Brzoja’s Denial, Another Flash Point Of Academics & Athletics

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Northwestern had one more player it wanted to complete what suddenly was an incredibly deep basketball team.

He was a high school teammate of Wildcat commit Alex Olah and the kind of combo guard Northwestern needs to add depth and size to a backcourt that often had to go 40 minutes out of necessity. Replacing John Shurna is not easy, but you figured you could share the load.

This was the promise of Northwestern commit (now former commit) Mislav Brzoja. Unfortunately, Brzoja will not get to help Northwestern reach that elusive NCAA Tournament or go to the school of his choice. Like so many high school graduates around the country, but much fewer athletes, Brzoja received his rejection letter Tuesday according to Chris Emma of PurpleWildcats.com. Brzoja had a sterling 4.0 at Trader’s Point Christian Academy in Indiana, but his less-then-sterling GPA in his native Croatia gave Northwestern’s admissions committee some pause.

Brzoja told Emma that he planned to attend Dayton if Northwestern ended up not admitting him.

This is the unique situation Northwestern always seems to put itself in. It is sure to rankle some feathers in the Northwestern community. There is still a debate within our community about whether the focus should be on athletics or academics. To be sure this is going to make that debate even louder.

For the immediate term, Northwestern has seven players set to play their first game. Many will contribute to what has to be the deepest team in Bill Carmody’s 12-year run. Brzoja had a lot of skills Northwestern could have used on the court. He is a 6-foot-5 guard who was rated as a three star prospect by Scout and by Rivals. Brzoja averaged 13.7 points per game for Croatia at the U-18 European Championships last summer and is a skilled scorer and superb shooter.

No doubt, Brzoja would have helped on the floor. Luckily Northwestern has the depth to handle it this year.

This still raises the big question that Northwestern fans avoid and the big question that divides them.

On one hand, it is Northwestern’s commitment to academics that makes it such a unique place. We genuinely like being the only private school in the Big Ten and, at least for the revenue sports, doing things the “right way.” Our players graduate on time and we feel fairly confident that they are in class and actually taking advantage of the opportunity in front of them.

On the other, Northwestern has made a deeper commitment to its athletic program. It has put in a lot of resources toward winning — including the marketing program and the upcoming facilities plan — and sometimes to get there rules can get bent. If there was ever a guy to bend the rules for, it was Brzoja.

As Emma reported, Brzoja was a 4.0 student at Trader’s Point Christian Academy. If he had gone there for all four years, it is quite likely we could report he will suit up for Northwestern next year. Unfortunately, much like his high school teammate Alex Olah, he spent some of his high school years in Croatia. And there, for whatever reason, he was not as stellar of a student.

What the discrepancy was — remember Olah had to petition the NCAA to accept some of his credits from his Croatian high school, delaying his signature and commitment to Northwestern — is unclear. It just goes to show the razor thin line that exists for Northwestern applicants and just how hard it is to get into the school, even for the athletes.

The university was not going to compromise their standards in this case. That must have been the decision they came to. Because, according to Emma, this was very close.

On the Scout message boards, Emma wrote that there was “some serious deliberation” regarding Brzoja and whether admissions could allow him into the university. I read that language (and maybe I am wrong) to mean that they understood that Brzoja was capable of handling the Northwestern workload and succeeding academically in Evanston, but just could not bend the rules enough to let him in without setting a dangerous precedent. Eds. note: Let me again stress, we will NEVER know what that means or whether Brzoja could handle the Northwestern academic load. As a friend pointed out to me, kids that go to great schools with 4.0 GPAs struggle at Northwestern too.

And that brings it all back to the debate that has been at the heart of Northwestern athletics probably for much longer than we even know.

Are athletics worth bending the rules for academics admission standards? Is Northwestern a school that truly gives an opportunity for learning to students who are gifted athletically or like every other school with a mixed motivation of profits and education?

The dichotomy is not as simple as I just described, obviously. But the Wildcats, with their success on the field in recent years and the desire to do more in packing the stadium, are starting to resemble many of their Big Ten brethren in their goals. And that means at some point they will mimic their methods, you would think.

This is not an easy issue. Not anywhere close. It is one Northwestern has wrestled with for many years and will continue to wrestle with as it improves and competes for the better recruits.

It is tough that a kid like Brzoja who clearly turned himself around academically to even be in this conversation will not get to go to his dream school. But that is college admissions. This felt like a tough decision for the administration. This was not the time, in their opinion, to bend their admission rules.

Good luck Mislav at Dayton. We certainly wish you the best and are sorry it didn’t work out in Northwestern.

  • Loretta8

    If he’s capable of handling the work and succeeding academically, he should be admitted to Northwestern if the basketball coach thinks he can help the basketball team. What dangerous precedent is being set by admitting a student below some arbitrary standard (and if that standard is above the level necessary to complete the coursework, then it is completely arbitrary)?

    Might as well drop to Division III otherwise.

    • Philip Rossman-Reich

      I think I am with you on Brzoja. This specific instance it seems he was very capable. We don’t know what went on in that room. This is a university that does put its academics ahead of its athletics. They already bend their admission standards for athletes, maybe they didn’t want to bend it anymore.

      No doubt, this was a close case.

      Maybe using “dangerous precedent” was the wrong term to use in the post.

      • Loretta8

        Yeah, I hear you. Just seems to me like you can let the marginal kids in and use some of those millions you’re making off the kids backs from the Big Ten Network to give him a tutor or two.

        • Philip Rossman-Reich

          I really don’t know if that is the issue. It might have just been a start his freshman and sophomore year that was too much to recover from. and, like someone says below, we don’t know his test scores or any other circumstances. Just a tough day for everyone involved, it seems.

        • RonZ

          Oh c’mon, are we seriously gonna turn this into some liberal social issue? Just remember that although the University makes millions on TV revenue the student-athlete also gets a million dollar education for playing a game. And if you don’t think a Northwestern degree is worth that much, scan the Alumni list of who’s who Loretta8…or do the math. Many redshirt and wind up getting a Masters or MM as well.

