As Will’s noted before, we both attended Southern Tech. I, upon my graduation, found employment at my alma mater, something I continue to this day. It’s something of a feeling of giving back, something of a rewarding experience (with one or two exceptions, the co-workers are fantastic), and government jobs are always good for job security.

One of the more interesting thing about my position is that it allows me to keep an eye on the student body. My department features a number of degree plans, one of which seems to have none of the graduate-degree potential of the others; I like to call this one “Future Gym Teachers of America.” Whereas most of the other degree plans are dominated by bright kids, this one has the singular distinction of being the home of roughly 50% of the high-profile NCAA athletes for the school. I say “athletes”, but we have a slang term as well, especially come the end of semester and class registration time: “Assletes.”

When I was in the dorms, Will and I had a common friend in Karl. Karl’s troubles with this crowd started early. Southern Tech’s system of assigning roommates is affectionately known as “Roommate Russian Roulette”: they have NO overhead for people to shuffle around, they routinely overbook by 10-20% so that people spend the first couple weeks (or worse) living on cots in the common areas, and in some cases they’ve actually quartered students at another university in another part of town, and bussed them back and forth from there to campus. Getting a roommate transfer (even in conditions where items have been stolen or personal property destroyed) is a matter not of convincing them it’s warranted, but of convincing someone else to trade off in another room.

Karl’s original housing was in the worst section of the dorms, and they gave him an “Asslete” for a roommate; this person ran a nighttime barber business out of their dorm room, and Karl was rightly afraid that the “clients” would walk off with his possessions. This had a highly negative effect on Karl’s studies, but fortunately didn’t last long enough to give him too major of a problem.

When Karl managed (a couple months later) to transfer into the better dorms by moving into the room next door as my suitemate, his studies noticeably improved, because he was able to be in his room with his books and study. This lasted for approximately 1 and a half years.

Then, the housing authority “mysteriously lost” his housing re-signing documents, after cashing his deposit check. They stuck another less-savory individual in Karl’s slot, and moved him to the worst dorm in the place – a dorm known informally as the “Athletics Dorm” but more often referred to in a derogatory reference to a famous movie serial killer the dorm might have been named after. He was shoehorned into a three-person suite, the two others in the place being some of the worst, and yet somehow most representative, examples the Athletics program ever had to offer.

The idea of “College” for Assletes in the Athletics dorm was late-night parties, beer, and skanky girls; basically, it was impossible for Karl to even be in the room, let alone study. He took to spending most of his time in Hugh and Will’s suite, but not managing to study (because his books were in his own room and he usually didn’t want to go back to risk confrontation long enough to get them); at least half the time he crashed on a friend’s floor in our building, because one of their drunken friends was sleeping off their latest binge on his bed, or they were having other “things” going on in the room. At one point, they stole his backpack and one of them toted around a non-house-trained puppy for two days in it, then handed him back his (now thoroughly urine-soaked and beyond salvation) bag without even an apology for the damage.

Regrettably, this was common behavior of student athletes, at least of the high-profile ones. Oddly enough, there was (and remains) an inverse relationship between athletic scholarships and athletic achievement; the brighter the kid, the better grades they made, the more likely they hadn’t gotten an athletic scholarship at all.

Every semester, my department deals with at least 4-5 (this past fall it hit double digits) disciplinary actions concerning cheating on tests. Every semester, all but 1 involves one of the “Assletes.” We’ve had security-camera proof of some of these, and it boggles the mind that they think they’d get away with it.

Every semester as well, a good number of professors get phone calls from the Athletics department concerning team members who are about to fail a class, demanding they be given a minimum grade (usually “C”) or else an “Incomplete” so as not to screw their GPA and fall below eligibility guidelines. These aren’t kids who missed class due to road trips representing the school, but simply kids who couldn’t be bothered to show up for their classes, or do their homework, or their projects, and in some cases who didn’t bother to show up for their finals.

Every semester, the Assletes converge upon the Academic Advisors. The name of the position is not a coincidence: the purpose of Advisors is to give ADVICE, to recommend what courses they take, doublecheck their GPA and recommend they retake something if they didn’t understand it, and make sure they are nominally on-track to graduate when appropriate. The Assletes are given a preferential sign-up time to register for classes that actually (these days) begins before the Honors students. They are given the tools to make sure they have the exact schedule they want, to schedule around their daily practices and whatever else they need. Yet every year, they show up and insist that the Advisors, rather than fulfilling an Advisor role, do it all for them.

