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Big Changes in the Big Ten

New Logo, Divisions and Trophies Announced; Fans Sound Off

December 14, 2010

Big Changes in the Big Ten

by Alexis Mattera

Sure, the Golden Globe nominations are grabbing most of this morning’s headlines but in the world of college sports, “Mad Men” and “The Social Network” are riding the pine while what’s going on in the Big Ten takes the field.

Among the changes is a new logo. First off, the logo. It’s not a huge departure from the previous design by any means – it’s still blue and white and incorporates numbers as well as letters – and logo co-designer Michael Gericke tells ESPN, “The new Big Ten logo was developed to symbolize the conference’s future, as well as its rich heritage, strong tradition of competition, academic leadership, and passionate alumni. Its contemporary collegiate lettering includes an embedded numeral ‘10’ in the word ‘BIG,’ which allows fans to see ‘BIG’ and ‘10’ in a single word. Memorable and distinctive, the new logo evolved from the previous logo’s use of negative space and is built on the conference’s iconic name, without reference to the number of member institutions.” Fans aren’t buying it, though: It’s been less than one day since the logo was unveiled but the new design is already receiving some pushback a la Facebook and the Gap.

Next, the new divisions of Legends and Leaders – a change which makes sense in a way since the number of teams in the Big Ten exceeds the conference’s name – and 18 trophies. Now, Michigan, Michigan State, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska and Northwestern are in the Legends division while Illinois, Indiana, Ohio State, Penn State, Purdue and Wisconsin represent the Leaders division. As for the trophies, there are 18 new ones, many of which honor past players and coaches. “Our foundation is our history, and so we want to honor that history and tradition. Our goal, if we are to sustain this enterprise, is to continue to focus on the building of future leadership through education and competition,” said Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany.

It’s my guess these changes won’t impact the players – who should be more concerned with maintaining the grades to keep their athletic scholarships – but sports writers, reporters and fans are certainly making their voices heard. What do you think of the Big Ten’s changes? Are they worth all the ruffled feathers?


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A Deal with the (Sun) Devil

ASU Placed on NCAA Probation for Scholarship Violations

December 17, 2010

A Deal with the (Sun) Devil

by Alexis Mattera

Imagine working hard throughout high school, getting accepted to the college or university of your choice and receiving a scholarship covering all or part of your tuition. Now imagine being asked to give back even a tiny percentage of that award.

Wait...WHAT?! Exactly...but that's what happened at Arizona State University when former baseball coach Pat Murphy requested a number of his players relinquish all or part of their athletic scholarships for the 2006-2007 academic year so that the coaching staff could enroll several transfer students they had been recruiting through a program Murphy called Devil-to-Devil. His actions may not have been discovered unless a parent of a player complained about the process to ASU’s athletics director and after an investigation, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) agreed that this practice was problematic and violated rules. The punishment: ASU has been banned from the college playoffs this coming season and must vacate numerous wins, including the team’s 2007 Pacific-10 Conference title and trip to the College World Series; the school also received three years' probation, scholarship reductions and recruiting limitations. Though ASU has taken responsibility for not monitoring the baseball program more closely, it intends to appeal the NCAA’s decision.

As for Murphy – who echoes the name of his program with several other questionable practices – he’s not coaching anywhere at the moment but will not go unpunished. He was forced to resign last year and the NCAA bestowed a one-year show-cause penalty upon him so that any institution interested in hiring him in the next 12 months must not only defend why it is hiring him but also how it will monitor his behavior to prevent further violations.

This situation is shady any way you slice it but I do feel for the ASU students and coaches who are being penalized for events they had no part in. The beauty of college scholarships is that they don’t have to be repaid, allowing students to graduate with little to no student loan or credit card debt. To be clear, what Murphy did was wrong but by limiting the amount of scholarship awards and financial aid ASU can disperse, he’s not the one being truly punished – it’s the deserving students that are being hurt the most.


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Arne Duncan’s Ultimate Bracket Challenge

Sec. of Ed. Calls for Increased Graduation Rates for Post-Season Eligibility

March 17, 2011

Arne Duncan’s Ultimate Bracket Challenge

by Alexis Mattera

Selection Sunday has come and gone and your brackets should be ready to go. You’re probably feeling pretty confident about your choices and talking a bit of trash to other participants in your pool (I am...I went to UConn) but if Arne Duncan has his way, those brackets could look very different in the near future.

The Secretary of Education proposed that NCAA teams failing to graduate at least 40 percent of their players are barred from post-season tournament play. The impact would be significant – based on the annual study conducted by The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport, men's teams from Arkansas Pine Bluff, Baylor, California, Clemson, Georgia Tech, Kentucky, Louisville, Maryland, Missouri, New Mexico State, Tennessee and Washington would all be ineligible this year (that’s nearly an entire region of participants wiped out) – but Duncan is confident teams will find this "low bar" relatively easy to clear and believes the rule would immediately improve academic results.

