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A Grip on Sports: What is more important, winning in the classroom or on the court? Or is it a bit of both?

Gonzaga coach Mark Few reacts during the second half in the Zags’ win over San Francisco in the WCC Tournament semifinals in Las Vegas. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Gonzaga coach Mark Few reacts during the second half in the Zags’ win over San Francisco in the WCC Tournament semifinals in Las Vegas. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

A GRIP ON SPORTS • How important are academics in college athletics? No, really. I’m asking. Is it important to you your favorite college teams do well in the classroom, or is it just icing for the cake, which is a winning season? A couple announcements happened yesterday that got us questioning such things.


• The NCAA has a little thing it likes to call the APR. It’s short for Academic Progress Rate, a way for the organization to keep tabs on the academic well-being of its member schools. Think of it as an RPI or NET formula for academics. It’s complicated. But it’s also the same for everyone and every sport. Graduate your athletes within a certain time frame and the number is good. Don’t and it isn’t. That’s the CliffsNotes version.

Want another summary? Gonzaga does really well in this. In just about every sport. Every year. The school is near-perfect in graduating its athletes, even in the high-profile sports of women’s tennis and men’s cross country. Just kidding. Not about the near-perfect nature of graduation around the athletic department, though. Men’s and women’s basketball is near-perfect too.

Which begs the question: Would the average, I-live-in-Spokane-so-I-root-for-my-Zags fan be willing to trade a perfect APR score for a national title?

OK, stupid question. Of course he or she would. CBS doesn’t show a one-shining moment video at graduation does it? Nope. No one but those folks who have family walking watches the graduation highlight videos prepared by the school either.

Winning an NCAA title, pretty much any NCAA title, is recognized nationally. It may not be fair or right in any way but it is reality. It is a lifetime achievement that means something to everyone associated with the school, even if that association is no deeper than buying a sweatshirt at Costco or taking the kids down to McCarthey to watch the team get off the bus after a game.

Good grades? It is the most important thing that happens for any college athlete in reality. But it is well down the list of importance for the folks that cheer them on.

• We alluded to a couple things that got us thinking about this subject. The second one was the announcement yesterday California’s State University system, the nearly 30 institutions from Cal State Sacramento to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo to Fresno State and beyond, will hold most classes virtually in the fall. The powers that be don’t want students on campus, where they could contribute to a possible second wave of COVID-19, anticipated for sometime after summer.

What does that mean for fall sports? Cal Poly and Sac State play football in the Big Sky, Eastern Washington and Idaho’s conference. Fresno State, San Diego State and San Jose State are in the Mountain West. Other schools play other sports in the Big West.

Can there really be college athletics when the students aren’t allowed on campus because, at the bottom line, those in charge deemed it is not safe? Tough to see it happening.

If it does, doesn’t that prove once and forever the NCAA model of a student-athlete is really athlete-student? The athlete part is more important to the school than the student part, because if it weren’t, the student would be at home like the rest of their peers.

One other thought on the matter. This is the State University system. The UC system is separate. So we don’t know yet what it is planning. It would impact Pac-12 members California and UCLA, as well as influence private schools Stanford and USC.

The next few weeks are going to be interesting, aren’t they? Not fun. But interesting.

• The NCAA is soon expected to extend its coronavirus-caused recruiting dead period through the end of July. It announced yesterday it has canceled its basketball academy weekend, a new recruiting tool put in place last year and held at four sites around the nation at the end of July.

Meanwhile, the men’s and women’s basketball coaching associations joined in by urging the NCAA to extend the dead period to July 31. That move probably seals the deal, as summer recruiting events are held to allow coaches to view as many prospective players as possible in the shortest time. They have always been the driving force behind them, as they ease their recruiting burden. If they are on board for a cancellation, then the NCAA has cover to extend the ban.


Gonzaga: The NCAA honored the Bulldogs’ athletic department again yesterday. Jim Meehan has all the details in this story. … The women’s basketball team received a big commitment yesterday as well. By big, we mean 6-foot-3 Bree Salenbien, a senior-to-be in Michigan. She’s the Associated Press’ state player of the year. The three-time AP state player of the year, actually. Jim Allen has that story. … Larry Weir spoke with Steven Karr from the The Slipper Still Fits in the latest Press Box pod.

WSU: Around the Pac-12, the coaches’ webinars continued yesterday with Washington’s Jimmy Lake, Utah’s Kyle Whittingham and Colorado’s Karl Dorrell taking part in the media call. They hope there is a uniformly mandated start date for college football around the nation. … If the season only consists of 11 Pac-12 games, that’s OK with the coaches. And it kind of sounds fun to us. … Speaking of academics, Washington had a great year in football. … An Arizona receiver is waiting on foot surgery and may miss the start of the season, whenever it is. … A former Colorado quarterback found a place to play. … In basketball news, a former Oregon State guard has landed at Grand Canyon. … A UCLA player is using this time to perfect his shot.

EWU: If you were just getting used to Cooper Kupp wearing No. 18 for the Los Angeles Rams, sorry. He’s going to go back to wearing No. 10 next year, the number he wore at Eastern. Ryan Collingwood has more in this story. … Ryan also caught up with another Eastern alum, quarterback Matt Nichols, who is still a Canadian Football League standout.

Seahawks: Receiver Phillip Dorsett seems to be a good fit in Seattle, even if he hasn’t been in the city yet.

Mariners: The M’s employees are taking pay cuts.


• College athletics are weird. Really. Is it about the games or the classes? If it’s both, what should the ratio be? Everyone wants to win, but in which endeavor is it more important to win? To be honest, it’s beyond me. Maybe the two should be divorced. Or maybe we shouldn’t put so much emphasis on college sports. Or maybe it’s perfect the way it is. Hey, stop laughing. Until later …

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