There’s an old adage that if it bleeds, it leads. Basically, tragedy and negativity will sell more newspapers and get more eyeballs, because people love to slow down and look at a car wreck. This extends to college football, and unfortunately it means that while we hear about the alleged crimes and misdeeds of athletes, all of the good things being accomplished are being generally ignored. Such is the case with the great academic accomplishment of the Syracuse University football team.
— Scott Shafer (@Coach_Shafer) May 18, 2015
Do you know what the current football headlines are on Syracuse.com right now? The Las Vegas over/under on wins being set at 4.5, and Scott Shafer being ranked by Sporting News as one of the worst coaches in the ACC. Farther down the page, you can read about the trouble the Syracuse football program is in, and what needs to be done to improve things, and what a tough year it’s been for Syracuse sports. Obviously those are not the only headlines, but you know what is conspicuously absent? The information given in the above tweet.
And I’m not saying those are not things worth talking about, and I’m not trying to pick on the Post-Standard at all. My uncle used to write for the PS, so I’ve always held a softer spot for the newspaper than a lot of people seem to possess. But can anyone explain to me why, exactly, it’s deemed newsworthy that the Sporting News doesn’t think highly of Scott Shafer, but it’s not newsworthy to mention that his team is having such incredible academic success?
A lot of folks reading this probably don’t quite get what the big deal is for a 3.0 GPA, since it’s basically getting a B average. Well, how about this, for starters: Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze boasted back in December about his team having an overall team GPA of 2.57, and after catching some heat he pointed out that the average GPA among student-athletes nationally is 2.3. I work in college athletics and I can absolutely attest to how difficult it is for students to maintain a 3.0 GPA or better. My school has about 300 student-athletes (it’s a small, Division III program) and roughly 100 students-athletes per year achieve Academic All-Conference, which is set at 3.25 solely for the semester of competition. Looking at the overall GPAs of my school’s student-athletes, roughly half of them have an overall GPA of 3.0 or higher – and I work at an institution with an outstanding academic reputation and high admission standards.
Sometimes, you just have to realize that it’s okay to be positive about college athletes. They do some great things, and it doesn’t kill anyone to actually step back and recognize when they achieve something that’s worth bragging about. Let me tell you right now, Coach Shafer and his staff will absolutely use this as a selling point during recruiting. But chances are the only thing you’ll hear about is when they miss out on a recruit. I’m going to go ahead and guess that if and when you hear about this in the local media, you’re more likely to hear it phrased, “More Than 1/3 of Syracuse Football Players Unable to Maintain a B-Average.”
Because negativity sells, apparently.