"Holy Crud:" U of M Academics, Athletics in National Spotlight



Dasmine Cathey
  • Dasmine Cathey
A University of Memphis football player with poor reading skills is in the national spotlight in stories in the Chronicle of Higher Education and The New York Times this week.

Dasmine Cathey, a fifth-year senior from Ridgeway High School, is the focus of the story by Brad Wolverton and the Times column by Joe Nocera.

Nocera writes: "As an incoming freshman, Cathey could barely read, and academics remain a chore. His papers — a handful of which are posted on the Chronicle’s Web site — seem more like the work of a seventh grader than a college student. Among the courses he has failed are Family Communication and Yoga. His major is called “interdisciplinary studies.” As the article ends, the athletic department’s academic advisers are desperately trying to get him to go to class so he can graduate."

Wolverton's story quotes the assistant athletic director for academic services, Joseph Luckey: "I was like, 'Holy crud, I can't believe how many kids are reading below a seventh-grade level,'" he says. For Mr. Luckey, the question is how many of those students to let in. "What we've all got to decide," he says, "is what's our breaking point?"

Outgoing University of Memphis Athletic Director R. C. Johnson is interviewed in the Flyer this week. On the subject of academics, he tells Flyer writer Frank Murtaugh: "When I got here, the NCAA didn't publish graduation rates. But our rate [for athletes] was in the low 30 percent. Now, we're in the 60 percent range. I feel good about where we are. The NCAA has raised the bar. We've gone from two to seven full-time academic employees. Bottom line: You've got to go to class. When you have to ask someone for a dollar, it's a lot easier when you're graduating your athletes."

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