Of course, there is some pushback: An NCAA spokesman said the rule would unfairly penalize current players for graduation rates of students from previous years and the NCAA already imposes academic sanctions on schools that fail to maintain education standards under the Academic Progress Rate. Most schools offer extra assistance to student-athletesXavier’s Sister Rose Ann Fleming makes all players attend at least 10 hours of study hall every week and Maryland spends more than $1 million every year to support student-athletes' academics, a number that doesn’t reflect its 8-percent graduation rate reported by the UCF study – but it’s not enough for Duncan. "If you can't graduate two out of five of your players, I just think your priorities are out of whack," Duncan, a former Harvard basketball star, said. "What it tells me is there is a lack of institutional commitment."

In your opinion, is Duncan’s full-court press a good idea or is the current zone defense on academics working just fine? Would you invite him into your bracket pool?


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Unusual (but Useful!) College Majors

by Alexis Mattera

You know the most popular college majors and the majors with the highest earning potential. You are even aware of some of the more unusual classes students can take while attending college...but can unique translate into useful in the real world?

As it turns out, some of the most out-there-sounding majors are producing satisfied graduates making real contributions to their fields of choice after graduation. What are these majors and where can interested students find them? Here’s an abridged guide:

  • Packaging. University of Wisconsin-Stout packaging majors don’t think outside the box. They think about the box, specifically how to create “economically, aesthetically, environmentally and technically sound” packaging. And they’ve got it in the bag: A 2009 survey showed 95 percent of packaging graduates were employed by major companies like Frito-Lay and FedEx, no less!
  • Viticulture and enology. Graduates from Cornell’s program could soon be giving Dionysus a run for his money. Though it only recently became an official major, coordinator Kari Richards said the majority of graduates are involved in the industry. "Some have continued enology-related studies in graduate school, others travel worldwide to gain experience in harvest and crush, [and a] few will or have returned to the home winery/vineyard," she said.
  • Puppetry. UConn’s not just known for basketball but for being one of only two schools in the U.S. offering undergraduate degrees in puppetry arts...and the only one offering a graduate program in the field. It’s selective – enrollment is limited to 22 students – but graduates have gone on to work and perform in theatres, television shows and films. Guess being green isn’t so difficult after all!

The complete list of unusual college majors can be found here. Wondering if the school of your dreams offers them? Check out our college search!


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Could College Culture Facilitate Gender Segregation by Major?

by Alexis Mattera

Next time you sit down in your favorite major class, take a look around. Are your classmates primarily male or female...and why? That depends: According to a new study, the culture of your school could be fostering gender segregation by major.

Authored by Ann L. Mullen and Jayne Baker, an associate professor of sociology and a doctoral student in sociology, respectively, at the University of Toronto, the study found that while college promoting liberal arts study have more students majoring in fields traditionally associated with majors of the opposite sex, “highly gendered” colleges – those with few tenured female faculty members, exceptionally small numbers of male undergraduates, and NCAA Division III football teams, for example – generally have higher levels of male and female segregation by major. The study also revealed it’s possible that culture of these schools influence "the options that become more thinkable and unthinkable for students as they choose their field of study" and that "gender segregation cuts across all types of institutions" and does not vary based on institutional selectivity.

While there are certainly other factors to consider (read more about Mullen and Baker’s study here), their findings are something to think about. Does your school sound like one of those described in the study? If so, have you noticed gender segregation by major?


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Bracketology 101

Math Prof Explains the Odds of a Perfect Bracket

March 9, 2012

Bracketology 101

by Alexis Mattera

March is one of my favorite months of the year: Not does it include the start of spring, my birthday and a seemingly endless amount of scholarship deadlines but it’s also chockfull of college basketball. With Selection Sunday right around the corner, pools are starting to form with all participants aiming for the same goal – the creation of a perfect bracket. What’s the likelihood you’ll be the one to achieve this feat? Pretty dang slim, says Jeff Bergen.

According to the DePaul University professor of mathematics, you technically could select the correct outcome of every single game but before you get too excited, the odds of picking that perfect bracket are less than one in 9.2 quintillion. “You basically have no chance,” he says as he calculates, but does note that if you have a solid knowledge of NCAA tournament history, your odds increase to 1 in 128 billion. Score!

So to those planning brackets, be sure to have your favorite rabbit’s foot, four-leaf clover or horseshoe handy...and just have fun! Remember, says Bergen, “When your bracket goes down the tubes, don’t worry: so is everybody else’s.” Will you be creating a NCAA tournament bracket this year? If so, how will you go about making your selections?


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"First Generation" Trains Its Lens on College Access

by Alexis Mattera

Many students think they know what it takes to get into the college of their choice but with record-low admissions rates, insufficient financial aid and increasing student loan debt, the path to higher education is not as clear-cut as it once was. Good grades and high standardized test scores aren’t enough anymore – the incoming freshman class at Berkeley, for example, includes an expert Ping-Pong player, an Irish dancer and a figure skater, as well as a TV star and a champion roller skater – but what if you don’t have the access to even that kind of basic information? The filmmakers behind "First Generation" hope to explain just that.

