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Busting the admissions standards myth

Observer Viewpoint | Tuesday, December 7, 2004

In their Dec. 6 letter to The Observer, Brian Lange, Owen McGovern and Mark Meisner offer criticisms of the Notre Dame administration’s recent management of the football program. Though some of their criticisms strike me as on target, the authors do make misleading remarks about academic standards and admissions.

The authors correctly note that when Lou Holtz was coach, Notre Dame “frequently admitted individuals with lower GPAs and SAT scores than their classmates.” They claim this policy changed, leading to the “gradual decay of our football program.”

Though ESPN and popular press reports often make similarly mistaken assertions, the fact is Notre Dame still eagerly recruits and regularly admits football players with GPAs and SAT scores far lower than their classmates – 300 or more points below the Notre Dame average SAT score and nearly a full grape point below in GPA is not at all uncommon. Notre Dame’s assistant provost and admissions director, Dan Saracino, has given several high-profile (eg, Sports Illustrated) interviews clarifying Notre Dame’s admission policies relevant to this issue. Saracino has consistently noted on the record there has been no change in our approach to admissions for football players.

By one measure our admissions standards are somewhat demanding – we require a few more high school core courses than some competing schools. This supposedly helps demonstrate an interest in and capacity for college level academic work. By another measure our admissions standards are quite relaxed – few schools admit football players with test scores so far below the average of the student population. Whether one is in favor of keeping our policy the same or chaning it in either direction, we should all agree no blame for our football misfortunes is due to a change in our enrollment policies.

Fritz Warfield

Associate Professor of Philosophy

Dec. 6