          • Chasmo

            A Northwestern education is not worth one million dollars.
            Pat Fitzgerald gets paid one million dollars a year but his players don’t. His assistant coaches get paid hundreds of thousands of dollars a year but their players don’t.
            The players are paid in room & board and books and tuition-free classes, which are worth about $65,000 a year and in exchange they do work that leaves many of them crippled for life.
            Meanwhile, there are kids on campus who are getting almost the same deal based on their financial situation at home and all they have to do is go to class to get it. They don’t have to spend hours every day on the practice field, in weight rooms and in meeting rooms all year long to get their free education.
            The BTN is not paying NU millions of dollars because people want to watch Fitz coach. Yet the coaches get paid the millions, the networks get paid the millions and the kids get “paid” by going to a college which charges those who go and pay full freight about $260,000 over a four-year period or $325,000. But how many kids at NU pay the full amount these days?

          • Loretta8

            “Million dollar education”

            um, no.

            “liberal social issue”

            yep, the controversial opinion that someone should be paid a wage the market bears out for their services. if you want to get technical about it, that’s more of a conservative issue. either way, your point is foolish.

    • Db

      Prr, you want to go on the record with the fact that ‘he was very capable’? Did you review his admissions packet or read his essays? His short term 4.0 might not have been reflective of anything relevant to his success at the school.

      I agree with Loretta in that it would really be indignant and self righteous to draw an arbitrary line when there are exceptions made every day. But I also have a hard time believing that in this generation of the school that if they thought the kid would do ok that they couldn’t get him in.

      In other words I can’t imagine this was an admissions decision so to speak….it feels like they wanted it to work but they ultimately decided he couldn’t succeed. That said that is just as much of a guess as prr saying that the kid was very capable. We don’t know. I just can’t imagine they did what Loretta is upset about, at least I don’t want to believe it.

      • Philip Rossman-Reich

        I am just going off what I read from Chris Emma’s report. Whoever he talked to seem to believe Brzoja could handle it.

        It is starting to sound like his test scores were the big issue, not his GPA. We may not know what exactly the admissions committee was discussing. They had their reasons, I guess. Seemed like it was very very close one way or the other.

    • VAWildcat

      Either we have admission standards, or we don’t. It isn’t a question of dropping to a Division III school in athletics, it’s a question of dropping like a rock in academics. I’m sorry the kid didn’t have the grades he needed to get a free education from a top-flight school, but if we’d ignored the standards, that free education is devalued–for all of us.

  • Db

    I would have guessed it was the opposite…that they could have crafted an admissions story, but that he might not have performed as a student.

    His test scores are a critical component that no one has mentioned, but northwestern does have some flexibility with admissions. Tough time convincing me they couldn’t figure out a path to admissions for a 4.0 student if they thought he would perform in the classroom.

  • Steve Z

    this is off-topic but i still wanted to post it:

    http://btn.com/2012/06/04/unit-rankings-2012-big-ten-pass-catchers/

    Tom Dienhart has our receivers ranked 9th in the B1G. Hopefully the rest of the conference sees us this way, too!

  • Philip Rossman-Reich

    This story gets worse. Even if he didn’t end up at Northwestern, you hoped he would go to Dayton or someplace else he really wanted to go to get his education.

    Ben Weixlman of Scout.com is reporting that Brzoja may not get into Dayton as they have moved on and offered scholarships to other players while Northwestern was making its decision.

    I am feeling really bad right now. Hope things work out for Mislav.

    • Wildcat Fan

      Plus, you know that Northwestern lowers their standards to admit disadvantaged students as do all elite schools. I have seen that first hand.

      Moreover, Standford and Duke admit students with lower academic credentials than we do. They are ranked higher than us academically so actually it is helping them to do that. Do we ever hear about the high school GPA of a Duke basketball team member or a football player for Stanford. No! Just like at Stanford and Duke when our football team or basketball team do well more students apply and more alums give money to the school, increasing our statistics much more than a 4.0 GPA for Brzoja lowers our stats. So a few players (as long as they are capable of graduating) should absolutely be admitted if they desire to work hard enough to earn their degree.
      Plus, as if they couldn’t already, schools will use the Brzoja example to recruit against us saying you can’t be sure you will get in even if you have a 4.0.

  • White and Purple

    The previous post regarding Duke and Stanford illustrates a wonderful argument regarding how we have an identity problem at NU. I would add Georgetown to that list as well. This decision by admissions did not need to take one month to accomplish. Now, Brzoja might not even have a spot at Dayton. How you handle decisions in life should matter and NU seems to have bungled this whole process by taking such a long time for a negative answer. Discussions with admissions long ago should have given the coaching staff the notion that Mislav would not be admitted. Regardless, they took the gamble and lost. These long and drawn out decisions, ie: Brzoja, Carmody’s job status, etc, are major reasons why we will continue to have problems attracting Big Ten talent to Evanston. It’s bad PR for future recruits in that they will not trust the coaching staff when they give assurances that admission can be granted.

    I always thought that Brzoja’s perfect 4.0 GPA was a bit of a sham, yet, I was hopeful that his reported academic turnaround would be enough for NU. There are plenty of students at NU with less than a 4.0 regardless of what some alumni would want to admit.

    At the end of the day, I feel bad for Mislav as he trusted the coaching staff and put his recruiting in jeopardy. Dayton might not even have room for him at this point. So much for loyalty.

    I always felt that Dragicevich would have been a perfect fit for NU but they let him go to the ACC. This coaching staff seems to not like local players with Big East experience and the grades to succeed. So, here we are with one available scholarship. My guess is that it goes unfilled for next year. What a waste. Bill Carmody should call Coach K, JTII or JTIII, or Jonny Dawkins, and figure out how to avoid such embarrassments in the future with kids such as Brzoja.

    • db

      I’m the first to criticize this coaching regime, but you have no idea what they told this kid, what they promised. They could have told him it was a long shot from the beginning. Some things are worth debating, but how admin and the staff handled this? None of us have any idea.

