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.