Why don’t we have live webcasts and hoopla for signing days for academics?

I am not a football fan so I am skipping the signing day fanfare today. (Our sports department is covering it in great detail, including a list of  the live webcasts from area high schools.)

I have often wondered why there are no big celebratory signing day ceremonies for students admitted to great colleges on their academic records rather than on their sports records. (I did go to one such event at a local charter high school, and it was very inspiring to see the excitement of the students as their names and colleges were announced. But there were no cameras except for those belonging to parents.)

A DeKalb parent sent me this interesting note about today’s hoopla:

I’m a DeKalb parent and resident and had an idea I thought might be fun to float on your blog.  I’ve been watching all of today’s football signing day hoopla (also a sports fan), and I can’t help but wonder what good an academic signing day might do in our high schools.  I just watched the webcast from Tucker High School, and it is obvious that a ton of work went into this event.

There’s a live web feed, the auditorium is full of students and families, videos and music are playing on a big screen, someone (football coach?) is waiting on stage with everyone’s papers to sign, and the kids are called one-by-one to come up on stage.  The kids are accompanied by their parents and often extended families, who are proudly wearing their child’s chosen school gear, and, well, it’s just a big deal.

Why doesn’t anyone do this for academics?  It’s certainly a more attainable goal than football scholarships.  If an event like that inspired just a few kids, wouldn’t it be worth it?

The DeKalb parent raises good questions, as does another reader. This email was among the many I received last week on my column about the Finnish model of schooling:

In a quick Internet search I found no Finnish school at any level, including university, which has organized athletics or athletics departments. Athletics is separate from the education system so students go to school to learn, not to play sports. Perhaps that should be pointed out when discussing the success of the Finnish education system and when comparing it to the dismal results in the United States.

I have  found that throughout virtually the entire rest of the world athletics and education are separate. Universities have athletics but at the club level with very little participation by the university administration. Unfortunately, in the United States, the “genie is out of the bottle”  and there is too much money involved at all levels for it to ever change.

I also note a great deal of hypocrisy from coaches and athletic administrators and nowhere is it more evident than in the current controversy in the public vs. private schools in GHSA Class A. When coaches justify having athletics in schools, they talk about the value of competition, the value of mentorship, the value of teamwork, the value of physical activity and they all look like choirboys when they discuss it.

They talk about how it’s not whether you win or lose but that you play the game. Now those exact same choirboys are complaining that private schools win all of the state championships and that it’s not fair. My position is that if it doesn’t matter whether you win or lose, then it doesn’t matter who wins the championships.

In fact, if it doesn’t matter, then you shouldn’t even have championships to begin with. Thus, the hypocrisy. I will say one thing positive about athletics. It’s the last remaining true meritocracy in the United States. There’s no affirmative action or calls for diversity in athletics. If you’re good enough then you’re on the team. If you’re are among the best on the team then you play. What a concept!

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

89 comments Add your comment

Good Idea from GM

February 1st, 2012
11:02 am

Good idea. I love it. A signing ceremony for academics. I also want math teams and debate teams and a celebration for everything cerebral. Physical fitness should be celebrated but it’s different than a sports team celebration. Many football players, even at the high school level, are obese. To celebrate physical fitness we need to bring back the presidential physical fitness award for every grade level.

Great idea and really good interesting comment about Finnish schools. I didn’t know that.

GM

Melvin Turnipseed

February 1st, 2012
11:04 am

The same reason 92,000 people don’t show up at the UGA library to watch kids study.

Maureen Downey

February 1st, 2012
11:05 am

@Melvin, Great line. I may have to use it someday and credit you.
Maureen

RPJ

February 1st, 2012
11:20 am

Maureen,

When one gets out college, even an A-student will usually have to get into corporate America, work his buns off, and still kiss someone’s rear to later get raises and climb the corporate ladder.

A sports star on the other hand, after graduation, doesn’t have to go through all that. He makes 10 to 100X what that A-student makes within a short time, gets huge endorsements and advertisement gigs with the biggest companies, gets all the attention on tv, newspapers, magazines, tabloids, etc, and also gets access to the hottest women out there effortlessly. What more can one ask for?

