DeMars, who was a member of the Trojans’ football program from 1997-2001, said in an interview with Time that the program emphasized athletics and somewhat discouraged academics. He told Time he was discouraged from majoring in the school’s prestigious cinema program like he wanted to. Instead, he was persuaded by the athletic department to study business.
“When I signed with USC, no one said good luck on your degree. No one said, go to school and get good grades. You’re not a student-athlete. You’re an athlete-student,” DeMars told Time.
DeMars still managed to get into filmmaking after school. He made an award-winning documentary called, “Adjust Your Color: The Truth Of Petey Green,” which aired on PBS. He is now attempting to make a film questioning the NCAA and college athletics. He even has a Kickstarter page for the proposed film, where you can go to sponsor the project.
DeMars says the de-emphasis on academics was so bad that defensive line coach Ed Orgeron, who coached at Ole Miss and the New Orleans Saints before returning to USC, used to curse at him for leaving spring practice 20 minutes early once a week to attend a mandatory statistics class.
“He M-F’d me all over the place,” DeMars recalled to Time. “He made me feel like a bad person for going to class.”
DeMars still says Orgeron was a brilliant defensive line coach who helped him improve, but he thinks the coach could have still been effective without undermining education. He even says he got the “stink eye” from Orgeron for leaving practice to go to class.
None of these stories will come as a surprise to fans. DeMars was on the team before it rebuilt into a powerhouse under Pete Carroll. They were only a .500 team and still emphasized football over academics to that extent, so you figure this sort of thing goes on in most programs.
Though college football is big business, each athlete needs to do what is best for himself. They need to realize that it is unlikely for them to play professionally, so they should look out for their future, regardless of what the coaches say.
Despite the obstacles from the football program, DeMars had a 2.96 GPA at USC and was a 2001 Pac-10 All-Academic honorable mention.
Photo via DeMars’ Kickstarter