Are college athletes getting a full ride to nowhere?
I read an article the other day that saddened me. I wish I could say it surprised me. It didn’t. Take a look for yourself. If you don’t have time to read the article, here’s a tidy little summary:
College presidents have put in jeopardy the academic credibility of their universities just so we can have this entertainment industry. … The NCAA continually wants to ignore this fact, but they are admitting students who cannot read. … Based on data from those requests and dozens of interviews, a CNN investigation revealed that most schools have between 7% and 18% of revenue sport athletes who are reading at an elementary school level. Some had even higher percentages of below-threshold athletes.
Institutions of higher education all across the nation—specifically those with successful men’s football and basketball programs (“revenue sports”)—are admitting 18- and 19-year-old men who are reading at grade school levels. These men have incredible talent. But, many also have quite significant educational needs. These man pursue athletics with all they have. But, reality demonstrates that sports are only a ticket to social and financial success for a fraction of a percentage of the men who play college basketball or football.
What do these young men really need if they’re going to have a future? They need an education. If their athletic skill earns them room, board and tuition at a university, wonderful! Shouldn’t universities be more concerned about the education of their students than what those same students can do with a helmet and shoulder pads on?
But, to many of these universities—institutions that make multiple millions of dollars from their athletic programs—these young men are merely commodities in a system designed to exploit them for TV contracts, apparel deals, big-name boosters and merchandising revenue.
Certainly, there are a lot of wonderful success stories in college athletics. I’m sure there are thousands of people walking around who can point back fondly to their experience in big-time college athletics as a place of great personal growth, character development and rich experiences. But, there’s something wrong with a system that is also producing a high rate of 22-year-old men who are, in many cases, physically and intellectually hobbled.
I’ve always been a big sports fan. When I was a kid, I loved playing. As an adult, I enjoy watching games and pulling for my favorite teams. But, I have honestly begun to question my own enthusiasm in light of the cost. Am I OK watching it all and pretending that it’s acceptable? Can I jump and scream the big hit that concusses both players? Can I support schools who have been caught red handed even if they’re successful on the field?
Sure, the stadiums and arenas are full. But, so was the Roman Colosseum.