      • vaudvillain

        db – agreed, 100%.

  • Philip Rossman-Reich

    I want to take a moment to take a step back and remind everyone of some things.

    I wrote the post because it was news that broke and, honestly, something unique that has not happened at Northwestern (at least as long as I can remember). I thought it would bring up the kind of discussions we are having now. LTP reminded me (thus the eds. note above now) not to rush to speculation too much.

    The facts are still coming out. We don’t have all of them in front of us. So keep that in mind as we continue this discussion. Thanks for reading!

  • chasmo

    What is disgraceful about this situation is not that NU rejected Brzoja because the school has every right to do that. It’s the way Carmody and the school strung the kid along to the point where now, in early June, there are reports that the kid might not be able to get a scholarship to play at his second choice, Dayton.
    All we know at this point is hearsay and maybe we’ll learn that NU didn’t handle this as badly as it appears at this moment.
    Yet it’s hard not to wonder why would this kid \commit\ to NU in May unless Carmody had indicated to him that he would probably be accepted when all was said and done.
    Unless the kid was extremely reckless and chose to stick with NU even after Carmody warned him that being accepted was far from a sure thing, NU’s basketball program has much to be ashamed of for the way it handled this situation.
    Let’s hope all works out for poor Brzoja.

    • db

      How do you know Dayton didnt take the same position? Are you basing your opinions on the breathless reporting of Chris Emma?

      I dont know why the public got let under the covers on this one, but it very well could have been a tactic by the player to get a groundswell of support.

      We cannot convict the staff of stringing him out. We have no idea what they did.

  • J.R.

    For what it’s worth, I have friends whose kids are approaching college age. They have been visiting colleges in Ohio, and have heard the same thing at every visit. Grade inflation is rampant today. A 4.0 GPA is not a rarity any more. Admissions officials are looking more at class rigor and test scores than inflated GPAs.

    • PDXCat

      I’m a college instructor. I see first-hand kids all the time that got 4.0 (or higher) in high school and are totally unprepared for college. I teach Math and have students that took up through “Calculus” in high school and test into (and do not so well) in pre-algebra courses. It’s an issue for sure. And again, I can’t imagine this was a case of “he needed a 2.47 but only got a 2.46. Sorry, can’t let him in”.

  • Adam

    Take this with the appropriate grains of salt, given that we don’t know all the details…but I’m guessing we bend admission standards for musicians, actors, etc. who have excelled and/or can potentially excel in areas outside of athletics.

  • PATHETIC.

    This University can be so fucking pathetic sometimes. If the kid can pass those easy ass communications classes or ANAL_PERF 101(that is, analytical performance), or any of the other easy ass majors that NU athletes take, then why should he not be admitted. did a kid committing to NU in the GDAMN music department take his spot?

    The fact is, there is an “old guard” at Northwestern that is very resistant to change. The Board, Faculty, even previous members of the athletic department. They are comfortable and do not want things to change, even for the better. Morty is part of the new guard, so is Fitz, and Phillips is too, but there is definitely a faction of NU people that think academics completely override athletics and will fight to their grave to protect how they see the University.

    And now I hear he might not get into Dayton because NU was holding up for so long? He should not have been kept waiting THIS LONG for an admissions decision. the admissions counselors gather up, discuss the student, and make a decision. they go through THOUSANDS within 3-4 months, they can’t get through ONE applicant in 1 month? Maybe they were too busy on vacation or sleeping in instead of actually doing their own job.

    Do you think any shit like this would happen at any other school in the country, let alone Division 1? utterly pathetic.

    • brooklyncat

      Anal Perf is hard, man. Seriously.

    • CatInTheHat

      Sorry if this is slightly off subject, but there is a point to this, I promise. There are elements of your post, PATHETIC., that are downright insulting. At the risk of “outing” myself, I was a Comm Studies major at NU and had athletes in many of my classes (including more than one who went on to above average professional careers and who, I might add, were above average students–well above average, in fact). I also minored and ended up earning a master’s in something that is probably considered a “harder” subject, so there is a frame of reference here. Is Comm Studies at NU as rigorous as physics? Obviously not, but it also requires a different skill set. Comm at Northwestern is not the same as majoring in “kinesiology” at, say, the University of Georgia (where basketball players were once famously given “exams” with questions like, “A basketball is a) square b) triangle c) round d) rectangular?”

      How do I know this? I’ve taught communications at the university level at other schools, and there are far higher expectations in the Northwestern classroom than there are elsewhere. This is not to say that the young man in question couldn’t have *passed* his Comm classes at NU. We’ll never know, though it’s likely he could have. However, like it or not, the absolute floor when it comes to less challenging coursework at NU is still significantly higher than it is as most of the schools against which we compete. I am not taking a stand with this comment on whether or not NU needs to assess its admission standards for students, but don’t “go there” with the argument that Comm Studies or any NU major is a four-year breeze. This is not necessarily the case, especially for the borderline candidates we’re discussing.

  • Pathetic is Right…

    I agree with everything stated by Pathetic above. 100%.

  • cece

    here’s what is pathetic…..if there were any teeny leaks in the process. or any questionable way the matter was handled coach to prospect. not the rejection. because many many kids get rejected by Northwestern. kids who could make the University proud in many ways athletic and otherwise.

    are the things true that the debate was great about him…as in there were leaks….or not? the truth is, we should not know any of that. any of it at all. out of fairness to all in the process, including the kid. it should be simple…sorry kid, you got the thin letter….and we should not know anything other than the kid did not get in. nothing else.

    we all know someone who has been rejected by Northwestern. family members, siblings of current students, brilliant students who get into higher ranked institutions, kids who will be quite successful in the future.

    sorry it affects our team, but I don’t like what I’m reading above. not the leaks or the attitude. suck it up and do things right, leakers and posters.

    • zeek

      In all honesty, I think the worst thing about this is that he might not get into Dayton.

