The interesting thing I find is the whole "shadow class" system that, as best as I can tell, exists and keeps these athletes eligible despite attending class
es rarely, if ever.
I'm a computer science major at Virginia Tech (GO HOKIES!), so I don't see many athletes in my classes (well, maybe in the occasional history class). I have friends, though, who have classes with random football stars (you'd recognize their names when you heard them on TV), half the women's basketball team, etc. And it is apparent that a bunch of them show up for class only 5 or 6 times a semester, plus tests and exams.
The athletic department tutoring program, though, is huge. Below the basketball court and stands at Cassell Coliseum are five floors worth of offices, most of which are dedicated to academic advisement. I have friends who work for the AD as tutors.
So, the conclusion I draw from this (flawed though it may be... it's just MHO, people) is simple -- essentially, rather than going to class, these guys and girls get most of their undergraduate education taught one-on-one by fellow students who simply took the class a couple semesters before they did.