A not-so-dirty secret about UGA football: It’s making the grade

"Yeah, baby! Aced that midterm!" (AP photo)

"Yeah, baby! We aced that midterm!" (AP photo)

An oft-cited number regarding the Georgia Bulldogs: Seven losses (against six wins) in 2010. Another: Eleven players arrested in that same calendar year.

But here’s another number, a happier number: The Georgia football team had an Academic Progress Rate for the school year 2009-2010 of 976, which tied Florida for second-best in the SEC behind Vanderbilt, which is so committed to academics it no longer has an athletic department.

The Georgia football program, criticized in this and other spaces for not having its priorities in order, is clearly doing something right. This latest APR snapshot wasn’t a one-off, either: In 2007-2008, Georgia football ranked first in the SEC — yes, ahead of Vandy.

I know how it is. We sophisticates on the periphery wink when a college player is called a “student-athlete,” but what we sophisticates forget is this: Even if a college player’s only career ambition is to become a professional athlete, he still has to attend classes and pass enough of them to remain eligible.

I know, I know. You’re winking again. But hear me out.

Going to class isn’t always fun, and the temptation to skip a week’s worth is mighty. (Trust me on this.) If you’re an ordinary student, you might get away with that. If you’re a student-athlete, you can’t. You’ll have academic advisers and assistant coaches and even the head ball coach on you, and they won’t be whispering, “Please make a better effort to get out of bed.” They’ll have you up at 5 a.m. running the stadium steps.

A few of us sophisticated media types were waiting around after a Georgia Tech practice a couple of years ago, and all of a sudden the reigning ACC offensive player of the year came tearing past in full gear. Where was Jonathan Dwyer going in such a rush? He had an evening lab. It was a fleeting thing — Dwyer was running fast — but it resonated.

Some people complain that players who leave early for the pros show no loyalty to their school. Here’s the thing, though: Once you’re a pro, you don’t have to worry about evening labs, or about getting docked four games if you sell your jersey. You’re no longer a student-athlete; you’re a pro with a paying job. You’re free of the NCAA and its arcane restrictions. You’re free to go make big money, same as your head coach.

A college athlete is a big man on campus, but he’s still on campus. He gets a scholarship, yes, but he doesn’t get rich. (Here we pause for your Cecil Newton jokes.) Having been an ordinary college student, albeit in another century, I can attest that student-athletes work 10 times harder than I ever did. They have little time to themselves. (Insert Georgia arrest joke here.)

Go ahead. Make all the jokes you want. But somewhere amid the hilarity, spare a serious thought for the Georgia football program. Those players have been held up to the highest level of scrutiny — again, I’m guilty as charged — but academically they’re doing just fine. They’re ahead of the SEC curve. They’re ahead of Georgia Tech, which had an APR of 966. They have the second-highest APR among the nine Georgia men’s sports programs. (Only golf ranks ahead of football.)

We mention the APR today because, to be frank, it’s a number people forget when the games commence. In college athletics, the tail too often wags the proverbial dog. UConn just won the men’s basketball title, but it did so with a coach who will be suspended three games next season for NCAA violations and with a program that had an APR so low (826) that it cost the Huskies two scholarships. Does such a championship really qualify as “One Shining Moment”?

Consider this our chance to watch a proud dog wag its tail. Georgia football might have disappointed us in other ways, but it has held up its end on a fundamental level. Its guys are making their grades. That’s no joke.

By Mark Bradley

279 comments Add your comment

rawdawg

May 25th, 2011
1:11 pm

Ryno

May 25th, 2011
1:14 pm

Reggie Ball was often seen dashing through Tech’s campus in an attempt to get to class. However, he never realized how much time he had left and often chose the wrong building.

Cmill

May 25th, 2011
1:17 pm

Good article, Mark… and great job UGA football players

Mark Bradley

May 25th, 2011
1:18 pm

Thanks, Cmill. Thanks, Spivedog.

You know how folks sometimes say, “Why don’t you report the good news?” Today I thought I should.

Mark Bradley

May 25th, 2011
1:19 pm

Rawdawg with comeback kudos.

Spivedog

May 25th, 2011
1:20 pm

Good article Mark!

Just Me

May 25th, 2011
1:20 pm

Still want to know the CLASSES and Degree Programs the players are making the grades in. Some of the degree fields are so easy many Jr.s in High School could pass the classes. I am sure the Golf team members are taking more difficult courses of study than most of the football players.
Give US a breakdown of the Degrees the UGA football players are making the grade in and maybe we will not be so surprised about the grades.

Bryan G.

