Posted by Adam Jacobi
(Lest this all comes across as purely a defense of Rich Rodriguez on the grounds that he too is now part of the CBS Sports family, the scenario of former Florida coach Urban Meyer being hired by ESPN fits Mushnick's argument quite nicely too, so feel free to replace "Rich Rodriguez" with "Urban Meyer" and "West Virginia" with "Florida" when necessary.)
Permit me, if you will, to not take Phil Mushnick's latest diatribe seriously. In it, Mushnick (a columnist for the New York Post, which, yeah) excoriates the CBS Sports Network for hiring former Michigan head coach Rich Rodriguez, noting that Rich Rodriguez recruited Adam Jones and Chris Henry at West Virginia. If that seems like a peculiarly weak argument, well, let's have Mushnick make it himself:
The same Rich Rodriguez who regularly recruited and indulged criminals and assorted bad boys as the head coach at West Virginia and then Michigan?
Yeah, that one.
Pacman Jones and the late Chris Henry, for example, starred for Rodriguez at WVU. Both would accumulate rap sheets as thick as playbooks. But such players helped land Rodriguez the gig at Michigan, where the stadium they call "The Big House," began to take on the other meaning.
For one, Michigan's three years under Rich Rodriguez weren't characterized at all by excessive crime, so while the "Big House" crack would seem clever to someone operating with no knowledge of the situation, it's so transparently false that it doesn't even make sense. Lame jokes aside, Chris Henry and Adam Jones did accumulate substantial criminal records... as NFL players. While at WVU, Jones received probation for one fight, and Henry's worst transgressions were limited to unsportsmanlike behavior on the field. Hardly the stuff of rap sheet legend.
As for the other "criminals and assorted bad boys" that Rodriguez "regularly recruited," what is Mushnick even talking about? Sure, what Pat White and Steve Slaton did to Georgia's defense in the 2006 Sugar Bowl ought to be illegal, but this notion that Rodriguez turned Morgantown into Compton, West Virginia is basically a figment of Mushnick's imagination and nothing more.
Mushnick then bizarrely claims that -- again, this is a quote -- "few college presidents, ADs or head coaches could beat racketeering indictments," then offers no evidence before moving on. As Wikipedia would say, .
The rest of his argument is spent on basically making the case that there should be no such thing as college athletics at all; it's the only conclusion possible when Mushnick conjures up the bogeyman specter of big-time athletes having "no other business enrolled in the college" while ignoring the 939 APR (essentially, a student-athlete retention rate of at least 94%; here's how it's calculated) Rodriguez left West Virginia with in the spring of 2008. That's essentially the average across the NCAA, and it's considerably higher than the general student retention rate in higher education, where over 40% of incoming students fail to graduate. Now, there's a difference between remaining academically eligible year-by-year and actually graduating, but by and large, NCAA student-athletes seem to be outperforming their fellow students in the classroom. Not bad for a bunch of thugs.
Mushnick's column is a perfect encapsulation of low-information stereotypes of NCAA athletics. It is drive-by, tabloid moralizing. It has all the permanence, importance, and elegance of last night's dinner floating by in the sewer. It is, in the words of William Faulkner Shakespeare, a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.