Another year, another woeful performance on the Wonderlic test for bunches of college athletes who have somehow remained eligible at major universities despite testing borderline literate.
The latest player scores to leak are all wide receivers: West Virginia’s Tavon Austin and Tennessee’s Cordarrelle Patterson and Justin Hunter. The trio scored a 7, 11, and 12, respectively, according to a report in the Milwaukee newspaper. (The news wasn’t all bad, USC’s Robert Woods posted a 23).
A test score of ten on the Wonderlic is considered functional literacy. According to Wonderlic data the average engineer would score around a 30, the average security guard a 17.
So all three of these wide receivers tested borderline literate, and substantially less intelligent than an average security guard would test.
Yet all three receivers have been eligible to play college football for years.
Isn’t this prima facie evidence of academic fraud? I mean, if you can barely read the Wonderlic test, how in the world have you been eligible at a four year college without significant cheating?
Academic fraud — that is, what goes on to keep players eligible in college — is one of the great untold stories of major college athletics. Virtually every major program is cheating its ass off to keep players who have no business in college eligible to play football and basketball.
The real losers here, not surprisingly, are the players, who are passed on through college. Eventually a tiny percentage plays professional sports for a relatively short while — where the vast majority of these players will subsequently squander their income because they lack the capacity to manage their money — or they’ll leave school with no marketable skills to show for their time in college. Basically, the schools are treating these kids as athletic mercenaries for hire, making tens of millions off their athletic abilities and returning nothing in exchange on the academic side.
Now, it’s important to note, a kid doesn’t reach this level of academic failure by accident, he’s been failed throughout the educational process, starting in elementary school and continuing through college. But the lower level schools aren’t making money off his failure. Colleges are. Once a college admits a kid who can’t do college work, the onus is on that college, you got him, you better educate him. Otherwise, what’s the purpose of bringing him into college?
We’re talking about years of cheating that the colleges are directly profiting from. These players are clearly cheating on the college entrance tests to be eligible to play. If you score a single digit on the Wonderlic — a comparatively simple test — there’s no way you’re posting a qualifying score on the SAT or ACT. There’s also no way your high school GPA is legitimate if you can’t read. There’s an entire cottage industry of cheating that’s connected to a talented kid’s academic “achievement.”
But without Wonderlic scores like this leaking, the endemic academic fraud perpetrated for over a decade to keep an athlete eligible just gets swept under the rug.
There’s lots of cheating in college athletics, but the cheating that goes into keeping athletes who can barely read eligible to represent a college is the most jarring of all. Most NCAA rules are crap, but if you want evidence that cheating in college athletics is everywhere, just look at the Wonderlic scores that come out each year.
We’ve got guys staying eligible for four years at every major college athletics program who can’t even read.
Do you know how much cheating that requires?
For all the people out there screaming — Wonderlic scores don’t matter. First, they do. Ask Vince “Single Digit Wonderlic score” Young why he’s out of the league already. They may not matter standing alone, but they matter in the context of overall performance, that’s why you have a series of tests, athletic and academic applied at the combine. Second, they shine a tremendous light on the failure of our educational system. A failure that otherwise, much like these player’s academics, gets swept under the proverbial rug.
And then we act surprised when so many of these players end up bankrupt.
Many can’t even balance a checkbook or read their contracts.
Which brings me to this question — if we release every single physical measurement from the NFL Combine — from arm length to standing broad jump to forty times to bench press repetitions to the three-cone drill, why do we not release the Wonderlic scores as well?
Why are academics uniquely shielded from all commentary and analysis?
If you’re going to praise a kid for being extremely fast or rip him for being extremely slow in the forty, why can’t you also discuss his academic strengths or weaknesses? Especially since athleticism is God-given. You can’t turn a kid with a 5.5 forty into a 4.5 forty, you either got it or you don’t. You can’t turn a twenty inch vertical into a forty inch vertical by hard work. Academics is different, with hard work and assistance most of us can succeed. But it isn’t easy. Why shouldn’t we offer more praise for the kids who are extremely athletic and extremely intelligent?
Aren’t they the ideal we all want our kids to aspire to? And you can do both. The entire purpose of college athletics is for student athletes to do both. Otherwise, the student athlete model makes no sense, there should be a minor leagues for football and basketball players who have no interest in the academic side of the equation.
Posting a single digit Wonderlic score should be every bit as rare as a 4.2 forty.
But it isn’t.
It happens all the time.
Cordarrelle Patterson spent just five months in Knoxville before declaring for the NFL draft. Reading this column about a UT geology class he may have attended, that 11 on the Wonderlic makes a great deal more sense. Tavon Austin and Justin Hunter were both eligible for four and three years at West Virginia and Tennessee, respectively. All three of them would struggle, based on Wonderlic scores, to handle the responsibilities of a mall security guard.
They may eventually graduate from their respective schools.
But what’s the value of that degree?
Every time Wonderlic scores leak there’s a predictable rash of angry columns and Tweets saying, succinctly: “How dare these scores be released?”
I’m always amused by these columns and Tweets, you’re not angry that our educational system is failing and fraudulent, you’re angry that we have tangible evidence of that failure.
We need more test score publicity, not less.
Every major college is cheating its ass off to keep players eligible in college. Some are even graduating illiterate players.
Yet the NCAA’s worried about how many telephone calls and texts coaches send while the entire “student-athlete” model is crumbling all around it?
Of course it is.
Hopefully the NCAA has a bunch of easy security guard jobs for the kids who go pro in something other than sports.