May 25th, 2011
1:21 pm

As an alum I’m glad to see the players do what they’re supposed to in the classroom.

Now if only they were doing that well on the field….

Chi Town

May 25th, 2011
1:22 pm

Richt already putting his Lake Hartwell home up for sale.

how2fish

May 25th, 2011
1:23 pm

Great article Mark…indeed it is a Bull Dog point of pride..

remedial reading 101

May 25th, 2011
1:23 pm

Get serious –let’s take a look at the course load for the UGA football team as a whole. I’m certain it will not be that impressive.

Chuck

May 25th, 2011
1:28 pm

Nip all the whining in the bud.

We now have a big boy conditioning program that is going to pay immediate dividends. It has already run off some players who did not want to work hard. Those that are left are going to blow the doors off an SEC that had become too accustomed to dismissing us.

Payback is coming, and right soon.

danny

May 25th, 2011
1:28 pm

Finally some good news

Time

May 25th, 2011
1:28 pm

“They’re ahead of Georgia Tech, which had an APR of 966.”

Now, go supersize my order you annoying little insects.

LC Dawg

May 25th, 2011
1:29 pm

Ok Georgia Tech nerds……

Let’s look at how many of your yellow-itch players are actually taking Engineering courses, and how much tutoring they get to pass the simplest of classes.

UGA is a liberal arts school, which offers a vast array of degrees and majors, which is a big reason it is loved by so many.

I have bad news for you guys, that may hurt your ego. It is a proven fact that there are people out there with other interests than engineering. You chose to go to Tech to do what you love. Tech did not chose you.

Go to hell nerds. While you pump your chest and berate the UGA athletes for not taking Astrophysics, I will congratulate them for making their hard work and success.

And you wonder why nobody shows your fans or program any respect, when you make your entire rally cry into a pompous, belittling spew of anybody who is not you.

(((((976-966))))) hahahahahahaha!!!

Chuck

May 25th, 2011
1:31 pm

Funny, the Tech fans crapping one anyone’s curriculum while bragging on their “Engineers” that take every class they can at the Atlanta University Center.

The Tech program gets their band from Georgia State, their teachers from Clark Atlanta, and their dates from Agnes Scott.

Georgia Tech, waaaaaaaay ahead of the outsourcing curve. Kudos!

cantondawg

May 25th, 2011
1:32 pm

Mark,

Thanks for reminding all of us what is most important about college athletichs. The #1 priority is to get these kids an education that will last the rest of their lives. Sure, winning is important but not nearly as much as developing these kids into young men.

Hankie Aron

May 25th, 2011
1:34 pm

MB- Tough question, for you our humbe correspondent- Which is more important, the score on fall Saturdays or making the grades and succeeding in life?

Evansdawg

May 25th, 2011
1:34 pm

RR1, every football team at every school is filled with players that that have the ‘easy’ major. It doesn’t matter if they play at Harvard or FSU…its the way it is. The fact is that the UGA players are doing what is necessary to stay eligible. UGA is NOT an easy school. Perhaps it once was easi-er, but nowadays, academics have gotten to a different level. If you don’t excel at sports, or make straight As and over 1250 on the SAT…forget about it.

Richt`s Hammer

May 25th, 2011
1:37 pm

Boise State 666 Dawgs 6

4th and Reggie Ball

May 25th, 2011
1:39 pm

Do we count the “harder courses” at Georgia Tech as another MORAL VICTORY for the nerds on this one???

Hankie Aron

May 25th, 2011
1:42 pm

Richt’s hammer again shows he is a few nails short of a box

dap01

May 25th, 2011
1:44 pm

Could you imagine the headlines in this paper if UGA was below par like Tech? It would be headlines.

Hankie Aron

May 25th, 2011
1:46 pm

I say it depends on your vantage point

Hankie Aron

May 25th, 2011
1:46 pm

True dap, almost like why Schultz isn’t writing on the turmoil at Tech because they fell underneath the dawgs. I say both schools doing great with the APR, let’s be happy for that!

Mark Bradley

May 25th, 2011
1:47 pm

Hankie, I’d say life trumps sports. But I’m often wrong.

You cannot spell "Tech" without P-O-M-P-O-U-S

May 25th, 2011
1:49 pm

Another big misconception amongst Techies is that UGA is the school kids go to when they get declined from Tech.

They never stop to think that there are people out there who strive to do more than major in Janitorial Engineering

Hankie Aron

May 25th, 2011
1:50 pm

I would agree with you wholeheartedly but most fans even casual would disagree

Fisher

May 25th, 2011
1:51 pm

Western Carolina 91, TECH 6 (missed the extra point kick)

LC Dawg

May 25th, 2011
1:55 pm

Is the Blair Miss Project still kicking for Tech??