      At some point, Northwestern’s administration has to decide that they’re either going to consider cases on the margin like Brzoja, or that they won’t.

      If they won’t, then don’t string out the process because telling him in June is ridiculous if he doesn’t have a spot open at his next choice.

      They don’t do that to regular applicants, and they shouldn’t be doing it here.

      • Doug

        I don’t usually disagree with Zeek, but this time I do:

        It is in no way Northwestern’s problem that the student will not be able to attend Dayton, just like it is not the University’s problem if they reject a random student who also does not get into Illinois. The university cannot be held responsible for the decisions of other institutions. Dayton chose to not let him in, and thats their issue, not ours.

  • zeek

    It’s one thing for him to not be able to come to NU.

    But if the dilly-dallying makes him lose his opportunity at Dayton, that’s a lot worse.

    How is that going to look to recruits in the future? This is a bad situation that can still become worse.

    • White and Purple

      Dilly-dallying is a perfect word to describe the process. We look bad as there is no way to put a positive spin on this. Though, many Bill and NU apologists will make excuses for this long, drawn out, decision process. The fallout from this debacle will be that every parent will not trust the assurances of Bill Carmody in the future. You know they were telling Brzoja it was a done deal and the kid waited it out only to be left with, perhaps, no available offers from his backup schools. Shame on BC and his staff.

      These types of things do not happen at Stanford, Duke, or Georgetown. Yet, at NU we always have the drama.

      • Philip Rossman-Reich

        I think it is a good point. We don’t know what Carmody’s role was in this. He may have told Brzoja it was a done deal or he may have told him it was a 50/50 shot and went to bat for him in front of the admissions committee (perhaps then causing the delay).

        A lot of people probably messed up but did so with the best intentions. Really hard to figure out what went on with this.

        The most important thing is that Mislav goes to a school that he will find his fit with and graduate.

        • White and Purple

          No kid is going to wait a month to find out his status, and risk any backup plan, for a 50/50 chance. Considering that he does not have parents in the US, I find it even more disturbing as he lacked a family advocate to protect his interests leaving him to deal with the hard sell of BC and Ivan. No way this kid gambled his backup schools without strong assurances from the staff. I will not give BC the benefit of the doubt on this one. A true debacle.

          • db

            sounds like W&P has the inside scoop…the coaches really set him up to fail.

            Tell us – what is the kid’s history of decision making? I heard he failed out of another school in the US ahead of Traders – is that true? If yes, is that an important fact?

            Does our hoops program have a history of leading on recruits about admissions prospects? Do they typically make that public, and do they typically go through the admissions process in June?

            You say he doesn’t have a strong parental advocate, but then you say there is no way he made a bad decision around his back-up schools (assuming they even exist)? How do those 2 facts foot? He is making good sound admissions game theory decisions with no parental help at the age of 17? Wow, how did they not let this kid in?

            This staff screws stuff up all the time. Save the criticism for when they do, or at least until you have a single fact that backs up any of this.

        • db

          …or he may have told him he had a small chance but he would give it a shot and if it worked out he would get a world class education and the opportunity to play in the B1G. And maybe he told him he understood if he had to act more quickly and lock something down. Or he may have told him he should lock something else down because it was a craspshoot. Prr – IMO you have been reckless with how you have portrayed the University and the staff. You have no idea what happened, leaning on Chris Emma’s report of what might have amounted to 2% of the decision process is not basis to call the kid a very capable student. Drawing a connection between “where to draw the line” conversations and this particular one is not appropriate when you dont have facts. The recruiting sites are fun to read, but treating that writing like anything other than an advertisement for a kid or a school is irrelevant at best, and reckless at worst.

          • Philip Rossman-Reich

            I appreciate the comment. I wrote the post based on the information that is publicly available (that is all we have to go on) while trying to keep some semblance of balance. Obviously when only one side is reported, it is tough to do that and I doubt (nor would I expect) Northwestern’s administration to ever tell us what really happened.

            I trust Chris as a reporter and so I went with the information he was reporting. But you are absolutely right that you do have to consider where the information is coming from. And where Emma’s reporting came from is not entirely clear (he did initially cite a Northwestern source, but I would bet the info on the GPA did come from the kid, family or school).

          • db

            If we all wrote articles based on “what was publicly available” and voiced opinions based on whatever minimal information was inherent in that info we wouldn’t be worth the space we are taking up with our words.

            Its one thing to throw it out there for debate, its another to draw conclusions based on a snippet, and accuse the university of denying a ‘very capable student’.

            You did this before with the paterno thing – purporting you have an opinion then quickly backtracking saying you had not read anything and actually didn’t have one.

            You can flop around on nonsense stuff like offensive efficiency and coaching mistakes. I would just be more careful with stuff that matters. Just one guy’s opinion.

          • Philip Rossman-Reich

            You are right. I think I may have drawn too many conclusions in the article. I tried very hard to remain neutral so this could be a discussion of this issue that I know is still eating away at the community. It can be tough and I may have let one or two slip.

            Again, I trust Chris as a reporter and I don’t think he would print anything that he doesn’t believe. I felt comfortable running it, but I should not have made it seem like I was adopting his opinions.

          • Doug

            @db

            +1

      • zeek

        I’ve blamed a lot on Carmody, but I don’t think you can put this on him.

        Carmody probably thought that the kid’s 4.0 in his US education would be good enough to overcome any other issues with his Croatian grades/scores.

        This one is on the administration more than Carmody. If the administration doesn’t want to consider marginal cases, then don’t.

        But if you’re going to consider marginal cases, then make the decisions a lot faster. You can’t let a recruit be strung along until June. It’s June. The next school year starts within 2-3 months…, so he may lose his opportunities to play at other schools.

        This could hurt us down the road. How is it going to look when other coaches tell kids that we turned down kids with 4.0s? How are we going to get any player who might have to go through the admissions department when those kids hear of this kind of story where a recruit gets taken for a ride and possibly loses out elsewhere.

        At this point, I’m really hoping he gets into Dayton.