These are just scratches on the surface of why the athletes get all the buzz. The CEOs of top companies can come to town without any notice. When superbowl champs hit town, people actually roll over themselves taking a day off work etc to meet them..

When you compare, there is no comparison… Sports satisfy the emotional needs of the NOW. Education achievement is extremely vital but its value usually is not seen by people because it usually occurs in the LONG-TERM.

Pompano

February 1st, 2012
11:21 am

Where has this Dekalb parent been hiding in that they think winning doesn’t matter in Sports? While many coaches in girls sports may downplay winning, coaches in ALL major boys sports do emphasize winning.

The fellowship, mentoring, etc are all important facets of organized sports. However, only Losers don’t care about winning.

Shar

February 1st, 2012
11:22 am

St. Pius holds an Honors Assembly at the end of every year, with student attendance mandatory, to recognize a wide variety of academic honorees as well as a handful of citizenship, sportsmanship and faculty standouts.

The students complain that the ceremony is boring, and in all likelihood most would choose a study hall over attending. I have often wondered if this could be due to the fact that academic honors are more attainable (as well as less remunerative and less glamorous) for the average student than are athletic scholarships. As we all know, standout achievement is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration; nearly every student who excells does so at least in the main because they consistently work very hard. Only a select few have the opportunity to do so in athletics, but everyone takes classes and thus the chances to suceed are more widespread, as are the excuses for not doing so.

There could well be some guilt interlarded with the “boredom” of watching other people receive accolades for something the majority chose not to do.

confused.

February 1st, 2012
11:24 am

Isn’t “athletic scholarship” an oxymoron? Lets make a big deal about scholarship and change the way students view education!

Confused

February 1st, 2012
11:30 am

“Isn’t “athletic scholarship” an oxymoron?”

Now, Maureen, this is a quote worth remembering!

Love it! GM

Pompano

February 1st, 2012
11:31 am

@Shar makes a great point. We try to paint a picture that the only thing stopping a kid from being an Honor Grad is hard-work – talent is de-emphasized in the Educational system.

Whereby Athletics is the opposite. Raw talent is the most prized commodity and very few kids could actually play QB for their respective schools no matter how much effort they invested if lacking that talent.

Inman Park Boy

February 1st, 2012
11:31 am

I’m sorry, but most of these comments are offensive.

JF McNamara

February 1st, 2012
11:33 am

Because recruiting services, ESPN and local news can’t make millions off of the academic kids.

Congratulations to the signees, you just signed up to make the media and your college choice millions of dollars over the next few years. You get a scholarship, a full time job playing football, and a 50% chance at graduation.

carlosgvv

February 1st, 2012
11:37 am

Going back to ancient Greece and the first Olympics, we find the winners often had statues made by adoring fans and, sometimes, recieved free food for life. Many of the gladiators in ancient Rome were idolized by the people. As Lincoln observed, “God must love the common people because he made so many of them”. Most people simply don’t have the sense to realize how importand high academic acheivers are. They would rather worship the jock-strap macho studs.

Tony

February 1st, 2012
11:43 am

This is a sign that our society’s priorities are really out of order. Entertainment being held in higher regard than academics is truly sad.

ACC14-SEC14 Booster

February 1st, 2012
11:44 am

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Get Schooled

“Why don’t we have live webcasts and hoopla for signing days for academics?”

Do you really wanna know why?

Two words: Ch-CHING!!!!!!

In other words, football brings in more money than the university can almost count at football schools like UGA and at those throughout the SEC, the Big Ten, the Big 12, the Pac 12 and the ACC and so on. Football literally brings so much money at some of these schools that it pays for virtually all of the other non-revenue producing sports and activities COMBINED.

Football also stimulates some very major fundraising, more than enough to help support and sustain the academics at every major university where football is a significant factor.

Nothing, and I mean NOTHING, brings in the cash like the pigskin.

