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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    For UA or the money?

    Past generations of Arizona’s football and men’s basketball teams wrote the headlines, but when essay assignments arrived, your high-profile athletes took a hit in the loss column.

    Both teams held the worst graduation rates in the Pacific 10 Conference from 1997-2000, according to the NCAA’s Graduation Success Rate report released Oct. 3. For the third year in a row, Arizona football occupied the Pac-10 cellar with a 41 percent graduation rate of players earning a degree within six years of enrollment.

    This year,

    In the NBA, they don’t require you to have a degree.

    -Josh Pastner,
    assistant men’s basketball coach

    the men’s basketball team joined the basement party with a backboard-shattering 25 percent graduation rate – less than half of the national average of 61 percent.

    The McKale male ballers may have grabbed plenty of rebounds in March, but when it came down to snagging a diploma on the hardwood, three of four players shot the air ball in May. Wonder if 25 percent from the free-throw line would be an acceptable
    performance on the court?

    Then again, look who’s laughing now, sitting pretty with multi-million dollar bankrolls.

    “”For the elite-level kid, basketball is everything,”” said Josh Pastner, a UA men’s basketball assistant coach. “”Why do you think Mike Bibby came here? He came here to get ready for his chosen profession.””

    Pastner believes the NCAA data is skewed, since the numbers penalize student-athletes who leave school to turn professional. The percentage also fails to credit former players like Mile Simon, who left Arizona in 1998 but returned to finish his degree outside of the designated six-year period.

    Can you blame current NBA superstars Bibby, Gilbert Arenas and Jason Terry for walking away from Tucson to cash contracts combining for hundreds of millions?

    “”Make Gilbert Arenas stay four years – I want to hear how they’re going to do that,”” said Jim Rosborough, UA special assistant to the athletic director.

    In his 18 years as an assistant coach for Olson’s Arizona men’s basketball program, Rosborough ensured his players attended class. But since the new mindset in athletics drastically evolved into dollar signs, academic priorities evidently fell down the ladder.

    Through the eyes of an elite athlete, turning professional is a continuous fixture from youth basketball up through high school. Rosborough said those attitudes develop from parents’ pressures to become great.

    And as Pastner said, “”In the NBA, they don’t require you to have a degree.””

    The debate boils down to one simple argument: stay for an education or leave for financial freedom. Eat at Which Wich, or own a Which Wich franchise? In senior cornerback Antoine Cason’s case, his education remains priceless.

    Despite opportunities to enter last year’s NFL draft and prognosticators pegging him as a first-round pick, Cason believes his tough decision to stay was a “”gut check,”” showing dedication to finish out something he started.

    “”You can’t duplicate your college experience,”” Cason said. “”Graduation is one of my goals, and that’s what I want to do.””

    Rocky LaRose, a UA associate athletic director, believes being last place in the Pac-10 is irrelevant, due to the diversity of public and private schools in the conference. She compares athletic graduation rates to the entire UA rate, which she said has exceeded the school percentage in the past. The recent decrease, however, dips athletes below the university percentage.

    LaRose, who forecasted such a downfall, seeks an optimistic future after the football program went through four head coaches in five years between 2000-2004, leading to multiple player transfers.

    The academic unit now reports to the university side, rather than the athletics department.

    More changes include a revamping of the C.A.T.S. program that Pastner describes as “”the best in America”” and the MVP of McKale Center. From life skills to academic help, C.A.T.S. provides athletes with the proper resources to succeed in the classroom.

    Pastner stresses the significance of the term “”student-athlete”” over the common mindset of an athlete-student.

    Hopefully Wildcats today and beyond bear down and take that to heart.

    Bryan Roy is a pre-journalism freshman. He can be reached at sports@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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