Blame colleges for Wonderlic mess

Tavon Austin reportedly scored a 7 on the Wonderlic -- shame on you, West Virginia.
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Jen Floyd Engel

Jen Floyd Engel, selected as the top columnist in the 2012 Associated Press Sports Editors annual contest, started working at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram in 1997 and became a columnist in 2003 before joining Sports opinions? She's never short of them. And love her or hate her, she'll be just another one of the boys. Follow her on Twitter or like her on Facebook.


West Virginia wide receiver Tavon Austin is stupid, or so we have been informed by giggly media. They know this because his Wonderlic score was reportedly a 7. This is low.

They told us because they are smarmy little bastards and because we have reached that portion of the NFL Draft buildup where the only things left to analyze are Wonderlic scores. This is a yearly dance of leaked scores, followed by the media making fun of the players and their scores, and then other media making fun of the aforementioned media and the Wonderlic.

Players like Austin feel embarrassed for a couple of days, or they don’t. And then teams proceed to take the most talented football player, even if Wonderlic says he is dumber than a Kardashian and we do not talk about this for another year.

You know who should be forced to answer for this, who should be embarrassed? Mountaineers coach Dana Holgerson should. West Virginia professors should. And while I am at it, Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops needs to be as well.

It was The Stooper, a couple of weeks ago, explaining why college kids do not need to actually be paid for their services. They already are — in the form of college scholarships.

“You know what school would cost here for a non-state guy? Over $200,000 for room, board and everything else,” he told The Sporting News. “That’s a lot of money. Ask the kids who have to pay it back over 10-15 years with student loans. You get room and board, and we’ll give you the best nutritionist, the best strength coach to develop you, the best tutors to help you academically, and coaches to teach you and help you develop. How much do you think it would cost to hire a personal trainer and tutor for 4-5 years?”


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My guess is tutors capable of “coaching players up” to a 7 on what amounts to an IQ test can be had fairly cheaply. Actually it seems like these players might not be getting their $200,000 worth of free education at all.

For smart people like the leakers, those who just kill at Wonderlicking (and I include myself here), there are only a couple of logical explanations for this:

1) That $200,000 loan-free education is a rip-off, or;

2) These “student athletes” are not getting the same education as everybody else, instead being marginally educated, kept eligible and kicked down the road so they can help win games on Saturday.

It is true the cost of college education has skyrocketed to a point where a degree has diminishing returns … It is also true guys like Austin and Tennessee wide receivers Cordarrelle Patterson (Wonderlic: 11) and Justin Hunter (Wonderlic: 12) obviously did not get $200,000 of education. Granted, the test is wrongheaded and has almost nothing to do with one’s ability to succeed in the NFL, but a college-educated man should be able to score better than that.


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Instead of being outraged at the NFL for administering the test or at players for failing the test, we’d be wise to save up most of our outrage for these universities and coaches who love to cry “student athlete” when explaining why players cannot be introduced to the corruptive power of money and yet have no responsibility when these students are not, you know, educated. If these kids are really going to class, getting the grades necessary to stay eligible and being tutored when struggles emerge, they should be able to grind out at least a 15 or so on a Wonderlic test. The 7s and 4s and 11s suggest they are not actually students or the least bit interested in going pro in anything other than football.

As Cowboys first-round draft pick Morris Claiborne (Wonderlic: 4) noted a year ago: “I came to the combine for football. I looked at the test, and wasn’t any questions about football. I didn’t see no point in the test. I’m not in school anymore. I didn’t complete it.”

Austin should not be embarrassed by his 7; West Virginia should.

We should. We keep letting universities and the NCAA sell this student athlete lie while cranking out players who have so obviously learned so very little. We repeat the lie. We defend it.

And we have the audacity to call Austin stupid.

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