        • White and Purple

          You’re right. Horrible PR for future recruits and their parents/coaches. I am waiting for the official spin from BC to see how they will tell the truth slowly on this one.

          A few meetings with admissions months ago could have solved this debacle. Recruits and transfers don’t even visit schools unless coaches know they can gain admission. Brzoja’s case is no different than the cases of our other Intl. players.

          I just hope Mislav finds a home for next year. If he is truly going to be shut out of his backup schools than I hope BC can sleep well at night knowing he strung this kid along for months. If Brzoja was our kid, we would go crazy as a parent.

          • Lunker35

            How exactly are you pinning this on BC? This is on admissions. BC finds out as much academic info as possible and relays that to admissions and then they make the decision. They are the ones that kept him waiting only to deny him. If anything I feel bad for BC and for our athletic department. There is clearly a huge disconnect between athletics and admissions. It is embarassing for our recruits, fans, and administrators.

  • AdamDG

    Guys, the administration is not dumb. If he were that good, NU would’ve found a way to get him in. The athletic program knows when to pick its battles.

    Check out Tyrell Sutton’s Rivals Page: http://rivals.yahoo.com/footballrecruiting/football/recruiting/player-Tyrell-Sutton-28478

    He had a 21 on his ACT. The 25th percentile for NU is 31! A score of 21 would even put a student in the bottom 25th percentile of lowly Iowa.

    Building strong athletics while maintaining our integrity and reputation is about making worthy exceptions — not by reducing already low (relative to non-athlete population) guidelines.

    • cebpd

      those pages are so inaccurate. he could have easily retaken it and gotten, i dunno, a 25 or something and have been admitted. he had a strong GPA and he possibly took tough classes.

      Not to mention that in 2005 NU was not AS tough to get into as it is now. the average scores have gone steadily up the past 5-6 years.

      • db

        Whether Tyrell’s admissions package measured up or not, we admit kids all the time that are off the grid. All the time.

    • lunker35

      21 is not a horrible score for a football player either. You see that quite often. The point being that you can get a 21 or even lower and do very well at NU.

  • E-Town

    Adam,
    He is good enough to get a strong look from Kentucky so I am not sure about your conclusions regarding his skill level. Yet, I agree that exceptions are always made for athletes, legacies, and students of the arts. Trust me, there are a few kids in the drama and music programs that have ACT scores well south of 31:)

    Good pull on the Sutton article.

  • http://theerrorofmyways.com/wordpress PilgrimCat

    Bear in mind that we don’t know anything, really. Brzoja came out of nowhere at the last minute, well after the admission process for next year’s incoming class was complete. We know nothing about his education or test scores. There was a time in the late 1970s and early 1980s when the Admissions folks reflected Bob Strotz’s disinterest in athletics, but that time is long past. Just to speculate, let’s turn this upside down. Why wasn’t he recruited from the beginning along with his classmate? Were his grades back home so bad that he needed a 4.0 just to get to a threshold for consideration? What role does the NCAA have in approving overseas course work for admission (I haven’t a clue). Was any of the delay from getting the information from Croatia? We’re complaining in the dark here.

    • Philip Rossman-Reich

      That is a very very good point. I think Emma reported that his GPA early in his high school career was below 3.0. That is not good at all. But he recovered and they say colleges like seeing improvement.

      Remember that Olah had problems with his transcript in Croatia before Northwestern could officially admit him. It is just a weird deal.

    • vaudvillain

      Agreed. I see an awful lot of speculation and hair-pulling going on here, and based on the comments I am seeing, I presume none of you have ever actually worked in admissions. (I have, though not at the undergraduate level — so before anyone asks, no, I do not have privileged information about this case.) There can be a lot of reasons why the admissions process can get bogged down. Just to pick a more common one: perhaps his test scores weren’t good enough on the first go-round, and he opted to retake them.

      Bottom line: We don’t know nearly enough about this situation to start jumping to conclusions. He didn’t get in. The timing of the decision was bad for him. This all sucks. However, we have no idea how we was advised or who advised him, or why the timing worked out as it did. Admission at NU is hard — we all know that. Sometimes it just doesn’t work out.

      I wish Brzoja luck.

    • db

      +1 pilgrim cat

  • db

    Holy crap…just made it through the whole string…we sure have a lot of admissions officers and college guidance counselors in the crowd…

    The instinct is to react to the headline that a kid with a 4.0 couldnt get into Northwestern. While we dont know the facts, that was an irresponsible headline for Emma to tout because there is a 0.0% chance that a kid that is good at hoops and even casually approaches that type of student could not get admitted. I agree this is a dangerous headline for negative recruiting, but we have zero history at stringing kids out in t his area. Isn’t that why Colter or someone came to NU over Stanford – because we handled that part appropriately?

    The philosophical point to debate is whether we should take the notre dame, duke, stanford approach to admitting athletes or not. But drawing a line between that debate and this particular situation is ridiculous. Does he have an offer AND acceptance from a reputable D1 school? Does he even have acceptance to Dayton, the school that we so wrongfully jipped him out of?

    Point is we know nothing about nothing. No matter where you come out on drawing the line, I think most would agree that we dont have appetite for admitting a kid that was sure to fail at school. So how can we criticize this wiothout facts? And even the manner that the school handled it? These decisions dont get made over night, especially when you are trying to make an exception. The kid leaked it to Emma, the fact this was in the public is on him. If I were NU I would be furious – it probably actually hurt his chances – you know the last thing the school wants is a spotlight on admissions practices, and therefore a spotlight on a particular kid for years to come. Way too much risk.

    What we dont know:
    - what his scores were
    - what his prior education was
    - what his essays read like
    - what NU led him to believe
    - will another school, let alone a high end academic school, admit him

    Who knows – maybe NU f’d this up big time. Point is how can we even speculate on the particulars?

    • vaudvillain

      Agreed, db. Well said.

