USC News

Menu Search

Football coach excels off the field

I Hate School has helped college students improve academic scores.

For nearly 30 years, USC coach John Baxter has been an inspirational leader for some of the nation’s best college football teams. Despite the impact he’s had on the field, his many works off the field have earned him an outstanding reputation on college campuses for dramatically improving academic scores and developing life skills.

His first book, “I Hate School: How a College Football Coach Has Inspired Students to Value Education and Become Lifelong Learners,” is the tale of his life’s work.

“I never imagined writing a book,” said Baxter, associate head football coach at USC. “I didn’t think many people would care about what a football coach had to say about education. But over the years so many people I value and trust have encouraged me to share my story and philosophy on education.

“We are at a crossroads in American education today,” he continued. “We need more people involved in the educational process and can’t count on the government or the school boards to make sure our kids are getting their value out of education. It’s just about the only place where we don’t demand our money’s worth. That needs to change.”

In 1999, Baxter introduced Academic Gameplan, a program he developed over time to help young people of all ages become more effective students and all-around people. His unique approach has worked for football players at universities across the country and most recently, USC, where he’s served as associate head coach since 2010.

“I hope my story and the success we’ve had with Academic Gameplan will inspire parents, teachers and students to achieve at a higher level,” said Baxter, who has taught more than 1,000 college football players during his career.

Baxter began his collegiate coaching career as an undergraduate at Loras College in Iowa. He went on to earn a master’s degree in higher education from Iowa State while coaching for the Cyclones. It was there he first began to develop Academic Gameplan as he worked with at risk student-athletes.

A graduate of Loyola (Ill.) High School, Baxter has worked on college campuses from Maine to Southern California and at schools in in the ACC, Pac-12, Big 12 and WAC conferences. His most recent success at California State University, Fresno, and USC has earned him national acclaim, including feature stories in Sports Illustrated, among other publications. Top academic schools such as Notre Dame and Stanford have also implemented the Academic Gameplan for student-athletes.

In a testament to his teaching style, Baxter’s work has led to many academic accomplishments — from high GPAs to solid NCAA Academic Progress Rates scores. Along the way he discovered that the challenges faced by college football players were also a concern for other students regardless of age, race, gender, socioeconomic background or extracurricular activities.

For more information on the book, visit

More stories about: ,

Football coach excels off the field

Top stories on USC News