s probably the kids that we admit that can’t honestly, even with lots of help, do the amount of work and the quality of work it takes to make progression from year to year,” he said. “These past two years have gotten better, but before that, the graduation rates were terrible, with football somewhere in the 50s and 60s when our total six-year rate at the University is somewhere near 90 percent, so that’s a challenge.” - Michigan President Mark Schlissel

Here we are, a few days after someone actually in collegiate athletics said what many of us have been thinking for years: institutions of higher learning are admitting students they wouldn’t normally admit.

The first rule of Fight Club is - you do not talk about Fight Club. – Brad Pitt as Tyler Durden in Fight Club

Anyone know what the big draw to Big Ten schools are? If you said its performances on the football field, basketball or volleyball courts, or hockey rinks you’d be wrong. The Big Ten is generally considered to be institutions of the highest learning. Meaning that, in general you can’t be stupid to go there.

Some of the worst schools in the conference at football, are the best in academics. Very few – well one – is very good at both. That one, is Michigan. I know that will anger alumni of Northwestern, Penn State, and Purdue, but your athletics aren’t nearly as good as your academics. Guess what, that’s a good thing.

For decades Michigan has been able to maintain a balance – even if flawed – that as long as its academic integrity didn’t suffer, it didn’t mind allowing less-than-stellar students into its university. This balance is maintained at many schools across the country, but most don’t operate at athletic output levels of Michigan.

This isn’t a knock against Ohio State, Tennessee, Texas, or any of the other schools whose athletic departments actually produce a profit, but honestly, your academics aren’t as good as Michigan’s.

Be angry, I’m on Twitter and have an e-mail address – reach out.

Michigan’s President Mark Schlissel said that he’s concerned that the perception of the schools’ academics is taking a hit because of the quality of student-athlete being admitted to the university. We’ve almost never heard a big-school university president say this. This is something more presidents should say, and all of them should act on it.

University presidents in general aren’t the best (read: stupid) when it comes to how collegiate athletics works, the cost, or in general what type of student-athletes are allowed to be admitted and under what circumstances.

For many presidents, it’s a tough pill to swallow knowing that there are people at your university that don’t know John Adams and Thomas Jefferson both died July 4, 1826. Or that these student-athletes don’t know the difference between “they’re,” their,” and “there.”

Mark Schlissel is at the proverbial ‘fork in the road,’ he must decide what’s more important for the university, and don’t think he won’t have help from his boosters. He must decide if his next athletics director will insist on smarter students, who also play sports, or if he’ll stay in his lane and allow less-than-Michigan type people to play sports and to represent the university.

Honestly, it isn’t a decision I want to make. As someone who loves college football, but understands that there’s more to universities than athletics it’s a tough pill to swallow. It also angers me that this is even a decision. Speaking only of football at the FBS level, the overwhelming majority of these student-athletes will ‘go pro in something other than sports,’ but at the same time many of them choose to milk their poop on their education by taking classes such as basket weaving and golf science.

Isn’t it the job of colleges and universities to prepare students, athletes or not, for the future? A few weeks ago, former South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore announced he was retiring from football. ESPN's Darren Rovell reports, Lattimore has an insurance policy worth $1.7 million, but many were saying that the University of South Carolina should set him up for life based on what he gave the university.

I assume everyone forgot that South Carolina gave him a full scholarship, and he could have taken classes in literally anything he wanted to and the school would have paid for it? I know nothing about the man, or what he did in college, but if he didn’t take advantage of that, is that the fault of university presidents who lower academic standards to allow these athletes in, or the fault of the student-athlete who believes they’ll cash in at the professional level?

Schlissel saying what he said about academics and athletics at the university level is refreshing, but he is in the best position to change what happens at his university. In the future, when he turns on Monday Night Football and sees his university represented by men who don’t know why November 11th is important, he’ll have no one but himself to blame.

Mr. Schlissel, please continue talking about the fight club, no matter what it costs.

What do you think? Find me on Twitter at @damiEnbowman or e-mail me at damien.bowman@cfbroundtable.com.

Schlissel photo courtesy of THE University of Michigan