We don't just cover the North Bay. We live here.
Did You Know? In the first 10 days of the North Bay fire, nearly 1.5 million people used their mobile devices to visit our sites.
Already a subscriber?
Wow! You read a lot!
Reading enhances confidence, empathy, decision-making, and overall life satisfaction. Keep it up! Subscribe.
Already a subscriber?
Oops, you're out of free articles.
Until next month, you can always look over someone's shoulder at the coffee shop.
Already a subscriber?
We don't just cover the North Bay. We live here.
Did You Know? In the first 10 days of the North Bay fire, we posted 390 stories about the fire. And they were shared nearly 137,000 times.
Already a subscriber?
Supporting the community that supports us.
Obviously you value quality local journalism. Thank you.
Already a subscriber?
Oops, you're out of free articles.
We miss you already! (Subscriptions start at just 99 cents.)
Already a subscriber?

The "Follow This Story" feature will notify you when any articles related to this story are posted.

When you follow a story, the next time a related article is published — it could be days, weeks or months — you'll receive an email informing you of the update.

If you no longer want to follow a story, click the "Unfollow" link on that story. There's also an "Unfollow" link in every email notification we send you.

This tool is available only to subscribers; please make sure you're logged in if you want to follow a story.


Please note: This feature is available only to subscribers; make sure you're logged in if you want to follow a story.

SANTA CLARA — Colin Kaepernick briefly escaped the talk-radio pocket this week as the sports world spun away from him and collapsed upon another controversial quarterback. This time it was Josh Rosen, who ignited a hot-take firestorm when Bleacher Report posted its interview with the UCLA junior on Tuesday.

Rosen is one of sports’ most outspoken young athletes, and he was typically candid in his Q&A with Bleacher Report.

Here is the extended Rosen quote that launched a thousand tirades:

“Look, football and school don’t go together. They just don’t. Trying to do both is like trying to do two full-time jobs. There are guys who have no business being in school, but they’re here because this is the path to the NFL. There’s no other way. Then there’s the other side that says raise the SAT eligibility requirements. OK, raise the SAT requirement at Alabama and see what kind of team they have.”

Crimson Tide boosters didn’t appreciate the shout-out, and some people quibbled with Rosen’s statement about football players who have no business on a college campus. But mostly it came down to this one sentence: “Football and school don’t go together.”

Well, guess what? Josh Rosen is right.

Or he’s right with a slight modification: “Big-business football and school don’t go together.”

Guys playing at the Football Championship Subdivision level or below are in a different boat. Their situation is closer to that of athletes in non-revenue sports at bigger colleges, the rowers and gymnasts of the world. They devote huge amounts of time to their sports, and I’m sure time management is a challenge for them. But the pressure they’re under is nothing like what Rosen and his teammates will experience this year. Small-program football players can gain small accommodations from coaches if they’re falling behind in their studies. Try that at LSU or Michigan State and you’ll be laughed off the field.

More to the point, small-college football players are students first, athletes second. Most were accepted on the strength of their academic ability, and are therefore prepared for a college course load. For far too many DI football players, that’s simply not the case.

Yet Rosen has mostly been pilloried for his comments.

Duke football coach David Cutcliffe had this to say in an interview with the Herald-Sun of Durham, North Carolina: “As I’ve said, college football has done real well without him prior to this, and it will do real well without him. … It is college football. People need to learn to accept that.”

If you’re making a list of people to ignore when it comes to the business of college athletics, your ranking should look like this:

1. College administrators

2. College coaches

3. A tie among everyone else in the world

Of course Cutcliffe would argue that this is how college football has always worked, and that it’s the ideal system. It is ideal — for the colleges and their well-compensated employees. David Cutcliffe, in case you’re interested, will make more than $2.3 million this year, according to USA Today.

He doesn’t need brats like Josh Rosen calling the whole scheme into question.

Let’s look at some other specific criticisms aimed at Rosen. For example, I heard several radio callers chide the QB for his observation that, “Trying to do both is like trying to do two full-time jobs.” What’s wrong, they asked, with working your way through college? Some cited their own bootstrap experiences.

But let’s be honest, most college students don’t work full-time. Some must, and bless them. I hope they survive it and thrive.

I’m guessing, though, that few of them would describe a 40-hour work week and a full class load as a great experience. Something has to give in that situation, and it’s probably going to be health or grades.

But wait, doesn’t the NCAA mandate that student-athletes spend no more than 20 hours a week on their sports? Yep. But the time clock somehow doesn’t include activities like travel to road games, dressing before games and showering after, medical treatment, physical rehab, fundraising events and media interviews.

A 2015 lawsuit brought by two University of North Carolina students, football player Devon Ramsay and women’s basketball player Rashanda McCants, claimed they often practiced more than 40 hours in a week. The suit cited a 2006 NCAA survey that found student-athletes spent an average of 45 hours per week on their sports.

Doesn’t leave much time for Chaucer or calculus, does it?

Others raised a deeper objection to Rosen’s comments. They resented his perceived attack on the athletic-scholarship system, saying he was ignoring the many athletes who will never make millions of dollars in the NFL or NCAA, and who therefore must have a degree to fall back on. ESPN college football analyst David Pollack made that point, and so did Charles Barkley.

In an interview with Dan Patrick, Barkley said: “He might be a nice kid, but lemme tell you something: I don’t want any rich white kid telling black kids, ‘No, don’t worry about this stuff. Just come here and play football.’ Those kids ain’t got no chance at going to the NFL. Those kids need that education. … I hate that message.”

I always appreciate hearing what Sir Charles has to say. But as every Warriors fan knows, the big guy can land way off base sometimes. As he did here.

I would totally agree with Barkley if those underprivileged athletes were receiving real educations, and if a greater number of them were sticking around long enough to get their degrees.

Last December, the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport at the University of Central Florida reported that the average graduation rate for African-American student-athletes was 68 percent in 2016.

That means 32 percent weren’t graduating. And among major-college football and basketball players (of all races) who do graduate, you can bet that many are aided by Mickey Mouse classes, unauthorized study guides and shady grade adjustments.

The work they log on the football field is real; the education can be dubious.

In my opinion, part of the backlash to Rosen’s interview is the knee-jerk tendency of my generation to see the worst in our children’s generation. Those coddled, lazy millennials. They spend so much time on their phones, it’s as if they have no time to get out there and build interstellar space stations and wrestle bears like we did when we were their age.

Grown-ups love to turn on the TV and watch young athletes like Josh Rosen run around and throw the ball 60 yards downfield. We just don’t want to hear them speak, unless they’re thanking the sponsors.

You can reach columnist Phil Barber at 707-521-5263 or phil.barber@pressdemocrat.com. Follow him on Twitter: @Skinny_Post.

Show Comment