David Broder reports ("Get the Colleges Out of Sports," op-ed, April 9) that the University of Georgia dismissed a starting defensive tackle and two other football players recently, and comments: "It was big news here, because no one could remember the last time such promising athletes had flunked out." He then quotes the head of the UGA remedial English program saying, "At any time previous to now, some way would have been found to keep the promising tackle in school."
Speaking as a UGA alumnus and football letterman, I would say one thing in reply: Horsefeathers! Rarely does a season pass without promising Georgia players -- frequently starters -- being dismissed for academic deficiencies.
"No one can remember the last time"? Just last spring Georgia dismissed "the best player on our team" -- the words are Coach Vince Dooley's -- after only his sophomore season. That was the leading 1984 rusher, Andre Smith, who, against Alabama at Legion Field in Birmingham a few months earlier, ran for two touchdowns of more than 65 yards, each in the space of four minutes. Said Dooley, "If there is any one individual I needed back on my team in 1985, it was he." With Smith in the lineup the Bulldogs might well have won the conference championship and high national ranking. Alas, he lacked the classroom dedication and commitment shown by other players who got favored treatment, so he was booted.
The same thing happened two years ago: Keith Montgomery, the team's leading rusher for two consecutive years, was dismissed at the end of his sophomore season. Another promising player, Tyrone Sorrels, withdrew in the face of academic dismissal and enrolled at Georgia Tech where he is now a varsity regular and, even a devoted Bulldog hopes, doing better in class. Two outstanding wide receivers from the 1975 and 1976 teams were dismissed, and Coach Dooley observes, had either player been on his team the following year "we would not have had the only losing season in my 22 years at Georgia."
But consider two other players who were not dismissed, but given discretionary extensions in the UGA's much-maligned "developmental studies" program. One was "S.P." about whom much testimony was given during the Jan Kemp trial. "S.P." played exactly three varsity plays for Georgia during his four years. Says Dooley: "Those who know him and have been around him respect him as an individual who has come from a very difficult background. But we have never had a player who has worked harder, or has given more of himself. Because of that trait, he probably has been given more opportunities than any other student-athlete we have had at Georgia. And that's why he's still here."
Then there is the all-star player who was admitted though he scored only 480 on his SATs. (A student gets 400 just for signing his name on the grade sheet.) This young man got plenty of breaks in the developmental studies program, then was "administratively exited" into the mainstream university curriculum, where it is sink or swim for all. He stuck at it, even after he signed a professional contract, and kept coming back until last June, eight years after he matriculated, he won his UGA degree. He got it not because he was a star athlete but because he earned it, through determined, persistent scholarship.
All these players, incidentally, were black. Were we to get our colleges out of sports as David Broder advocates, we would slam the door of opportunity shut to many such young men. Moreover, black or white, the old truism that "idle hands are the devil's workshop" applies especially to young males. Athletics is the tie that holds many a boisterous and indifferent scholar in the educational system while its civilizing process takes hold.
The problems at the University of Georgia are minor compared to the accomplishments. Georgia suited up its first black football player less than 20 years ago. Last fall I was proud to note that much of the time every Bulldog on the field was black. And Georgia fans, many of them honest-to-God rednecks and alumni of Jim Crow education, still compete to give money to the Georgia Student Educational Fund so they can have better stadium seats -- and fund that much maligned "developmental studies" program which was instituted under Washington pressure to increase black enrollment.
If any visiting revolutionary wants to see real revolution, take him to Sanford Stadium next fall when the Dawgs line up.