Mailbag question: Demar Dorsey


Posted at 8:00am — 6/11/2010

Mailbag question: Demar Dorsey

All right guys. You seem to have been very well informed in the past, so I am bringing this to you. Why it is that Demar Dorsey can make the grade and academically qualify and not be admitted to Michigan?

Please explain in detail, because something seems very fishy to me.


Bruce K. S.


Thanks for the question. There was no doubt this question was coming. GBMW will answer, painfully. The latest chapter of another fine mess may force us to some old time medication.

But, Bruce and readers please accept the following realities that hinder an attempt at a definitive (final and totally accurate) answer regarding the Demar Dorsey “situation.” Only a few top university personnel, from within separate entities, can put the entire picture together and be counted as primary sources witness to discussion and decision. Someone from admissions, someone from the athletic department, and someone from the football staff were probably together all at one time to determine or receive a final disposition. Admissions will not talk because grades are of a personal nature and saying anything may violate a broad range of Act of Privacy guidelines. A football coach will not talk in extreme public quarters, for the same reason and also for the pragmatic realization that football coaches should not take on Admissions at a university of Michigan’s stature (or anywhere else). The Athletic Director either went to bat for the recruit, or stayed out of the fray, we do not know. He is not going to stir the pot further after the fact.

Now this ugly scenario could be construed as a historical love or hate triangle used successfully for two hundred or so years in opera, Aida comes to mind.

Before opera, there was Billy Shakespeare, who once penned a line spoken by the character Marcellus in Hamlet’s Act 1, “there is something rotten in the state of Denmark,” using this phrase as a metaphor for a political group rotting like a fish from the head down. So, Bruce something being fishy here would not be so good!

Modern cinema has long picked up on this successful three-way recipe and the beat continues. The three antagonists, or protagonists, are clear. Well, at least one (Coach Rod) has been antagonized. But unfortunately added into the mix is a fourth element, student athlete Demar Dorsey. So, a question can be raised: is this now a four-way deal, or instead the classic triangle with the young Dorsey in the center helplessly surrounded by three powerful entities that are not exactly in harmonious form? The vote here is for the later, and that is why the outrage has boiled over; the student will bear the immediate effect, but later on Michigan and some of the players in the triangle may have the effect boomerang back.

Bruce, let us start of by listing what is known, probably beyond argument (although things change):
• Demar Dorsey met NCAA qualification guidelines
• Demar’s Clearinghouse status is uncertain and flagging is a possibility
• Demar made progress, albeit with credits from an alternative setting
• Most (very large percentage) NCAA student athletes who qualify and have signed a LOI are eventually admitted and attend that school, but not all
• Admissions is almost exclusively responsible for admissions decisions, other entities can play a role, but only admissions can produce the final decision

What is unknown to our knowledge:
• What were the conditions stated to Demar for Michigan admission?
• To what degree were the participants for and against Demar’s admission?
• By all reasonable standards of fairness, did Demar meet the criteria Michigan laid out? By the same standards, did Michigan breech a reasonable standard of fairness, explicit or clearly implied? What were the criteria?
• Was this a simple Admissions decision, or is the decision part of any antagonistic action?

On to the discussion, understanding full well that connecting the dots is not a perfect science.

Currently, the arrows are flying, with the first batch flying squarely at Admissions, but as the week has progressed some of the mob has shifted anger toward Athletic Director David Brandon. There are few arrows pointed at Coach Rodriguez, in contrast to the media arrows that flew around the February signing day taking umbrage (convenient umbrage) about recruiting a player of Demar’s academic standing who also had a questionable behavioral past. Those arrows died down as it was assumed the UM Admissions folks had signed off, likely with qualifications, and that was that. And so Demar set to work and lo and behold, he met his academic NCAA standards. Therefore, no arrows have been aimed at Demar, now believed to be the victim in the final act.

The dots say that admissions is 100% in charge of admissions and that due to the past furor, or whatever, at least some within must believe Demar is/was not a good fit for Michigan. Students with less than stellar admissions criteria graduate from big name universities all the time. Sometimes the toughest thing about a big-name, exclusive school is getting in. Once in, the student who works hard, does things right, can make it, simple as that. The fuzzy dot on the page is the support or nonsupport Brandon threw into the mix. Nonsupport can be defined as neutral or negative actions, quite different to be sure, but both in this case not serving the applicant in a positive manner.