...and we wonder why

February 1st, 2012
11:46 am

follow the $

Duh

February 1st, 2012
11:48 am

@Melvin…Bear Bryant once said “80,000 people never showed up to watch a chemistry test.”. I’m not saying it is right, but it is true. For fun, compare high school graduation rates and SAT scores of the SEC teams to those in the other areas of the country (esp. the Northeast).

Rick in Grayson

February 1st, 2012
11:50 am

Compare the viewership of a UGA football game to that of HighQ…that’s why athletes get live webcasts and hoopla.

Academics is exciting and profitable from GOod Mom

February 1st, 2012
11:55 am

Sitting in a gym watching other people getting honors awards is not the debate.

Academics makes money and is fun to watch. As proof, look at the long-running show “Jeopardy.” It’s purely cerebral and it makes money.

When academics is involved in a contest, it is exciting.

My favorite all time movie is Spellbound, an academy award winning show about of all things — the Spelling Bee. I challenge all the naysayers to check it out and watch it. You will laugh. You will cry. You will cheer! Prior to that my all time favorite movie was Gone with the Wind — now that’s how good Spellbound is. Check it out and see it for yourself.

GM

ACC14-SEC14 Booster

February 1st, 2012
11:58 am

Tony

February 1st, 2012
11:43 am

“This is a sign that our society’s priorities are really out of order. Entertainment being held in higher regard than academics is truly sad.”

Don’t be so down on the entertainment/sports side of things as the entertainment/sports helps to flip the bills for the academic. Football, and to a lesser, albeit still significant extent, basketball, stimulates the fan interest that generates the cash that boosts academics at major FBS/Div-I universities. Sports also inspires a level of pride in academic institutions that may not otherwise be there.

For example, a few years ago at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the university embarked on a two-year campaign to attempt to raise a billion dollars for academic programs and an expansion of the campus onto the grounds of a former airport. After the university hired a new football coach to demonstrate to fans, alumni and supporters that they were serious about fielding a competitive football program they ended up raising more than $2 billion in less than a year. Sure, the coach that they hired was the ill-fated Butch Davis who ended up being fired in an improper benefits scandal, but my point is that nothing peaks the interest of a school’s supporters in academic endeavors like a competitive sports program.

RPJ

February 1st, 2012
11:58 am

@ Academics is exciting and profitable from GOod Mom,

All of what you said COMBINED cannot match the amount of MONEY and EXCITEMENT brought by Superbowl !

Hillbilly D

February 1st, 2012
12:00 pm

Why don’t we have live webcasts and hoopla for signing days for academics?

It’s pretty simple really, few if any would pay to see it. Money talks.

Boring

February 1st, 2012
12:20 pm

it’s all boring to me. Why do it for anyone? Academic acheivements get recognized every year at school….they’re called award ceremonies.

bootney farnsworth

February 1st, 2012
12:35 pm

simple.

college sports are more important to most people than college
academics. sad, but true

pttc

February 1st, 2012
12:37 pm

The sad thing is that is the adminstrators of these schools that are orgainizing these things! If the leaders at Tucker and MLK emphasized education as much as they do sports, then maybe more kids would have a path to college besides sports.

Another point: God forbid you try to separate or rank kids on their intelligence or academic potential or actually success, but it is completely OK to do so based on athleticism. What’s up with that?

bootney farnsworth

February 1st, 2012
12:39 pm

also: in all my years in higher ed, I’ve never seen anyone tailgate an academic achievement, get drunk, get your date drunk & “agreeable”, or cause grown men to drop to their knees and bark

bootney farnsworth

February 1st, 2012
12:43 pm

& BTW: I am a college football fan.

but I do not watch, nor will I ever watch a show devoted to watching HS boys sign a sheet of paper.

that so many do is downright scary.

Ned

February 1st, 2012
12:45 pm

@pttc–Amen.

A lot of these same points made about over-emphasis on sports vs. academics could be made with regard to band or other activities vs. academics.

