Tuesday’s disclosure that LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne scored a four on the Wonderlic raises important questions about the general intelligence test administered every year at the Scouting Combine and elsewhere, including by individual teams during player visits.
And so, for a change, I decided to try to find some answers.
Although agent Bus Cook claimed in response to the news that he’s aware of no “deficiency” in Claiborne, multiple reports indicate that Claiborne has a learning disability. If that’s true (and we have no reason to believe it isn’t), Cook should have known — and Cook could have obtained an accommodation for Claiborne when taking the test.
Jeff Foster, president of National Scouting and the National Invitational Camp (otherwise known as the Scouting Combine), explained to PFT by phone on Wednesday the procedure used when a player has a learning disability. Foster said that, in such cases, the player communicates the existence of the disability in advance of the test. Then, documentation of the disability is obtained from the athlete’s school, and research is done regarding the accommodations provided to the player when taking tests at his college.
Once the learning disability is confirmed, Wonderlic will authorize an “untimed accommodation.” Under this approach, the player takes the 50-question test within the 12-minute allotment. That effort is scored separately, and the player is then permitted to continue taking the test for as long as he needs to complete it. The Wonderlic people later apply a formula to determine the score based on the answers supplied during the 12-minute window and the answers coming thereafter.
And so, frankly, it all falls back once again to the agent. Although, at some level, the player has the responsibility to bring his situation to the attention of those administering the test, the procedure to obtain an untimed accommodation requires advance effort, which means the agent needs to know that a player has a learning disability, and the agent must thereafter start making calls for the person from whom the agent will eventually be making money. (The universities also should be aware of this wrinkle, and they should be ready to initiate the process on behalf of their students.)
Claiborne’s situation gives rise to a separate topic that we mentioned on Tuesday, and that Dan Patrick has been advancing for months: Players should simply refuse to submit to the test. Foster said that hasn’t happened, yet.
“To my knowledge, we haven’t had anyone say they’re not taking the Wonderlic test,” Foster said. “Attendance is optional, as well as any pieces of the event. If they refused, we would just note that to the teams, and they wouldn’t have a score.”
Foster added that he “doesn’t think that would be a positive” for the athlete, but we continue to believe that not taking the test at all is better than taking it and getting a single-digit score, especially since only Vince Young got the benefit of a do-over that pushed his score into the teens.
The fact that the numbers inevitably are leaked supports the concept of a boycott. Foster explained that the results are sent via hard copy to one person with each team: the G.M. or the person holding the equivalent job. Once the information gets to one member of each of the 32 teams, nothing prevents them from telling others the scores — and there’s no way the NFL or anyone can find out how the information got out.
Given that the information will always get out, and that numbers at each extreme will always be newsworthy, the league needs to revisit its approach and reconsider whether the Wonderlic should even be administered at the Scouting Combine, or by the NFL at all. Maybe, in the end, the test should be given by the colleges that the players attend, especially since the colleges have a clear interest in ensuring that the student-athletes avoid creating the impression that they were athletes only and not students during their time in school.