    • http://www.hailtopurple.com/jhodges/ jhodges

      In addition to my comment below on the admission process at NU in general, I completely agree with this. We are certainly not in a position to debate his admission-worthiness with only a few bits of (unconfirmed) data. Only the NU admissions department had the whole picture to make an informed decision on the matter, and I’ll defer to them.

      This is another reason that I try to stay clear of most of the recruiting circus, because there is a lot of hype and a lot of unconfirmed information that comes from high schoolers (many of whom love the attention). I’m not going to deride the recruiting sites and employees of those sites (unlike Fitz) because they are just following the demand, but I typically don’t pay close attention and really don’t like diving down into details about individuals (like this as a prime example).

      I trust the way that NU handles its admissions process for athletes and gladly defer to the athletic dept. & admissions to handle things appropriately and with the highest standards.

      • willycat

        While I respect everyones opinion on this or any other subject I’ll respectfully say that if NU doesn’t want to play with the Duke’s, Vanderbilt’s and Notre Dame’s of the college athletic world then it’s time to get out of the Big Ten. If admissions can reject Brzoja and the Logan kid for football then I can’t imagine why any FB or BB coach would want to continue working for a university that ties his hands behind his back and yes that included Fitz.

        • db

          The 2 things have nothing to do with each other. Your stance on how we should handle admissions is perfectly valid and people can agree or not with your opinion.

          But tying this kid’s saga to that argument – when you have no idea if he would have been admitted to any of those schools – is irrelevant. You might be completely right – that our school is passing on a kid that would have been admitted to any other school. Or you could be completely wrong, and he might not be able to write a coherent sentence. But you have no idea.

          The fact that he is hanging out in June with no affiliation leads one to believe we aren’t on an island with our admissions view. But again that is purely speculation.

          And by the way fitz has other opportunities. If he couldnt get enough kids in he would go somewhere else.

  • http://www.hailtopurple.com/jhodges/ jhodges

    First, I want to make it clear that I fully support Northwestern’s admission policies regarding athletes: that the admissions department makes their decisions without interference from the athletic department. And while I am sure that NU takes athletics participation and level of performance into account for admissions, they do not make huge exceptions for athletes that are sometimes seen elsewhere. I am glad that NU does things this way because it is what the university is really about. NU practices what it preaches: that academics are paramount and that winning on the field should be a goal while keeping the academic side as the top priority.

    If anyone has serious qualms about how the NU admission process for athletes is done, I would first remind you that this is an institution of higher learning, not a minor league system. Second, I would recommend that you speak with someone in the NU athletics department about it and hear what they have to say: they know their priorities and they practice what they preach. I’d recommend chatting with Shon Morris, who I spoke with at length when Fitz visited DC last month and we spent a while talking about this. Although I’ve held this same opinion for a while it convinced me even further after speaking with him.

    In terms of comparing NU to other “peer” institutions, I’d like to say that I’m glad that NU does not do that in this area and refuses to give in on its admission process. Although nobody at NU will come out and say it, it’s clear that some of those other “peers” (Duke, ND, Vanderbilt, etc.) sometimes take flyers in their admission process. Yes, as a whole the athletes at those schools are pretty much on par with NU and other private academic-minded schools, but there are clearly examples of athletes being admitted by essentially waiving academic standards. While NU spends a lot of effort comparing the school (academic programs, admission rate, giving rate, tuition, etc.) to “peers” (which I personally hate- I would rather see NU spending time showing how it is really a unique institution), I am glad that they haven’t given in here.

    It’s tough to see athletes who could help on the field and who want to go to NU turned away, but not giving in on academic admission standards is part of what makes NU stand out from the crowd. I am fully behind NU on this and I stand behind their goal of bringing in the highest academic caliber of student-athletes and striving to win on the field while doing so.

  • Another Perspective

    Out of curiosity, I looked up some information on Trader’s Point. From a press release, 2012 is their first high school graduation class. They are graduating nine seniors, seven of whom are going on to college. Other than Alex Olah, none are attending Big Ten level universities. Perhaps this plays into how the admissions office looked at the 4.0. We just don’t have all the facts. Cetrtainly, I join with everyone is wishing the best to Brzoja

  • cece

    you know how this board is often filled with discussions about how those posting should stop being negative about players/the coach/whatever? because recruits and their parents read the board?

    why does this topic not fit into that category? why put “public” information that is inappropriately posted elsewhere on this board when it reflects super negatively on the recruit, the admissions process of NU, the coach?

    I would have been mortified if my admission decision to Northwestern were discussed in the public. Whether it was the school I went to or my scores and class rank but especially the financial situation of my family, it is a very sensitive topic. we need to find a better way to discuss recruiting on this board.

    • White and Purple

      Cece,
      I would have been mortified as well but keep in mind we were not highly publicized athletic recruits. The “game” has changed in terms of media and the public nature of just about everything relating to athletics. So, there is really no other way around the publicity. Our issue at NU is that all the publicity is usually negative due to how we handle situations.

      A few months ago, it was the two week decision on Carmody’s future. That lead to speculation in the media about Chris Collins. Now, the Brzoja admissions decision takes a month. This also has its deserved fallout in the press and with twitter, etc.

      The wonderful thing is that we can have an open debate on all topics. No one here is bashing anyone without attempting to make a constructive argument. I respect your opinion as I respect others who agree with my position.

      Media has changed and this is the result. Leaks are coming from all sides, NU included. So, lets not create a situation where NU is the victim in this process. Northwestern is caught in a time warp and wants to play the game but does not know how to deal with the PR fallout from its decisions. Learning how to handle certain “crisis” situations should be the expertise of our fine institution. Unfortunately, we perform poorly in controlling the information and the subsequent message we would like to convey.

      Recruits and their parents need to know how things are done at the university. To have open debate from fans and supporters only shows our desire to be successful on the court. This is not unique to NU and it happens EVERYWHERE. It’s partially a business, remember that.

      • cece

        ok, so no more double standards….when DT posts, no more writing that he is hurting NU. cause, you know, it’s about telling the university what needs fixing. unless, of course, we think that the Athletic Dept. is never at fault and Admissions is, as in this matter.

        as for my understanding about what the business is, I do get it. I think our standards here on the board should be higher.

