The Harbaugh/Hart controversy has stirred up again, in the light of Jim Harbaugh's comments to Pat Forde in a column that ran on ESPN.com tonight. In it are several very hypocritical remarks by Harbaugh (which I'll get to in a minute) along with Forde drawing conclusions off some very limited information and knowledge (such as his statement that he's never seen an entire Junior class having not declared degrees, when at Michigan it is VERY common to not declare until Junior year--which has since been corrected in a sidebar).
Harbaugh's first new remark is that Hart's comments were "orchestrated and organized" and that "when I was a player, nobody would've said what Mike Hart said about me" due to fear of what Bo would do to said player. He also mentions that Bo taught him to speak his mind.
Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but was Mike Hart not doing exactly what Bo would've taught--at least in Harbaugh's head? To speak his mind, and speak the truth as he knows it? Seems to me that's exactly what Hart did. And defended his school against an unfair accusation to boot.
It's also ironic that Harbaugh brought up Bo's teachings, being that he all but admitted to Jamie Morris that he wouldn't have made the comments he did if Bo was still alive.
Then he goes on to attack the General Studies degree, saying that "we don't have one of those at Stanford" and "In my opinion, that degree does not give you the skill set to compete in the working world."
So now we're not just tearing down the student-athletes on the football team, we're also going after the 200 or so students at Michigan majoring in General Studies. And that's after we've gone after Communications majors, since apparently Harbaugh was wronged by being "pushed" into that concentration. And that's after we went after the "Sports Communications" majors like myself, who he attacked in his original comments.
What I really want to know, though, is when the fuck did Jim Harbaugh become an expert at General Studies, and how on Earth does he know if it gives you "the skill set to succeed in the working world"? It's simple. He doesn't. I would be willing to bet that the man couldn't tell you one thing about that major, apart from the fact that a lot of football players are in it and therefore it must be easy. Never mind the fact that it requires half the credits taken to be 300 level classes or higher. Never mind the fact that it's a pretty flexible major, which is nice for athletes who have a very limited block of time for classes. Or that it doesn't require a foreign language, which is attractive to a lot of us, not just athletes.
Has he had a lot of experience himself in the "working world" (and I'm speaking of the one that most of us go into, not the world of professional football)? Has he seen a lot of examples of General Studies students becoming bums on the street since their degree didn't prepare them for the real world? Of course not. He was talking out of his ass, and Forde printed the quote, followed by a remark that if football players are in that program so disproportionately to the student body compared to the student body as a whole, they must be funneled into it.
Pat Massey for instance, was a General Studies major. He was in the program that Harbaugh denounced as, essentially, useless. Massey is now working for KeyBank in Cleveland in the same group as a friend of mine, who graduated from Michigan's Business School. Now, he may have been one of the smarter guys on the team. I don't know. But he ended up in General Studies, got his degree, and seems to be making the most of it. And yet, Harbaugh lumps him right in with those other people who "don't have the skill set to make it in the real world".
And for Crissakes, Harbaugh wanted to major in HISTORY (remember the disclaimer). Would he have been a teacher? What skill set would majoring in History have given him that majoring in Communications (or General Studies) wouldn't have?
You want to talk majors and proportions? Oh good! I was hoping you'd say that. And this is where that disclaimer above comes in.
I went through Stanford's website and found the majors for their football players. And some information popped up that was extremely interesting, to say the least. Of the 101 players listed, 52 of them are undeclared. Of the remaining 49 players, what do you reckon was the second most popular major? If you guessed that very communications degree that Harbaugh is so offended to have been pushed into, you guessed right. 14.3% of the players with declared majors are majoring in Communications vs. 1.55% of the student body as a whole (which includes Journalism students, so the percentage is likely lower than that). I hope the seven guys on his team that are Comm majors are really happy with Coach since he apparently doesn't think they're going anywhere in life.
So now about that random degree that almost nobody in the school majors in, but a disproportionate amount of football players do....at Michigan it's General Studies. At Stanford, I believe it's called Science Technology & Society. According to the Stanford STS website, there are 58 STS majors in the school. 58. That works out to .9% of the 6,400 undergrads. Want to know how many football players major in it? 9. Or 15.5% of the entire major (which dwarfs the Michigan team making up roughly 10% of General Studies). And since I know nothing about STS except for the fact that a lot of football players are majoring in it, I'm going to assume that it's easy, useless in the grand scheme of things, and say that Harbaugh and his predecessors are pushing players into it because they can't handle the "real" majors.
Here's the list of Stanford football team majors if you're interested:
Science Technology & Society: 9
Management Science & Engineering: 7
Poly Sci: 5
Public Policy: 4
Computer Sci: 2
Intl Relations: 1
Yup Jimmy, you've got a team of actual rocket scientists on your hands.
I'm not going to sit here and say that every football player that Michigan brings in could've gotten in in their own right. It's not true. But these players bring a skill that normal students don't have and that the university is looking for.
To me, the most important thing that athletics brings many of these "borderline" players is a chance. A chance to get a degree from a top-notch university, which they might not otherwise have gotten. Many of them will take that degree and use it as a way to open a door. We don't always know the circumstances for why a player is borderline. Maybe he was in a terrible school system (many of them are). Maybe he took the path of least resistance through school, being spoon-fed because he was an athlete, and he has the potential to do good things academically and just hasn't shown it. Maybe he's just dumb. We don't know.
But what I do know is this: A degree in it of itself won't make a person successful. But if you've got one from an institution like Michigan and you're willing to work hard, a degree can be the thing that opens the door. And these "borderline players" that get in...if they can cut it, they're getting a degree that they might not otherwise have gotten a chance to get. I don't call that abandoning them when they're out of school and no longer on the football team. I call it giving them the best possible chance to be successful in a life outside of football. The school can only do so much.
If you're smart, you're smart. If you're dumb, you're dumb. At some point, the player has to be accountable for what happens in his own life, just like any of us. And if he's too dumb or too lazy to make it in the real world, well, then he didn't take advantage of the chance he got and that his athletic talents got him. But I refuse to believe for a second that there has ever been a player who would've been a dynamite Engineer, was shuttled into Sports Management because he was an athlete, and is now a failure because of it. And that seems to be what Harbaugh is implying when he talks about players being pushed into soft majors and then abandoned when they're out in the real world.
Let me make one final comment. I love Jamie Morris. I worked with him in Michigan Sports Marketing for the better part of a year. If you know the man, you know how much it probably hurt him to say what he said to Jim Harbaugh. That's not a man who likes to burn bridges. The nature of his job in Development suggests that. If he told Jim Harbaugh to "lose my cell phone number", then he really believed that Harbaugh was completely and utterly in the wrong on this one. And that's good enough for me.