Adam and Jaye Fenderson's first feature film follows four students – an inner city athlete, a small town waitress, a Samoan warrior dancer and the daughter of migrant field workers – through as they apply to college and attempt to be the first members of their families to attend college. "First Generation" explores how, despite these students all possessing valuable attributes inside and outside of the classroom, the absence of college graduates in a family can result in a lack of financial support and a shortage of knowledge about the college admissions process as a whole.

Check out the trailer here when you have a minute and let us know what you think. If you are or will be a first generation college student, could you relate to the individuals featured? Do you think "First Generation" should be viewed by all students applying to college? Weigh in in the comments section!


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AP Courses In Demand in Boston ‘Burbs

by Alexis Mattera

High school students are well aware of the competition they’ll face when they apply to college so they’re willing to do whatever it takes to make their transcripts and resumes stand out to admissions committees. One great way to do this is by taking Advanced Placement classes and as the demand for these courses increases, high schools are doing their part to accommodate all interested students.

Though a Boston Globe review of state data found students at area high schools take AP exams at widely different rates, schools in the city’s northern suburbs have recorded higher rates of AP participation. In Malden, for example, 40 percent of seniors in the class of 2010 took at least one AP exam during their high school careers and the city has even added AP courses in psychology, U.S. government and environmental science to meet the increasing demand. Why? Because administrators are removing barriers. “For lack of a better word, we go after the kids. Teachers, guidance counselors and administrators make sure kids know they have this opportunity,” Malden’s director of guidance, testing and academic support Manjula Karamcheti said.

Are all students succeeding? No, but educators feel the overall benefits of the AP experience can be more important than a student’s score on the test. “When you open up the access, you run the risk of allowing students in that maybe were on the cusp, and I think that’s a good thing,” said Jon Bernard, principal of North Reading High School, where 60 percent of students scored a 3 or higher on their AP exams last year. “Even if the student gets a 2 or a 1 on the exam, I still think they have gained a benefit that will allow them to be successful in their postsecondary pursuits.”

What do you think of this AP for all philosophy?


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Attending College Versus Going Pro: A Tough Decision Facing Successful Student-Athletes

by Alexis Mattera

An Olympic gold medal is the ultimate goal for many athletes but when you’ve managed to achieve this feat before even turning 18, what do you set as your next accomplishment? There are usually two options – attend college and perfect your craft or go pro and rack up endorsement deals – but figuring out the "right" choice is becoming more difficult for many up-and-coming student-athletes.

A perfect example is Missy Franklin, the 17-year-old swimming phenom who scored five medals at the London Olympics. She has made it clear that she wants to swim in college but if she does so, she will not be able to take advantage of the potentially millions of dollars in endorsements her Olympic success has afforded her. (The NCAA strictly prohibits athletes from accepting sponsorship and advertising money if they want to maintain their eligibility, though many athletes have petitioned this rule).

A recent article in The Atlantic details that going pro makes more sense for athletes in certain sports – for example, since the level of competition in collegiate gymnastics is lower, gold medalist Gabby Douglas didn’t hesitate to give up her amateur status...and sign a deal with Kellogg’s – but for Franklin, attending college would give her not only a chance to improve upon her already impressive swimming skills but earn a degree and have somewhat of a normal life after her time in the Olympic spotlight. Her choice? She hasn't announced it yet but it's her decision to make. "If Missy Franklin wants to go to school, bravo for her, and nobody who doesn't live inside her heart and mind should criticize it," said sports agent Leigh Steinberg, who has worked with athletes ranging from Olympians Brian Boitano and Kerri Strug to pros Troy Aikman and Steve Young.

What path do you think Franklin will follow? If you shared her situation, what would your choice be and why?


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College Athletes Press NCAA for Share of Profits

by Suada Kolovic

College athletes enjoy certain perks – the strong possibility of a free education (we’re talking full-ride scholarships!), on-the-house room and board, complimentary textbooks and top-notch tutors – but with that territory comes a serious commitment to grueling practices and high expectations to excel on the field, all the while juggling a full course load. Sure, college athletes are considered amateurs in their sports but the fact remains that these students participate in a multi-million dollar industry. Should they be compensated? More than 300 football and men’s basketball players seem to think so.

In a petition to the NCAA, student athletes are requesting that more of the money generated by their teams to go directly to the athletes, both while they are in school and after they graduate. The document, which the National College Players Association provided to the Associated Press, urges the NCAA and college presidents to set aside “an unspecified amount of money from what it estimates is $775 million in recently acquired TV revenues in an ‘educational lock box’...where players could tap those funds to help cover educational costs if they exhaust their athletic eligibility before they graduate.” And that’s not all: The petition also calls for players to receive what’s left of the money allocated to them after they graduate – a step that could be considered by some as professionalizing college sports. (For more on the story, click here.)

Do you think college athletes should get a piece of the multi-million dollar pie or is a free education (which will last a lifetime) compensation enough?


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