  • White and Purple

    We knew all this about Trader’s Point going into the process. My issue rests in the fact that we should NEVER have given an offer to Brzoja without knowing how the admissions office would rule. Coupled with the fact that the “decision” took a month does not look professional for anyone involved.

    The coaching staff thought it found something in Trader’s Point, and a European invasion, that other schools overlooked. Trader’s Point is not the new Oak Hill and never will be. Brzoja would not have a 4.0 at Evanston HS and the coaches knew that going into the process.

    This entire decision was not handled with the class that I would expect coming out of Evanston. Perhaps, I am wrong for expecting more from all parties involved. I wish Brzoja the best of luck and hope that he has learned a valuable life lesson with this whole experience.

    • http://www.hailtopurple.com/jhodges/ jhodges

      Remember that all of this information is one-sided as nobody affiliate with the university is allowed to discuss prospective student-athletes by NCAA rule. So we don’t know and we’ll likely never know the university’s side of the story, including what Brzoja was told and/or promised by the NU basketball staff.

      Not accusing anyone of lying, but the facts can certainly be distorted when hearing just one (likely biased) side of the story.

    • db

      You dont have any idea what happened, or how they handled it. NONE. You might be spot on, or completely wrong. But demanding class from the institution based on a situation you could not possibly know less about is not responsible.

  • Ron

    Excellent, provocative post. Would love to see more like this. This topic is a great example of a problem that persists at NU. I have to wonder, who’s in charge here? How are athletes’ admissions handled? Why was this case, like so many others, seemingly lost in the system for weeks/months?

    If Pres Morty, “gets it”, as we’ve been told so many times, is there a power struggle at the university such that even his hands are tied and he can’t unilaterally step in to impose a resolution? Or, is this all on him?

    • Ron

      Also, I say it’s a cop out to fall back and start clutching pearls over the notion that there are leaks over a single athlete’s admission’s file, and that we’re just hearing one side of the story.

      I don’t care about a single athlete’s file. This sort of thing comes up over and over. I want to know about policy. Who’s in charge here? How do these decisions get made, why do they take so long, and when does any of that Big Ten money get to be used to help out a student with tutors? Many more questions, but I don’t have time to write all day.

      • db

        Is this a parody post? These guys have access to more tutors than you could imagine.

        Clutching pearls? We have no idea what happened. None. He might be a Mensa, or he might be illiterate.

        I respect the question that it would be interesting to understand how these things typically go down, sequencing, etc. Especially for a kid who is ‘uncommitted’ in June. But you arent going to get it on a particular case. I presume there are federal laws preventing northwestern from discussing a prospective student’s grades, application, etc. with Chris Emma, “Ron” or anyone else.

        But to draw a line between that conversation and ‘we need more tutors because we have a TV contract!’? Really? That’s where we are headed?

      • cece

        clutching pearls? no thanks for the sexist reference.

        • brooklyncat

          ‘Clutching pealrs’ is not a sexist reference, and was used as such here. I don’t agree with Ron’s post but don’t really care what he has to say (sorry Ron). As a humor writer I feel compelled to address your comment, cece. The term he used is meant to evoke an image of a dowager (stuffy old lady, frumpy attire, think the Queen of England) being offended by something that contemporary society looks at as no big deal. It’s not a commonly used term – though it is a funny one – and reasonably should not be interpreted to refer to all women. Deep breaths, cece….

          • cece

            and you just made the perspective worse.

            dowager, deep breaths, stop it.

          • brooklyncat

            I’m beginning to think you just like being outraged cece. Maybe you’d be able to focus on the big picture more if Isaiah Thomas were coaching the basketball team (either men’s or women’s)

          • Philip Rossman-Reich

            I wouldn’t even joke about Isiah Thomas coaching at Northwestern. Not just from a “he is incompetent as a basketball coach” prospect. But, in line with this thread, he DID lose a lawsuit after he sexually harassed one of Northwestern’s best women’s basketball players. Really, even mentioning his name in rumors to NU is an insult to her.

          • brooklyncat

            You guys are such easy pickin’s….

  • Coach Roy

    There are any number of NU Alums who barely got into Northwestern, one is a very prominent sportswriter, who talks about his admission into Medill, and how he feels obligated to succeed because they did let him in.

  • NU is starting to piss me off

    Ok this is a bit ridiculous. I know we dont know his test scores and such but come on NU. Are you gonna tell me that everyone on our football team is a stellar academic. I remember when I was at NU and I went into a class and saw football players. I was happy, you knew they would help you with the curve. They usually attended class enough but weren’t getting an A even with their tutors. Our football and basketball players may not be the smartest and brightest (sorry to generalize cause there are some very smart ones) but they are usually smarter and brighter than the equivalent at other schools.

    • db

      “I know we dont know nothin about nothin, but football players inflated my GPA and therefore Mislav Brzoja should be admitted to Northwestern.”

      Thanks for leaning into the issues. I think we are closer to hashing this out. I also think I finally figured out why they made us do geometry “proofs” in 7th grade.

  • cheesemacaroni

    I think everyone agrees that we are pleased that NU does things the “right way” and places academics first. This means having some sort of academic standards. As long as we put the bar somewhere — anywhere — then these types of borderline cases are going to happen. If it wasn’t Brzoja, it would be someone else.

    So while this is disappointing news, I really don’t see what the big deal is. You can argue that this one case should have been different, but on what grounds? Unless someone has access to and is willing to post his transcript — and the transcripts of other NU athletes who are similarly borderline — there’s really no debate here.

    We have to accept the idea that the admissions office has to make thousands of very difficult decisions involving many variables, and that we have no evidence whatsoever of a declining trend of the quality of student — or student-athlete for that matter. Admissions seems to be doing their job well. And in any case, they aren’t accountable to anyone here. If I’m wrong and they happen to be accountable to you, then I would politely suggest using a more effective means of accountability than posting on an internet message board.

