Josh Rosen created a bit of a stir, to say the least, in a Bleacher Report interview earlier this week in which he stated that “football and school don’t go together.” To buttress his point, he used Alabama as an example of what would happen to the talent level of a team if SAT requirements were raised.
Thursday, the Crimson Tide head coach addressed the UCLA quarterback’s contention that “[h]uman beings don’t belong in school with [football players’] schedules.”
That head coach, Nick Saban, fully understands the athletic and academic demands of a college football player as he played at Kent State in the early seventies. While some would say that there’s no comparing Saban’s time in the sport to the here and now — and at a football monolith like Alabama vs. a MAC school no less — the coach, when asked about Rosen’s comments, says he “[doesn’t] know it’s changed a whole lot” since his playing days.
I don’t know that it’s changed a whole lot,” Saban said. “We used to have two-a-days every day. We don’t have two-a-days anymore. We don’t spend any more time in fall camp than when I played as a player (at Kent State 1970-72). We don’t practice any longer through the course of the week.”
“[Earning a degree] means a lot of guys — even though football might be difficult, nobody is saying it isn’t. Nobody’s saying school is not very difficult. Nobody is saying that getting a college education isn’t very difficult — but for a lot of those guys, being good football players is what created the opportunity for them to make a tremendous investment in their future by graduating from school.
“Is it difficult? Probably,” he said. “Was it difficult for me? Absolutely. So, I don’t think it’s ever been more difficult. It’s just never been easy. But I do think the reward of it all — the lessons that are learned being part of a team, the lessons being a competitor in an environment like this or any college football program … the lessons that you learn in life. I mean, how valuable can those things be?
The key quote pulled from Saban’s sermon on the subject just might be “[i]t’s just never been easy,” which is likely a very valid point. And Saban’s thought on how rewarding it is to put in the hard work of earning a degree while playing football is certainly something that shouldn’t be mitigated either.
Given how the sport has evolved since Saban’s playing days and the millions and billions of dollars at stake, though, it’s fair to wonder, as Rosen did, whether the demands involved with today’s game make it even harder and in a very real way dilutes the education a football player receives. And it’s a discussion for which Rosen should be praised for advancing, not chastised– even if he is just a rich white kid who very likely will be a first-round NFL draft pick.