Rosen’s claims are on the mark

Los Angeles Times - - SPORTS - BILL PLASCHKE

The sea­son hasn’t even started, and al­ready UCLA’s Josh Rosen is brazenly throw­ing into traf­fic.

Mere days af­ter mak­ing it clear he was go­ing to take a more sub­dued ap­proach this fall, the po­lar­iz­ing quar­ter­back made head­lines again this week with the pub­lish­ing of an in­ter­view con­ducted last spring.

In it, Rosen ba­si­cally said that, when it comes to col­lege foot­ball, the phrase, “stu­dent-ath­lete” was a sham.

“Look, foot­ball and school don’t go to­gether,” he told Bleacher Re­port’s Matt Hayes. “They just don’t. Try­ing to do both is like try­ing to do two full-time jobs.”

Rosen claimed col­leges pri­or­i­tize ath­letes’ el­i­gi­bil­ity ahead of their ed­u­ca­tion. He crit­i­cized the lack of mean­ing­ful aca­demic help for ath­letes fac­ing im­pos­si­ble sched­ules. He even of­fered a spe­cific ex­am­ple, cit­ing his in­abil­ity to sign up for a re­quired UCLA class this spring be­cause it in­ter­fered with spring foot­ball.

“You have a bunch of peo­ple at the uni­ver­si­ties who are sup­posed to help you out, and they’re more in­ter­ested in help­ing you stay el­i­gi­ble,” he said.

“There’s so much money be­ing made in this sport. It’s a crime to not do every­thing you can to help the peo­ple who are mak­ing it for those who are spend­ing it.”

Nat­u­rally, his words were im­me­di­ately con­demned from ivory tow­ers to hal­lowed halls. David Shaw, Stan­ford coach, called his state­ments “un­for­tu­nate.” His coach, Jim Mora, sup­ported his right to speak, but ques­tioned the va­lid­ity of his opin­ions.

“I’m re­ally proud of the fact that at UCLA, we have a re­ally tremen­dous bal­ance of aca­demic and ath­let­ics,” Mora told re­porters Thurs­day, later adding, “We spend mil­lions of dol­lars mak­ing sure that our stu­dent-ath­letes are not just grad­u­at­ing, but they’re get­ting an ed­u­ca­tion.”

Seem­ingly ev­ery­one mak­ing money off the bil­lion-dol­lar busi­ness of col­lege foot­ball im­me­di­ately at­tempted to knock down this lat­est Rosen laser, which should tell you one thing.

It hit its tar­get. In fact, it might have been the most ac­cu­rate pass of Rosen’s ca­reer.

Nu­mer­ous stud­ies val­i­date Rosen’s sen­ti­ments. Fur­ther­more, there are 280 mil­lion rea­sons why he has the right to ex­press them.

This is the first year of UCLA’s col­lege-record $280-mil­lion shoe and ap­parel deal with Un­der Ar­mour. That money re­flects the per­ceived value when play­ers such as Rosen trot on to na­tional tele­vi­sion wear­ing Un­der Ar­mour’s equip­ment.

Yet Rosen isn’t re­ceiv­ing a penny of that money. In­stead, he is be­ing paid in a free ed­u­ca­tion, which some think should be enough to keep him quiet.

It’s the op­po­site. Rosen has not only the right, but the re­spon­si­bil­ity, to ques­tion whether this ed­u­ca­tion is proper pay­ment for his ser­vices.

“If his ‘pay’ is in the form of an ed­u­ca­tion, and then he is un­able to ex­tract the full value out of it, he’s get­ting the short end of the deal,” said Andy Sch­warz, a Bay Area an­titrust econ­o­mist who spe­cial­izes in col­lege sports is­sues.

UCLA is every­thing that Mora is tout­ing. It is among the Pac-12 lead­ers in grad­u­a­tion rates. Its aca­demics are among the best in the coun­try. Its en­roll­ment stan­dards are high enough that Bru­ins coaches of­ten com­plain of the dif­fi­cul­ties in re­cruit­ing great ath­letes who are mar­ginal stu­dents.

But that doesn’t make the life of a UCLA player any eas­ier, or pro­hibit Rosen from chal­leng­ing the school to make the bal­ance be­tween aca­demics and ath­let­ics more eq­ui­table.

Ac­cord­ing to a 2015 study of 409 Pac-12 ath­letes by mar­ket re­searchers Penn Schoen Ber­land, the av­er­age ath­lete spent 50 hours a week on ath­let­ics. That’s a full-time job.

In the same study, 80% claimed they missed a class for com­pe­ti­tion, and 54% said they didn’t have time to study for tests. That’s the re­sult of hav­ing two full­time jobs.

Rosen is essen­tially claim­ing that aca­demics is clearly the sec­ond job, the moon­light­ing gig, and be­cause of that, play­ers of­ten are steered not to­ward their real in­ter­ests, but to­ward the classes that will keep them in uni­form. Rosen cor­rectly won­ders, how valu­able is that de­gree if it comes in a field cho­sen only be­cause it gave him the time to play foot­ball?

“They don’t re­al­ize they’re get­ting screwed un­til it’s too late,” Rosen said. “You have a bunch of peo­ple at uni­ver­si­ties who are sup­posed to help you out, and they’re more in­ter­ested in help­ing you stay el­i­gi­ble.”

Daniel Rascher, sports econ­o­mist from the Univer­sity of San Fran­cisco, said one can see the re­sults of these aca­demic bar­ri­ers in many schools, in the fine print be­low the play­ers’ names on Satur­day af­ter­noon tele­vi­sion graph­ics. In­deed, they all seem to be ma­jor­ing in the same thing, and it’s seem­ingly al­ways some am­bi­gu­ity about hu­man­ity and so­ci­ety.

“Adding in a full aca­demic load would be re­ally chal­leng­ing,” said Rascher. “That’s one rea­son why we see clus­ter­ing in cer­tain ma­jors that fit with prac­tice sched­ules.”

Yet Rosen dares to com­plain about these in­sti­tu­tion­ally bro­ken prom­ises and he’s the bad guy? Yes, he may have gone over­board in the in­ter­view when he tar­geted Alabama’s aca­demics, say­ing, “OK, raise the SAT re­quire­ment at Alabama and see what kind of team they have.” But in­stead of Rosen mak­ing col­lege ad­min­is­tra­tors an­gry, he should be mak­ing them think.

“There clearly is an in­cen­tive to al­low enough time for ath­letes to be el­i­gi­ble and a dis­in­cen­tive to al­low more time to fo­cus pri­mar­ily on be­ing a stu­dent,” said Sch­warz of col­lege ath­let­ics. “As an econ­o­mist I can say it’s clear that the fi­nan­cial in­cen­tives align the way you see them: keep ath­letes el­i­gi­ble and then af­ter that, keep them at prac­tice rather than in an af­ter­noon sci­ence lab.”

Rosen is only ask­ing for equal time in both. He and other col­lege ath­letes are owed as much. It’s writ­ten right there in the first two syl­la­bles of their one-word con­tract. That’s why it’s called a schol­ar­ship.

Al Seib Los An­ge­les Times

JOSH ROSEN ques­tioned the value of stu­dent-ath­letes’ ed­u­ca­tion.

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