  • Wildcat Fan

    I personally wish we would lower our academic standards for athletes to equal those of Stanford, Notre Dame, Duke and Vanderbilt. Those are the only other Top 20 US News and World report ranked schools that play in BCS conferences. I think it would go a long way to getting the monkey off our back for a bowl win and an NCAA basketball tournament invitation. I know we need new facilities and more fan support. But, bringing our academic standards down to Stanford and Notre Dame’s so we can have better athletes does not cost a penny. Like you said the admissions records of these kids are confidential so we don’t even need to know that you did. Just please do it, NU!

    • gene parmesan

      I’m not sure I like the idea of further loosening academic standards just so we can win the Meineke Car Care Bowl and lose a first-round NCAA hoops game to Wichita State in Spokane. Is that really going to make our life complete as fans?

      And then, of course, if we reach these levels of success, it will be “I wish we’d lower our standards a little more so we can win a higher-tier bowl game and go to the Sweet 16 in basketball.” And so on.

      We’re sports fans on here, and it sucks to root for a team that sucks. And we all would rather root for a team that’s good, because that’s a lot more fun. And we’re all probably a little jealous of people who get to root for teams that are good. But is it worth changing the way the university operates just so we can feel a little better about ourselves because the teams we root for aren’t as bad as they used to be?

  • E-Town

    Does anyone know the significance of these numbers?

    66-136 (.327) 179-189 (.486)

    • MossReport

      Bill Carmody’s Conference record and overall record?

  • E-Town

    Indeed. As alumni, our success is expected by the university and our peers. The same does not apply to all.

  • cece

    brooklyncat,as has been stated here many times before, Isaiah Thomas is not only insulting to women, but specifically to an outstanding NU Alum and athlete, Anucha Browne who was harassed by Isaiah. you are not funny.

    and that you find amusement in sexual harassment is disturbing.

    • Philip Rossman-Reich

      I don’t think he meant anything mean by his Thomas reference. I think he was talking more about Thomas’ incompetence as a coach than as a person.

      I, personally as a Northwestern alum and fan and a basketball fan, don’t want people to think that a Thomas rumor is cool by any stretch of the imagination. It would never happen anyway because of what he did to Anucha Browne-Sanders.

      • db

        It would never happen because he is an idiot.

        He was also just screwing with cece because she has been outspoken on the topic. he’s a humor writer, you know.

        • cece

          since when is sexism funny? how about racism, is that fodder for amusement? outspoken on the topic…of sexism? since when it is outspoken to fight against bigotry?

          • Db

            Whoa…Being outspoken about something isnt an insult or criticism. It just means you speak about it.

            I was making fun of him, as he called himself a humor writer but nothing he wrote was funny.

  • brooklyncat

    I know we disagreed on the definition of ‘dowager’, and fair enough, but my husband tells me that you are the definition of ‘rube’

    • cecece

      yeah, well Brooklyn sure is not Manhattan.

      • brooklyncat

        umm…if this comment is to somehow avenge the honor of Anucha Browne-Sanders I think we can both agree she would find it completely devoid of irony (I’ll leave it to you to look up why).

        OK – let’s end this. recently, this started because I thought you finding ‘clutching pearls’ to be a sexist comment – further fueled by your taking offense at ‘dowager’ (if you are an elderly widow, my sincere apologies, I just meant frumpy older woman – which is in and of itself not an offensive statement, nor was the way in which I used it) and ‘deep breaths’ (really?) -to be absurd (while ‘clutching pearls’ evokes female imagery, I’ve only hear it used in regards to men, and only in terms of their ability to be easily offended, not a crack on gender. One could also say ‘don’t get you panties in a bunch’ to same effect, but I shudder to think what that will evoke in this forum). In addition, we all know you are not amused by my assertion that NU should hire Isaiah Thomas as the new basketball coach. So please pay close attention, as you (with the exception of db, who eventually caught on, and PRR who was late to the party) are the only person who was moved to comment on the statement either way (and please do not count the people who commented in favor of his hiring, they were joking too. I know this for a fact. How? here’s a hint: one can log in under any name to comment on this site). Anyway, I was joking about Isaiah. I would join the fray in howling at the school were he ever considered to work in Saga, nevermind be in a position of authority. the silence of the dozens/hundreds of other commenters on this blog meant, to me, that they paid the proper heed to the suggestion that a boderline sociopath be hired by our beloved school. I usually like your comments but, again seriously here, wonder if you are taking essentially anonymous and innocuous comments (unless someone has ACTUALLY read these comments on LTP and felt that was a sign it is ok to sexually harass women – in which case IT’S NOT!!!) far FAR too seriously. Take care!

        • brooklyncat

          and if you’re wondering why I kept it going for so ling, it’s because you took the bait *every single time*. I think you would be a lot happier if you let absurd comments on the internet wash away more easily. Food for thought!

          • cece

            your comments suggest that you are not much of a humorist but rather an internet pest.

          • brooklyncat

            name calling?

  • White and Purple

    Milos Kostic just informed NU that he is no longer interested and renounced his commitment for 2013. I wonder what spin the BC lovers are going to have with this piece of breaking news.

    Kostic is even more highly rated than Brzoja. Not good at all.

    • Philip Rossman-Reich

      Don’t think there will be much spin on this one. Don’t want to speculate too much, but Kostic and Brzoja are AAU teammates. All seems a little weird right now. Hopefully more information comes up to quell our curiosity.

  • White and Purple

    Everything pertaining to NU hoops seems a bit weird lately. We are all stuck in the vortex.

West Division

TeamsW (Overall)L (Overall)W (B1G)L (B1G)
Nebraska3000
Minnesota2100
Iowa2100
Illinois2100
Wisconsin1100
Purdue1200
Northwestern 0200

East Division

TeamsW (Overall)L (Overall)W (B1G)L (B1G)
Penn State3010
Maryland2100
Ohio State2100
Michigan2100
Michigan State2100
Indiana1100
Rutgers2101