I always thought education should emphasize academics but maybe I’m just out of touch.

bootney farnsworth

February 1st, 2012
12:51 pm

come on y’all, lets stop fighting the future.

lets give the citizens what they want: close down the classrooms and turn all that pesky money taken up by faculty, staff, students, ect and
turn it all over to the athletic association.

expect for the genetics faculty. there’s an embryo up in Gainesville whut could be tha next big’un for the O line. gotta keep an eye on him.

bootney farnsworth

February 1st, 2012
12:53 pm

@ Ned.

disagree, but see your point.
thing is, there is no national signing day for marching band
or drama club.

this insanity is unique to sports – football most of all

bootney farnsworth

February 1st, 2012
12:54 pm

people, this is simple.
football destracts the masses.

you don’t want your fellow citizens putting this much
concern into the next president, do you?

Boring

February 1st, 2012
12:59 pm

I honestly don’t think that many people actually watch this stuff on TV. It’s on espnU for goodness sake. The sportscasters are always looking for something to talk about. Baseball is weeks away, they can only talk about Peyton Manning for so long, college basketball is several weeks from being really all that important, no one cares about the NHL, and the NBA…….

College football is a big deal in the South, but the rest of the country is not really all that concerned about this particular thing.

bootney farnsworth

February 1st, 2012
1:12 pm

@ boring

do you actually live in Georgia?

Old Physics Teacher

February 1st, 2012
1:17 pm

I have an idea! I think teachers should be paid under the same arrangements that football coaches are – like Sonny wanted us to. If we don’t succeed, we should be fired!!

Now the way I’d do it would be the way football coaches do. The kids would have to try-out for my classes. I would accept every student, however all the kids would have to set down and perform 50 math problems and read 3 chapters out of a science book first. I would then test them and assign positions. Now six weeks will go by and they would work my physics problems for 3 hours a day – every day in season. Out of season, they’d do math problems for 2 hours every day of the week getting stronger. If they didn’t, I’d kick them off my team. Only a maximum of 26 would take the 10 weekly tests (22 starters, 2 kickers and a holder and a snapper). If my school didn’t have enough quality kids, I’d double up and have fewer kids take the test. Now, I’d take a National test for my grade AND PAY. I’d look at the test and decide which student would answer which question. After each question, the tester would grade the question and give me MY grade. I’d then decide which student to take the next question. Half way through the test, we’d stop and I’d “coach my kids up” for halftime. I’d then have the kids finish the test using the same procedures as the first half. The only difference is now the parents who are sitting on stands in the back of the classroom would start to stand up and shout, “That’s MY JOHNNY doing PHYSICS!!! GO JOHNNY!! GO JOHNNY!!!” At the end, I’d get paid 85-100k a year, get a free car to ride around in, and probably wouldn’t have to pay for my clothes or my wife’s, maybe even get free housing?

Only in America…

Boring

February 1st, 2012
1:17 pm

Yes, I live in GA, but I’ve lived all over the country and I can say that the south is the only place I’ve lived where football is the be all, end all. But, it’s not really all that important in the grand scheme of things.

Parent

February 1st, 2012
1:17 pm

“Isn’t “athletic scholarship” an oxymoron?”

Not at the private schools, it isn’t.

Boring

February 1st, 2012
1:19 pm

“Isn’t “athletic scholarship” an oxymoron?”

Most colleges it isn’t either. The revenue earning sports have the worst GPAs, but all the other sports have student athletes (not athletes that are students so they can be drafted).

Parent

February 1st, 2012
1:22 pm

“Bear Bryant once said “80,000 people never showed up to watch a chemistry test.”

True, but Apple sold more than 33 million iPhones in the last three months alone. And Steve Jobs was a math-nerd.

Of course, he also dropped out of college, so I don’t know if this makes my point or not…

Shannon, M.Div.

February 1st, 2012
1:24 pm

When I was a high school senior (1992, getting old now), I was the school’s STAR student (meaning highest SAT score). The school held an assembly at which the principal gave me a bouquet of roses in front of everyone.

Believe it or not, this did not make academics OR the SAT popular. It did, however, result in quite a bit of (mostly good-natured) mocking of me.

Not sure that this is that great an idea…

Parent

February 1st, 2012
1:24 pm

“Yes, I live in GA, but I’ve lived all over the country and I can say that the south is the only place I’ve lived where football is the be all, end all.”

