Dasmine Cathey Blows a (Bigger) Hole in the NCAA's Version of the "Student Athlete"

This article has nothing, and almost everything to do with Dasmine Cathey.  Cathey, a former DE for your Memphis Tigers, seems like a genuinely good human being.  Unfortunately, for Dasmine, he was not ready to attend 8th grade, much less the University of Memphis.

Most of us concluded long ago that "student athlete," is a myth on par with the unicorn and Nick Saban's heart. However, this The Chronicle of Higher Education article slaps a name and a face on a truly depressing educational landscape.

This is a truly sad story where the protagonist had Billy Mumfree-like intentions and optimism but was simple placed in a position where he could not succeed .

Here, Dasmine defines the word "irony," for the reader:

Most semesters he takes a potpourri of courses, hardly building toward any specialization. This year he is enrolled in "Area/Facility Planning" through the School of Leisure Studies, and an online family-communication course. He has also taken "Wellness Concepts," "Introduction to Dance," and a class called "The Developing Adult" (which he failed­—twice).

Additionally depressing:

Two years ago, the (Memphis) athletic department started a summertime "bridge" program for transfer students and first-year athletes with academic deficiencies. Of the 50 players who have come through the program, nearly half tested at or below a seventh-grade reading level.

The university recently hired a part-time learning specialist to help those athletes. She is trained to teach basic reading and writing skills, and works with players who have learning disabilities and other academic problems.

Part-time?  If you want to pretend that your students are playing football for a chance to get educated, then you should actually try to educate them.  By that I don't mean throw them into college level courses.  If you're reading at a 7th grade level what good does it do to teach you at a college level?  Unfortunately, someone who began the academic race so far behind has very little chance to catch up.  The problem gets even worse when you throw in the amount of time these athletes devote to football.

For a developmental-writing class his first year, he submitted a two-page paper, titled "Some Important Womens," in which he was asked to describe common issues or challenges facing characters in several books.

"Fannie Hou Hammer, Irma Muller and Aurthor Mayo-Raggie are important people with struggles, detonations, and failure that surround their environment," he wrote in his introductory paragraph. "Then I give you my points on, 'what I thinks the point that I thought it was making?"

If you're concerned, you have no need to worry. Rather than put together an educational program that might actually help Dasmine, the crack staff at Memphis pays a team of enablers to keep him eligible and get him a meaningless degree.  Hey, just like high school!

Joseph Jones, an associate professor of English and director of the university's first-year composition program, says many students with little exposure to analytical writing commit even more "surface" spelling and grammatical errors than they might normally as they try to articulate complicated ideas.

"On an absolute scale, you might think maybe this student doesn't deserve to pass a class," he says. "But over 15 weeks, if you see a certain improvement and can project a trajectory over the next couple of years that she'll be an adequate college student, you might make a different call."

You're right Mr. Jones, I would make a different call if I had APR numbers to beat to make sure I don't lose scholarships.  I might, just might, make a different call if I actually cared to educate the students that I've "paid" a scholarship to give themselves concussions for four years.

Equally sad is the fact that there are people that care, like Sharyne McConnell in this piece.  She wants to help, but she's trying to fix the hole in the Titanic with crazy glue and Chinese newspapers.

We're not dealing with your average accepted college student, so there is absolutely no reason to treat them as such.  The only thing that stops a school like Memphis from adjusting their curriculum to the needs of athletes like Dasmine is an NCAA that wants to live in Narnia and make believe that the "student-athlete" is an untouchable ideal. Apparently, tampering with its integrity will cause Mark Emmert's cybertronic eye balls to pop out of his titanium skull that's overlaced with human tissue.

If this is happening at a place that's won 3 of their last 24 games, imagine what's happening at Alabama.  Imagine what's happening at LSU, or Auburn.  Also, imagine what's happening at Michigan.  We love to believe we're above all this, but are we?  Maybe our athletes aren't reading at a 7th grade level but are they anywhere close to the academic polish of an admitted non-athlete? Should they be? That final question needs to be addressed immediately if there is to be a shred of credibility to amateurism at the college level.

While there's a slippery slope involved with changing the curriculum for unprepared athletes, stories like Dasmine's underscore the point that something must be done.  Unless you too live in Narnia, you know that "something" will never be, "only accept athletes who would qualify on their academic readiness alone" -- not with million dollar coaches and billion dollar TV deals. Mary Sue Coleman is trying to get that paper, son.

Unfortunately for Dasmine and hundreds of others like him, the NCAA and University President would rather uphold an ideal than actually educate the athletes that they pay to be students.  Here's the result:

For one assignment, he had to look at the covers of 10 magazines he had never read and describe their target markets. "Ladies if you looking for a maganize thats is tagering just you and all about you. Then this one is for you," he said aboutWoman's World. "Telling the ladies how to eat. What diet to be no for your body, and more."

In addition to the grammatical problems, he misspelled "magazine" 13 times, but the professor didn't mark him down for it. In fact, she praised him for his conversational style.

Not to worry, Memphis has an enabler for that...

"This is a beginning class where we try to get students to discover the media and start expressing themselves in writing," Ms. Justice says. "If this had been a writing class, I'm sure he wouldn't have passed because spelling and words are so much more important there."




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