It Doesn’t Make Sense But Costs A Lot Of Dollars

In the hype of the most recent NCAA national championship football game, and the lopsidedness of the final score, some of what’s come out and been discussed seems to detract from the fact that these are college student athletes and what’s being forgotten is the student part of that phrase.

The University of Alabama has become a dynasty in college football. There’s no denying that, as the score of this year’s game wasn’t even close. I’m wondering, though, if Alabama played Notre Dame in an academic bowl game, might the score be reversed, would it be a close match, or might it have resulted the same way as did the football game?

A college is an educational institution and must be looked upon that way first. The purpose of these institutions is to prepare young people for life/employment in the real world. The future of our country depends upon its workforce, and if young people are going to receive their education at higher institutions at free or reduced rates through athletic, or any, scholarships, they must earn those stipends by maximizing their talents in the classroom first, and giving it back when they enter that workforce.

I recently heard an interview with an NFL budding star, who played in a national championship game before joining the NFL, and he responded to a question by stating that the team they were playing next had one of the “gooder” defenses in the league. I would think that someone receiving virtually a free college education at a major university in this country should/could know, and use fairly proper grammar when speaking on national television.

In looking at the most recent NCAA football championship, the “losing” college, Notre Dame scored 14 points, not nearly enough to overtake a very aggressive Alabama team. When looking at the academic success of Notre Dame, they have a 97 percent graduation rate at that institution. It’s one of the highest, if not the highest such rates in the country, yet their university was branded a loser. Notre Dame doesn’t separate their athletes from the rest of the student body with regard to campus housing. Their athletes take the same classes as the rest of the students in the same academic programs. They’re not separated into dorms/classes of athletes, and dorms/classes of “regular” students. This university takes the phrase “student athlete” very seriously.

College, and even high school, sports have become indicators of success in our world today. Educational institutions are honored for athletic successes far more in the media, and in many peoples’ minds, than the success of the institution’s academic achievements. Unfortunately, huge sums of money seem to be put in athletic budgets at the expense of other programs in the schools. I mean, some college football teams go through an entire season without wearing the same uniform twice. The emphasis on looking good and winning on fields and in arenas, seems to be more important than academic success.

It’s also been in the news lately, regarding schools leaving certain regional conferences to play in other conferences, some maybe more prestigious ones. Some schools wishing to do this must pay “buyout” fees, and some schools who commit to move and then renege, must pay stiffer penalties. Factoring these things with the fact that some schools on the west coast are joining conferences on the east coast (and for most of the sports, men’s and women’s), how can you justify the enormous costs of changing conferences and traveling, going from (as an example) California to Connecticut for a tennis match, or a rowing competition, or a football or basketball game, and maybe have to travel that long of a distance numerous times a season multiplied by the number of programs in your school? It doesn’t make much sense, but it will appear to cost a lot of dollars. And where does this money come from?

It’s true that athletics bring in large sums of money for institutions, but at what expense? Successful athletic programs do make recruiting easier and bring more talented athletes to each institution that lands them, but schools are also being penalized at a much higher rate for recruiting violations, or for violations of NCAA rules regarding gifts given to players. How many coaches have been involved in violations and then left the institution just before violations were discovered to take a more lucrative paying job at a more prestigious institution only to see his/her old school receive sanctions while the coach goes merrily along to do the same thing in his new opportunity?

There’s even evidence of not playing to the letter of the rules that’s filtered down to the high school level. Athletes are given special treatment regarding academic requirements, or behavior standards, or regarding altercations with the law. There are athletes who are being housed by people in communities, whereby a parent signs over guardianship to someone else, just so that young person can play in a more successful or looked-at program that might not match up to the one where they live.

Our country used to rank very high in education but seems to have slid down the world rankings in recent years. Is there a correlation between this and the huge amounts of money, attention and importance of athletic programs?

Athletics are a great way to teach work habits, reliability, responsibility, accountability and many more necessary life skills that our students need to help them in their futures, but it shouldn’t be tops on the agendas of what our colleges and high schools should be about.

Let’s get back to emphasizing the student before the athlete and let wins and losses both be teaching opportunities. Notre Dame may have lost a football game and a national championship, but its 97 percent graduation rate has made them champions in education.