Realistic expectations

Graduation should be the highest priority of student-athletes, even for those likely to go pro.

The NCAA gave some good news last month when it announced that the national Graduation Success Rate for athletes is at 81 percent, an all-time high.

The GSR, which was created by the NCAA to measure the proportion of student-athletes who graduate, includes transfer students and athletes who graduate within six years in good academic standing.

The University of Minnesota scored an 86 percent on the GSR, the Minnesota Daily reported last week — 5 percentage points above the national average.

The Daily also reported that several Minnesota teams tout perfect GSR scores, including men’s and women’s tennis; men’s and women’s gymnastics; and women’s volleyball, golf, cross country and track and field, and soccer.

Noticeably absent were Minnesota’s revenue sports teams, which, while improving their GSR scores from the previous year, unfortunately didn’t achieve 100 percent graduation.

While some may argue that it is unrealistic to hold such high standards, we believe this is precisely the wrong attitude. There’s a strong tendency to view Division I college athletics as a place for developing future professional athletes, and to believe that academics shouldn’t be of much concern for student-athletes with potential to go pro. This dangerous attitude inevitably gives way to various academic dishonesty scandals that have plagued various Division I programs, including Minnesota.

In September, CBS Sports reported that Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany had voiced concerns about the harmful reliance on college athletics, asking, “Why is it our job to be minor leagues for professional sports?”

It shouldn’t be, and we encourage more conference officials to speak out as Delany did.

In order to maintain academics and graduation as the highest priority, colleges should avoid giving coaches huge incentive bonuses for winning games unless they come with more incentives for academic achievement.