I’m thinking you’ve never lived in Texas?

Boring

February 1st, 2012
1:29 pm

I’m thinking you’ve never lived in Texas?

Texas is not the south….maybe I need a geography lesson

lyncoln

February 1st, 2012
1:35 pm

I don’t think the quote is from Bear Bryant. I think it’s from the movie The Program.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0107889/quotes

Has that exact line.

It's Simple

February 1st, 2012
1:38 pm

Because… if you want to recognize students for their academic prowess, you have to admit that some kids just don’t have the same aptitude/ability… and that is a secret schools today don’t want to share. It starts early. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard in the elementary school that “… there are no winners, so there are no losers.” Is that reality? Try going to an awards ceremony in elementary or even middle school and see the multitude of awards given out for some of the most stupid reasons. Dang near everyone gets an award. All that does is water-down the achievement accolades for the kids that are “kicking butt.” Thankfully, high school is a little different, but by that time, the kids are conditioned to not talk about their academic accomplishments so as to appear modest. The opposite is true of HS sports, where not only do people celebrate the accomplishment of the team and select individuals, but ALL the students are forced to attend pep rallies that carry the HERO worship even farther. It’s just the way it is, was, and always will be. At least the newspapers carry some of the academic accomplishments from time to time.

Frustrated and Resigned

February 1st, 2012
2:02 pm

Regarding the lack of an academic signing day, it’s unfortunate that we choose to focus more on sports than books. We give awards and trophies for perfect attendance but don’t (in the case our our Dekalb County high school) celebrate academic heroes like National Merit Award recipients. It’s no wonder that Georgia remains at the bottom of the academic heap…

Ashley

February 1st, 2012
2:27 pm

The only time athletes and coaches think aboout academics is when one of their star players is hurt or injured and they need a doctor or surgeon. Simply put, unfortunately sports is big business and academics is not. An athletes aptitude test and academic record need only be the bare minimum to get a scholarship. How many “C” students with a 800 SAT score are walking around at big name Universities? Not many ,unless they are playing sports.

WAR

February 1st, 2012
2:50 pm

academics dont pay for shoulder pads, basketballs, or bats. besides, your smart kid who will become a music executive needs my athletic kid as a body guard. fair exchange.

WAR

February 1st, 2012
2:51 pm

Maureen

seriously, you ever been to one of those academic bowls? its only fun if thats your thing or your kid is in it. if they sold beer and had cheerleaders then i might think about going.

William Casey

February 1st, 2012
3:02 pm

Athletics and academics can and do coexist. I taught Advanced Placement courses and coached basketball, football and baseball for 25+ years. My son played baseball/basketball and is now doing dual degrees in Math and Philosophy. No problem. The signing-day mania is just something made-up to amuse college football fans in the off-season. I’m a fan but don’t watch this stuff. No problm.

need change

February 1st, 2012
3:24 pm

Please tell me that students weren’t taken out of class to attend pep rallies for those receiving athletic scholarships. Nothing sends the message that academics is important like cancelling classes to cheer for football players.

As for Tucker HS, I have no doubt that they spared no expense to celebrate their football recruits. It is what Tucker is about, ;and why most of the kids who live in the immediate vicinity of the school go somewhere else. Tucker sends the community a very strong message that they are all about athletics…and nothing else. Before the recent rebuilding, the school marquis on the corner of Lavista and Chamblee-Tucker would proclaim a different athletic achievement every week. While the marquis at Lakeside rotated between athletics, academics, band and orchestra and the entire spectrum of school events, the one at Tucker was all sports, all the time. Tucker HS may do great things in other areas, but the community would never know it because the only message they send is about winning football teams. Why would those of us whose children don’t play football bother with the school?

Dr. Pangloss

February 1st, 2012
3:27 pm

We don’t have ceremonies like that for outstanding students because Americans don’t like anybody who’s smarter than they are.

Old timer

February 1st, 2012
3:32 pm

Boring…..I guess you never lived in OK, Ohio, PN, or Michigan………big football states all and not southern…