The emphasis placed on colleges to have stellar athletic teams is not new. A popular sports program can put universities on the map. This has been the source of many instances in which players are given unfair free passes, ultimately hindering their education.
Even Baylor has seen an increase in popularity after the Year of the Bear in 2011-2012 athletic year. While Baylor may not owe its growth entirely to the outstanding performances of people like Brittney Griner and Robert Griffin III, they did help put the university in a national spotlight.
That being said, there are times when colleges go too far in an effort to further sports programs. University of North Carolina is a prime example. A scandal from 2011 is resurfacing as former North Carolina football player Mike McAdoo is suing the university.
McAdoo lost his eligibility to play when he was accused of receiving too much help on a paper. It turns out, the assignment was part of a “paper class,” in which students turn in one paper and get credit for an entire class. Student athletes were often pushed into these classes so they could remain eligible to play. He was not the only one; 3,100 other students, almost half of whom were athletes, were also enrolled in fake classes.
Not only is this unfair to other students who work hard to balance classes, it is unfair to the student-athletes. In many reported cases, the athletes were given few options to major in and each choice did not prepare them for the real world. This is the reason for McAdoo’s legal battle.
The root of this problem lies in the pressure put on student-athletes to perform. Top players from high school face the pressure from coaches and recruiters at a young age. When arriving on campus, which is a huge adjustment for any first-year student, the new recruits face the pressure of trying to be top players in college sports. Add in pressure from advisers to take easier or even falsified classes, and the situation gets even more difficult.
Only a portion will go pro after graduation, so it is important to receive a good education. Even if a player were to go pro, a decent education is necessary to succeed in any field. It is not fair to push student-athletes into majors or classes in which they will not receive an education.
Suing the university, however, will fail to solve the problem. While McAdoo has succeeded in bringing the issue to the nation’s attention, it is improbable that such instances will disappear completely. As long as sports retain the large impact on university popularity, less than morally upright practices will be in place to keep student-athletes eligible.
This point does not serve to berate the popularity of sports, rather it is made to point out a growing issue of integrity within them. College athletics have a valuable place at any university, regardless of popularity.
They help build school spirit and pride as well as provide a venue for highly athletic competitors to play out their passion and aspire to move into professional sports. However, to place athletics above education is not fair to anyone involved, especially the players.