There was a post up in this space last year about the different academic standards that recruits are held to at UCLA and Berkeley - the conclusion that I drew was that whatever data that exists was mostly inconclusive, despite what the denizens of Bruins Nation would have you believe.
But what if there were evidence from an actual printed publication, with quotes, and statistics and everything? That proved that Cal indeed has higher standards? To quote Bill Simmons, is that something that you’d be interested in?
From the Contra Costa Times:
So maybe my heading is a little misleading; I don’t believe that this in itself constitutes hard proof, just as I was reluctant to say that the information I found last year conclusively said that UCLA had higher standards. The data in that sample seemed to indicate that UCLA students had higher SAT scores and average GPAs, but the sample sizes were so small, with such insignificant differences that only the most biased of observers would attempt to say that was definitive proof.
Some campuses use the "admission-by-exception" policy to enroll students from underperforming schools or low-income families. But other schools, most notably UCLA and UC Berkeley, use the exceptions primarily for athletes.
Berkeley granted 63 exceptions in 2007, about one-half of 1 percent of all admitted freshman applicants and the lowest number in at least 13 years. Two-thirds of those students were athletes.UCLA accepted 167 ineligible students last year, or 1.4 percent of admitted freshmen. More than half were athletes.
While in any given year, 20 percent to 25 percent of UC Berkeley’s athletes do not meet basic UC admissions standards, 40 percent of UCLA’s athletes are admitted by exception every year, including a peak of nearly 64 percent in 2005.
But it’s also important to recognize that this article doesn’t attempt to break down admitted athletes by the sport they’re coming in to play - obviously, football recruits tend to come in the largest numbers and have the most high profile recruitments, and their academic qualifications can be questionable, to say the least. The data that I found last year seems to indicate that it’s likely that nearly all of that 20-25% goes towards bringing in football recruits at Cal. But there are plenty of other college sports where both UCLA and Cal recruit players that may not have sterling academic backgrounds. Like, I don’t know. Basketball?
The teams that played in the Sweet 16 this year have some of the worst academic records in the country, particularly the top-seeded teams such as UCLA, where, on average, only 29% of men with basketball scholarships graduate within six years of enrolling.
None of this is supposed to mean that UCLA has terrible academic standards and that Cal’s are so high you’ll need to call up Allison Stokke for help. Far from it. As a matter of fact, here’s Exhibit 1: Brandon Mebane’s Wonderlic score.
There is more to the article, including quotes from Cal officials who maintain that they wouldn’t accept any student, athlete or otherwise, who wouldn’t be able to use their academic exemption to actually obtain their degree. So read the article yourself before coming to any conclusions. But when it comes down to it, the difference between 20-25% and 40% of athletes not being academically qualified is another borderline defensive line prospect or three who leaves the program after two years because he doesn’t feel the need to consistently make it to mandatory study sessions. Any big time program will find a way to accept any borderline players that they really want, and that’s not going to change anytime soon.