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The Program
L. JON WERTHEIM
March 05, 2007
In the new Gilded Age of college sports, no school has done more with its money--or learned more from painful scandal--than mighty Ohio State, the standard against which all other schools are judged
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March 05, 2007

The Program

In the new Gilded Age of college sports, no school has done more with its money--or learned more from painful scandal--than mighty Ohio State, the standard against which all other schools are judged

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Psychology and neuroscience professor John Bruno, the faculty athletic representative, points to the TV-driven scheduling of games as one major concern. "Presidents can't beat their chests and say 'academic reform, scholar-athletes, blah blah blah' and then agree to the BCS schedule that made our kids lose a week of class," he says. The problem is worst for men's basketball, the sport with the most academic casualties. "Missing class is a way of life for kids who can't afford for it to be a way of life," Bruno says.

Graham will go to extreme lengths to minimize the damage. January's BCS title game coincided with the first week of the winter quarter. Commandeering conference rooms at the team hotel in Scottsdale, Ariz., SASSO set up a remote operation, stocked with computers, course syllabi and textbooks. Eight SASSO staffers made the trip. Based on their academic standing, 29 of the 121 football players were required to attend the study tables. The rest of the team was merely encouraged. "Especially when you're on a 10-week quarter system, missing the first week of classes is a big deal," says Graham. "We tried to make the best of a situation that was not ideal."

According to Graham's in-house figures, Ohio State's football graduation rate from 2001 to '06 was 52%--a figure diminished, he says, by the large number of players who jumped to the NFL in that span. Under the NCAA's new academic-progress rules, which have raised questions on some campuses (page 61), the Buckeyes have shown progress: During the '06 fall quarter more than half the football team had a grade-point average of 3.0 or better. Since Jim Tressel took over for John Cooper as football coach in '01, the cumulative GPA for football players has improved from 2.45 to 2.9. "There's no question it can be hard dancing to two different beats," says Graham of the conflict between athletics and academics, "but once you find a rhythm, you can succeed."

THE NONREVENUE ATHLETE | Teresa Meyer
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? Will compete in 2007 Pan Am Games in Brazil; harbors Olympic ambitions

?Academic All--Big Ten

?Fires off 250 rounds of ammo a week

YOU KNOW THOSE silver-dollar-sized decals that adorn the helmets of Buckeyes football players? Teresa Meyer has scads of them too. Except that hers are arrayed on the case of her .22. They recognize the shooting prowess of Meyer, an ambitious, irrepressible junior and captain of the pistol team, a coed consortium that rivals synchronized swimming as the most obscure of OSU's 36 varsity squads.

Though pistol is not an official NCAA sport--it's governed by the NRA-- Ohio State has conferred full varsity status upon it since the 1940s. The chance to be on the team was the decisive factor in the college choice of Meyer, who began shooting as a 10-year-old in her hometown of Dearborn, Mich. "Some people here might not even know we exist," she says, "but we get the same benefits as other varsity athletes."

That includes everything from Nike swag like polos and sweatshirts (under a deal worth $11.9 million over seven years, most of it in free product, Nike outfits the entire athletic department) to preference in course scheduling, to full access to training facilities, such as the hypoxic altitude chamber. Taking advantage of a top-flight conditioning staff (the "speed coach" is 1996 Olympic gold medal sprinter Butch Reynolds, class of '91), the 5'8", 180-pound Meyer says she's lost 60 pounds since freshman year.

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