Numbers the major point in Harbaugh-Michigan crossfire
In the rhetorical crossfire that has turned Michigan vs. Harbaugh into the (endless) spat of the summer in college football, the first casualty has been the facts.Squabbling over whether former Wolverines quarterback Jim Harbaugh should have said what he said about his alma mater's academic standards for football players is to be expected. Attacks on Harbaugh's lifetime status as a "Michigan man" -- they love that phrase in maize-and-blue territory -- have been excessive but are not shocking. The Stanford coach's hurt feelings in response are predictable. But here's what nobody is discussing: whether Harbaugh spoke the truth when he called out Michigan for admitting "borderline guys" and for steering athletes toward softer majors than the general student population.
Yet a university spokesman said this week that less than 1 percent of the undergraduate student body is in the general studies degree program. The spokesman said there are fewer than 200 general studies students out of an undergrad population of nearly 25,000.And that's not all. The other declared degree programs on the football team are: movement science (three players); sports management and communications (two); economics (two); P.E. (one); psychology (one); English (one); and American culture (one). There appears to be one undeclared player enrolled in the business school and another in the college of engineering.
Only one junior has declared a major, according to the guide (in movement science). In 18 years of covering college athletics, I've never seen virtually an entire junior class without a major.
After this story was posted on Wednesday afternoon, Michigan football spokesman Dave Ablauf sent an e-mail which said, in part, that Michigan students "don't declare majors until their junior year." He also sent along a university-generated "Academic Success Program" document which says that 20 of 25 Michigan seniors graduated last year.
My motivation was positive. I see how it's done now at Stanford, and I see no reason to believe it can't be the same there. I have a great love for Michigan and what it's done for me.
"I learned from a great man named Bo Schembechler that you speak the truth as you know it. It may not be the popular thing, but you speak your mind. Everything I said is supported by fact, but the thing that has come back is the personal attack on me, not looking at the issue whatsoever."The most bothersome personal attack to Harbaugh came from Hart. Even more bothersome was the fact that nobody within the Michigan hierarchy has publicly reined in Hart for blasting a well-decorated alum.
"Mike Hart is just repeating their messages," Harbaugh said. "When I was a player, there would have been nobody saying anything like what Mike Hart said about me. We would have been too afraid of the consequences. That wouldn't have happened while Bo was there. I'm glad as the head coach of Stanford I don't have to deal with those repercussions."Instead, Harbaugh is dealing with the repercussions of his own words, which prompted a question: Why did he bring up the issue of Michigan's academic standards to begin with? "My motivation was positive," he said. "I see how it's done now at Stanford, and I see no reason to believe it can't be the same there. I have a great love for Michigan and what it's done for me. Bo Schembechler was like a second father. Michigan is a great school and always has been, and I don't see why they can't hold themselves to a higher standard.
"The BGS degree does not have a foreign language requirement, and the BA and BS do. Otherwise most of the degree requirements are the same: students must complete first-year writing, upper-level writing, quantitative reasoning, and race & ethnicity requirements for all three degrees."In our experience, the BGS is most attractive to students who want flexibility and who find the constraints of a traditional major limiting. The BGS degree allows students more latitude to explore and then develop expertise in multiple areas." Michigan athletes fare well by most academic yardsticks, at least in comparison to their peers. The football team has the third-highest academic progress rate in the Big Ten and ranks above the national average. The graduation rate ranks third in the Big Ten, as well -- although it dips to 38 percent (seventh in the 11-team league) for African-American players. But you wonder how the vast majority of a senior class could wind up clustered in an obscure major such as general studies unless players were being guided that way -- just as Jim Harbaugh suggested. And you wonder why the football program would be so bellicose in response to anyone questioning such a thing, especially a former player of significant stature. It seems as though folks in Ann Arbor are defensive for a reason these days. Even to the point of devouring one of their own.
Pat Forde is a national columnist for ESPN.com. He can be reached at ESPN4D@aol.com.