It always amazes me how it turns out this way. The largest list of these comes from three teams: Football, Men’s Basketball, and Women’s Basketball. We do not (as a general rule, with only the occasional exception) get these from Soccer, or Volleyball, or Golf, or Swimming, or any of the other sports, but at least a sizable minority of the “scholarship” students from those three seem to think they are entitled to a college degree without ever lifting a finger or exercising a brain cell working for it.


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15 Responses to Why I Don’t Donate to My Alma Mater’s Alumni Sports Fund.

  1. Peter says:

    This is what happens when college sports become big businesses. You can’t blame the universities for coddling their athletes, as few things raise a university’s profile as much as having a top-rated football or (men’s) basketball team. Did you know that in most states, the highest-paid state government employee is not the governor, but the football coach at the flagship state university?

  2. trumwill says:

    Web,
    Now that you get into the details it’s starting to come back to me about Karl’s situation. I really wasn’t close to him until we lived together (kind of thought he was a jerk, actually) so I was only tangentially aware of what was going on at the time. He explained it all later, though didn’t attribute his problems to the roommate situation but rather fatigue (which is not to say that the roommate situation wasn’t a cause, he may have just forgotten).

    Peter,
    In the south even small-time school coaches like those at UAB and Central Florida make more than the governor!

  3. Webmaster says:

    Will,

    It’s my opinion* that much of Karl’s fatigue was caused by his roommate situation, which was more-or-less making it futile for him to try to do what he should have been doing (in his dorm room, studying) or what would have been an acceptable alternative (going somewhere else to study) because he couldn’t sleep in the dorm room and going to the room even for the amount of time required to get his books was likely to provoke some sort of confrontation.

  4. Peter says:

    College athletes don’t have to be assletes. It all depends on how much status a particular college accords to its sports teams. I went to a smaller college in the Northeast whose teams were all in Division III. The college gave no athletic scholarships and did very little if any recruiting. Most of the athletes, even the football and basketball players, were pretty much just like everyone else, in both academic and social terms. There was hardly any “jock culture.” The only athletes I generally didn’t like were those on the crew or lacrosse teams, and that’s mainly because most of them were overpriviledged spoiled brats.

  5. Webmaster says:

    Peter,

    oddly enough, I agree with you here. They don’t “have” to be Assletes. At SoTech, there’s a rather robust sports program, and there’s a history of being rather powerful “back in the day” (as opposed to now, where the question is more whether to describe this year’s team as a bunch of inept bungling idiots, or clumsy bungling morons).

    Yet as I mentioned, the predominant number of Assletes come from three very specific sports teams: Football, and Men’s and Women’s Basketball.

    From this and the other experiences I’ve had, I’ve come up with a number of “contributing factors” that indicate whether or not someone will develop into an Asslete.

    #1 – if they are on a full ride scholarship (as opposed to a lesser amount of assistance) related to their sport, they are likely to become an Asslete. At SoTech, most (probably 90%) of the full-rides are distributed to the three teams I mentioned beforehand.

    #2 – If their team is involved in the college’s recruitment or PR advertising, they are more likely to become an Asslete.

    #3 – If their intelligence is such that they probably should not be in college to start with, they likely will become an Asslete.

    #4 – If their goal is to become a professional sports player, they likely will become an Asslete.

    For the football and basketball programs, these four come together to basically ensure that a decent percentage of the team members will become Assletes. It’s a “perfect storm” of contributing factors.

    An additional factor causing problems for us is the fact that the “tutoring” services offered to the athletes – far above and beyond those offered to the student body at large – mostly consist of trying to get copies of the test for the students and relying on the professors not changing the test from year to year. Two of this past year’s incidents involve students trying to smuggle in an answer key on a test they were taking “early” (e.g. taking it Friday afternoon when the rest of the class was scheduled for Monday) because the test was scheduled for when they’d be on the road.

    Small hint: when you’re making a D in the class, don’t expect the professor to believe you can finish an hour and a half test in 10 minutes.

  6. Spungen says:

    Did you guys ever see that John Singleton film, “Higher Learning?” Tara Banks and Sara Michelle Gellar were in it. They toss a rural, introverted white guy in with a thuggish black guy, who dominates the living area with his thuggish friends who bully the white kid, who gets resentful, and the white kid eventually falls in with the white supremacists.

  7. trumwill says:

    Football is particularly problematic because there are a number of positions where limited intelligence not a hinderance to performance. That and there’s some 80 players on a team rather than 15 or fewer. Another reason why both football and basketball are particularly problematic is that athletes are allowed to be able to think that they will be able to “go pro” and so they don’t need to actually make forward progress with academics (only pass during the season).

