Last night we learned that Gaston Diedhiou was not admitted to the University of Minnesota for the fall semester, and therefore, won’t be joining the team this fall. Orginally from Senegal, and currently living in Spain, the Gopher power forward recruit did not demonstrate sufficient English proficiency to be admitted to the university. The plan, as it stands, is for him to complete an English language classes during the fall semester as a non-student and enroll during the second semester. He would then presumably join the team. It isn’t ideal to lose a player a week before classes start, but in terms of basketball, this isn’t a big deal. Diedhiou , if he wasn’t red-shirted, would have been a fourth-string center or a third-string power forward.
Tellingly, no one seems all that upset about Gaston Diedhiou’s situation for basketball reasons. The greater gripe seems to be that the university had the chutzpah to deny admission to a prospective student whom they determined would not have been able to succeed academically. Whether we like it or not, and whether college sports make any intrinsic sense, amateur athletics and academics are inexorably linked in the United States. As long as that is the case, the university should take athletics and academics seriously. Once upon a time the U of M sacrificed academics for the sake of athletics, and we all know how that turned out. Admitting students who aren’t prepared to succeed doesn’t help academics, athletics (since suspensions for academic reasons can ruin a season), or the student succeed. Some colleges and universities regularly enroll unprepared students because they can run fast and jump high. I’m proud that the University of Minnesota isn’t one of them, and is trying to excel at both athletics and academics.
Beyond academics and athletics, the bigger concern right now should be Gaston Diedhiou. If he arrives on campus later this week, he’ll be a few thousand miles from home, without a scholarship, university provided housing, and the support (academic and otherwise) that comes with being a student athlete. Because of those difficulty circumstances, it wouldn’t be surprising if Diedhiou decides getting admitted is more trouble that it is worth.