There is a reality here: admissions has standards, the general university body expects these standards to be upheld, especially by the higher-up administrative types. It is Michigan’s distinct right to have standards higher than the NCAA’s, similar to Stanford, Northwestern, Notre Dame, and Cal. These schools want student-athletes who can play football and compete with the rest of the student body in the classroom. Michigan is under no obligation to accept a student-athlete simply because a letter of intent was signed. Again, this almost always happens, but not always.

The dots say that since Demar was previously given a letter of intent to sign (indicating interdepartmental support) someone (singular or plural) in the Admissions and/or Athletic Department decided (for whatever reason) to play hardball, with not only Demar, but other recruits as well. The Demar story has made the news, but other casualties could include one or two others from this year’s class and some future recruits.

So, the big question is why did Michigan not admit Demar Dorsey? Did admissions change unstated but assumed (read for athletes) standards without letting Coach Rod know? Did the new Athletic Director indicate a willingness to pursue or accept a new path, or did admissions personnel indicate a need for a new path? This would seem strange since much has been written about improved football players’ GPA’s.

Was Coach Rod aware that all of this could eventually ferment, or did Admissions indeed send a message that if Demar succeeded in meeting concerns, he was in, cut and dried?

With David Brandon’s statement about too many marginal students in the program, why is it that many of them appear to be getting the job done in the classroom, yet the program comes under even more scrutiny? Is this a harboring for the future? Is this a placation to the NCAA as a result of impending sanctions? Likely not, the most plausible answer is this is what the Athletic Director believes should be happening at Michigan.

Noted by some, but not all, is the reality that there is no guarantee that Demar will clear the NCAA Clearinghouse without being flagged. His grades stem in part from alternative high school courses and curriculum designed to provide help for students who have encountered some difficulties. Some may place a stigma here, others may say this is what education should provide, alternatives and opportunities. Not everyone goes to prep school, but at every university there is an expected standard of curricular rigor (not just simple course grades) for college admissions.

The dots will probably never be truthfully connected concerning the effect of Demar’s past on Michigan’s decision. Even if this variable was considered and determined to be of substantial importance, it would be imprudent to publicly state such a position.

America is a land of second-chance opportunity and at least on the surface Demar appeared to be making progress in achieving a big dream. The program is under NCAA scrutiny and the extra scrutiny brought about by the willing media fury conceivably could have worked against Demar.

Two items remain for discussion; the first is Demar’s future. He clearly is skilled enough to play anywhere and now that he has qualified there will be several schools very willing to take a chance regarding the Clearinghouse. Demar has been dealt some adversity. But one way or another he will almost certainly play college ball. When given a chance Demar must make the best of it, keep his nose clean, and get the grades. This is easier at some schools than at others. In February, Michigan took a chance on Demar and since then Demar ended up, likely unknowingly, taking a chance on Michigan. Victim may be too strong of a word in this discussion, but certainly it is hard to fault Demar for anything post LOI signing.

The last item of discussion is Michigan’s future. There will be a broad range of analysis regarding the carryover (hangover) from the “Dorsey situation.” No prediction will be made here but think about the following questions, because this decision and related actions by Michigan concerning Dorsey is not insignificant.

• Will the football program greatly change recruiting strategies and what will such a change entail regarding the talent brought into the program?
• What damage did this decision do to the Florida pipeline successfully built up by the coaches?
• Where will the angry arrows eventually land, Admissions, Brandon, RR?
• Will coaches be so infuriated that the next line of business after the current season is to flee Ann Arbor?
• Will this all pass away quickly?
• What is next in this saga of All My Wolverine Children?

As a postscript consider that Michigan has likely entertained poor judgment and communication throughout this entire process. Clearly, even before the NCAA difficulties (in progress), Michigan had a perception of infighting and a lack of decisional stability that remains to some shocking. Many people are making a great university look bad, and to the nation that is the clear perception. There will always be a human element needed to make judgments about admission to true institutions of higher learning, but the human elements in this case appeared to be more flawed than the process or product.

Sometimes in this world a little pragmatism goes a long way. Maybe all of this could have come down after Demar Dorsey, not simply because he is so talented, but because Michigan had, on the surface at least, made a commitment. Catching a student in the crosshairs of such a mess/turf-war/change of policy/strong message/whatever is repugnant to some, if not most.

So, in the mode of Billy Shakespeare, is this a Hamlet or Macbeth type of tragedy, or a Falstaff type of comedy?

Written by GBMW Staff

Go Blue — Wear Maize!