    One of the better solutions I’ve heard is for the NFL and NBA to set up genuine farm leagues so that those that are completely uninterested in college can go to a farm team and develop their talents there, getting paid for it and not bugging students that are actually there to learn. It’s worked for baseball (where some players play at the college level but many go straight into professional ball), but the MLB loses money on its farm system and the NBA and NFL are unlikely to jettisen their current free system.

  8. Spungen says:

    At Southern Tech, are entering students allowed to ask to be roomed with friends on their dorm applications?

    I know that some schools allow it. So a lot of the normal people who otherwise would be potential random roommates are able to select themselves out of that system by choosing preexisting friends. So it makes the random pool smaller and the asshole/weirdo concentration higher.

    I’ve never lived in dorms, but I’ve experienced that concentrated dreg effect in other activities where I came in new and a lot of other participants already had friends.

    I could see that being an issue at Southern Tech with athletes. They’d have been recruited from around the country, maybe from (clears throat) poorer, less educated communities, and so would be less likely to have high school friends going to the same college. So there’d be a high concentration of them in the random roommate pool.

  9. Webmaster says:

    Spungen,

    SoTech’s approach to roommate selection is that if you have a friend *prior to getting in*, you could request to room with them (not always successfully), or you can request a room assignment for the next year. Functionally, at least as far as Freshmen are concerned, your control of who you get is near-zero.

    This doesn’t do much good for people who are coming in their first year. It also doesn’t help very much for those who the system just screws over (like Karl when they “lost” his registration).

  10. trumwill says:

    SoTech’s approach to roommate selection is that if you have a friend *prior to getting in*, you could request to room with them (not always successfully),

    That’s what happened with Hugh and I. The good news was that we were able to room with one another, the bad news was that we had to spend the first year in the athletics dorm rather than the honors dorm.

    Did housing tend to match people by year? Or were freshmen at least matched with freshmen? If so that at least improves the odds of getting a better roommate since the number of sociable people removing themselves from the pool is relatively small. But otherwise (and after freshman year) the odds are not in your favor that you’re going to get the kind of roommate that you want.

  11. trumwill says:

    I know that some schools allow it. So a lot of the normal people who otherwise would be potential random roommates are able to select themselves out of that system by choosing preexisting friends. So it makes the random pool smaller and the asshole/weirdo concentration higher.

    That’s what I was thinking. Part of me was always wished I’d gone with the roulette system since things ended so poorly between Hugh and myself. It also could have helped me get into a social atmosphere a little more different then the one I had in high school. But what I hadn’t taken into consideration until this post was that a very good portion of the people without a roommate didn’t have a roommate for a good reason.

    It’s sort of like group activities in class. I always seemed to end up in the “default” group of those that didn’t remaining after everyone grouped together. It was rarely like a motley crew of lovable rejects you see in the movies. It was either people that were thoroughly unlikeable and people that may have been likeable enough but didn’t have the slightest clue what they were doing.

  12. Webmaster says:

    Will,

    Housing’s approach seemed to be to take the entire allotment of people who requested roommates, and just go in sequence filling them in by when they’d processed the housing application. Freshmen regularly got upperclassmen and other mismatches.

    As far as your situation with Hugh, despite the ending, you were FAR better off with him than with the other possibilities. Of my random roommates, I had one who hated my guts based on my religious affiliation, one who was just weird, one who was nice but such a slob that the line of demarcation between my side of the room and his was self-evident, and one psychotic.

    Of the roommates I chose to live with (and I only got two), things were much better off.

  13. Spungen says:

    It was rarely like a motley crew of lovable rejects you see in the movies.

    So very true! “Bad News Bears,” my ass.

    It’s a dynamic that people just don’t understand if they’ve never experienced it. They think there’s some law of the universe that you get to be around people like yourself.

    Every explanation of the leftover dynamic I’ve tried has been rambling and, apparently, offensive to many people.

  14. Peter says:

    One of the better solutions I’ve heard is for the NFL and NBA to set up genuine farm leagues so that those that are completely uninterested in college can go to a farm team and develop their talents there, getting paid for it and not bugging students that are actually there to learn.

    Yes, that might happen … and the Sun might set in the east tonight.

  15. trumwill says:

    As far as your situation with Hugh, despite the ending, you were FAR better off with him than with the other possibilities.

    No doubt. The further I get away from the whole Hugh thing the less bad it was all things considered. And there were ways I could have improved that situation had I not been so perpetually pissed off that last year or so that would have been difficult if it had been someone I hadn’t known since high school.

    Every explanation of the leftover dynamic I’ve tried has been rambling and, apparently, offensive to many people.

    I’ve been mulling over a post on that subject myself. Maybe I shouldn’t… or maybe it won’t be as bad because I’m not female (and I have a somewhat smaller — but appreciated! — readership).

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