Gopher football defies clustering trends

Minnesota’s football players are enrolled in a variety of majors, which is unusual in college football.

by Andrew Krammer

ThereâÄôs a growing trend around the country of what some people call âÄúathlete clustering,âÄù a number of student-athletes enrolling in the same major.

Sixteen of the 65 sophomores, juniors and seniors on the Gophers football team are âÄúclusteredâÄù into Business and Marketing Education.

âÄúIt amazes me how many athletes have that major,âÄù sophomore football player Matt Garin said. âÄúI took a base-level marketing class for my BME major last semester and there were at least six football players out of 20, maybe 25 students.âÄù

Yet the University of MinnesotaâÄôs rate of football players clustered into Business and Marketing Education pales in comparison to the national trend facing college football.

Georgia Tech has seen 70 percent of its sophomore, junior and senior football players enroll in a single major âÄî management âÄî a business degree taken so often that Georgia Tech players call it the âÄúM train.âÄù

More than half of the schools at the core of major college football âÄî 39 of 68 âÄî are seeing some form of clustering, according to the Associated Press.

Nearly a quarter of the sophomores, juniors and seniors playing Gophers football are taking Business and Marketing Education, a College of Education and Human Development major.

âÄúThis happens to be an area of interest for football players,âÄù Director of the McNamara Academic Center Lynn Holleran said. âÄúPart of it is the flexibility this program allows. BME allows them to pursue supporting interests.âÄù

Those supporting interests can be anything from financing to kinesiology to sports management.

âÄúI would have liked to get into the Carlson School of Management for my major,âÄù Garin said. âÄúBut with the tough workload and GPA needed to get in, I couldnâÄôt. BME allows me to pursue a management minor through Carlson.âÄù

Student-athletes often tailor their major to fit around their sportâÄôs schedule.

âÄúUnlike general students, student-athletes have stringent rules to graduate in four years,âÄù Holleran said, âÄúso they do not have the ability to taste test their interests because they need to declare their major earlier.âÄù

Because the majority of athletes are on scholarships, they wonâÄôt take classes that are during the mid-to-late afternoon, when most practices are held.

âÄúThey also donâÄôt have the ability to change their major,âÄù Holleran said. âÄúChanging it hits the reset button on their education and they need to graduate in four years as [per] NCAA rules.âÄù

This problem drives many football players to enroll in Business Marketing and Education, which is more pragmatic than theoretical.

âÄúI think many of the athletes just like the real-world experience,âÄù Garin said. âÄúThe assignments we do are less textbook-oriented and more practical.âÄù

Instructors of the major praise its innovation and workload.

âÄúThese classes are like any others on campus,âÄù teaching specialist Orkideh Anderson said. âÄúThey are rigorous; We demand students work together outside of the classroom on team projects as well as researching.âÄù

Even with the workload BME demands, many athletes are barred from taking science-type majors due to its internal structure, Holleran said.

âÄú[Science] majors demand levels of physics, calculus, etc.,âÄù Holleran said. âÄúThose levels of classes must be taken almost daily with little to no flexibility.âÄù

Regardless of their major, almost all student-athletes struggle finding free time outside of the rigor of classes and their sport.

âÄúI feel weird when I get a day off,âÄù Garin said. âÄúIn fact, I know that will help me when I get into the business world. IâÄôll be incredibly used to having no time to myself.âÄù