Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Hail, Stanford, Hail

Following the shocking and unexpected upset of USC, Stanford and its mighty football team got a nice article in the LA Times Sports section today...extolling the virtues of its academically oriented squad. Okay, it wasn't exactly the "football program on the rise" article that I had expected, but I was struck by the noblesse of Kurt Streeter, author of the article and Cal alum:

Moreover, Cardinal football players are almost certain to leave Palo Alto with diplomas. A study released last week by the NCAA, which tracked freshmen who entered college from 1997 to 2000, shows that 93% at Stanford graduate.

At USC, it's 57%.

At UCLA, 56%.

I went to Cal, which calls itself the finest public university in the land. I co-captained a tennis team that won a national indoor title. When I looked at the NCAA study and zoomed in on my alma mater, I felt an urge to lose my lunch. Cal might have become a football power, but at what cost?

Its graduation rate for football players? Just over 52%.


Not every school needs to be as strict as Stanford. Some kids deserve a second chance at taking education seriously. But graduating only half of the athletes on a major-college football team is a scam.

I can imagine that an article like this can't go over too well in the Cal Alumni Association, so I applaud Streeter for his incredibly complimentary article on his alma's arch-rival (talk about football program on the rise!). Not only is he a better writer than Bill Plaschke, but he's fair, too.

So, in the "what's fair is fair" column, I should at least reference another paragraph in the story:

Cardinal players don't take Underwater Fire Prevention. This year, Stanford has 15 players majoring in engineering. They cannot take an easy course load. There isn't any.

To be fair, there was a class at Stanford called "Group Communication," in which you got an A for attending without fail. A holdover from the sixties, the popular course would group students by different criteria each session and have the group tackle issues of race, class, orientation, etc. in a discussion format. I don't know if it was more challenging than Underwater Fire Prevention, but it may not have been too far ahead. I have no idea if the course still exists, either. I'm sure every college has these--but so too did (does?) Stanford.

To be unfair, I also have to call out that in the print edition of the LAT, the above sentence originally read, "They cannot take an easy coarse [sic] load." (The error was corrected in the online edition.) Cheap shot, I know, to point out a simple mistake! Hey, Cal is still my rival, after all. Go Cardinal!