<——– WIDE LEFT <———-

Mark (another one)

May 25th, 2011
1:55 pm

Hankie: Any good head coach is going to tell you that winning games and making the grades are both important. It is not an either/or situation. That’s like asking is it offense of defense that wins games. That said, the NCAA and the University Presidents would like to see more emphasis on academics. Hence the APR report.

Failure in either will get you fired. Look at the (former) AD and Basketball HC at Kennesaw.

Hankie Aron

May 25th, 2011
1:57 pm

Folks pay big money for intercollegiate sports, not so much for anything else associated with the schools.

Hankie Aron

May 25th, 2011
1:58 pm

Mark (another one) I think you are right about the good head coaches. I am afraid though a lot of those coaches that are winning and fans alike disagree. They want to win regardless of anything else.

juvenal

May 25th, 2011
1:59 pm

a long way from pre- Jan & a 1980 team with a lot of illiterates(according to someone who was a tutor)…..congrats, whatever they are getting……

Todd Grantham

May 25th, 2011
2:00 pm

It’s amazing how good your grades are if you take remedial classes! Stay Classy Chaz

Jake

May 25th, 2011
2:01 pm

Good stuff, Mark. Well done.

fan

May 25th, 2011
2:02 pm

Enter your comments here

Glenn Goldstein

May 25th, 2011
2:02 pm

I’ve got an idea: Code the APR score levels (ie 975-1000 = A; 950-974 = B; etc.), and then make each team wear it’s APR score code on their jerseys. Then, as we watch a UConn win a National Championship we know what they did academically to achieve it. I’d also code their name in the weekly rankings and everywhere their name appears in print, too.

DirtyBird

May 25th, 2011
2:03 pm

Mark,
Going to a Physical Education class for a Parks & Rec. Mgnt. degree is not nearly the same as going to business classes. Even moron’s could stay eligible with such soft classes. As a Vandy alum…we do not have those types of majors to hide athletes in the way UF and UGA certainly do. Georgia Tech has much higher standards as well. I believe the softest major they offer besides business management is a history major of some sort. Many schools offer meaningless degrees that offer no real hope of post collegiate success…but hey at least they can field a good football teams! Even if the players have trouble reading the names on the back of their jerseys. Walmart (or Tyson Foods) awaits.

JDawg1785

May 25th, 2011
2:04 pm

Definitely a proud moment for these young men and women who represent UGA well both on the field of play and in the classroom. Keep it up, Dawgs!

JB

May 25th, 2011
2:04 pm

I’m proud of Mark and Schultz……….Since January, I’ve only seen 4 Mark Richt survival blogs…..But it’s early. I’m sure they will crank up when summer camp opens.

Chuck

May 25th, 2011
2:06 pm

“a long way from pre- Jan & a 1980 team with a lot of illiterates(according to someone who was a tutor)…..congrats, whatever they are getting…”

Horrible, right? Now imagine a kid who could not stay eligible in such an environment that graduated from another program – how corrupt must THAT place have been, right?

Todd Grantham

May 25th, 2011
2:06 pm

If you want an education go to Vandy or Tech if you want to go 6-7 and almost beat south Fl or central fl or se central fl come be a DAWG!

JB

May 25th, 2011
2:09 pm

If you want to live humorless,soul-less,womanless,and dullness………….Go to Tech

Mark (another one)

May 25th, 2011
2:10 pm

The issue I have with the APR is the insitution pays the price after the fact. I can’t think of a better solution but a player dropping out is not always the University’s/Coach’s fault. UConn was fine last year but now they lose two scholarships. That impacts their future, not their past.

Just Me

May 25th, 2011
2:11 pm

CHUCK
What classes do TECH people take at Clark? Where is your PROOF?

JB

May 25th, 2011
2:14 pm

Boy the Liberal press is at it again. Lot’s of positive stories about Herman Cain and Michelle Bachmann. The reason…..They would love for Obama to run against either one of them. A shoe in.
They hand picked McCain. Avoid whoever the main stream press is promoting!

DeerlyBeloved

May 25th, 2011
2:17 pm

Team went 6 & 7.

I’d take 12th in APR and 14-0 anyday.

This ain’t Harvard.

Ted M

May 25th, 2011
2:21 pm

Thats good but it seems like it should be higher for all sports and teams because only tiny fraction go on to the Pro’s.

JayD

May 25th, 2011
2:21 pm

Just Me – It is just you! JB – take it somewhere else!