Put ‘student’ back in student-athlete

If athletes are not prepared for college-level course work, they should not participate in intercollegiate athletics.

For male athletes in Division I college basketball and football, the term “student-athlete” is a farce. The athlete is ever-present, appearing on national television, honored by pep rallies and showered with perks – but the student is historically in the bottom third of his class in SAT scores, grade point average, class rank and graduation rates. Sadly, the excuses to maintain the status quo of “they’re dumb athletes” or “that’s the way it is” prevail while steps can be taken immediately to force institutions and athletes to make strides toward academic accountability.

First, academic counseling and support services must be under the same control and location as the general university population. Not only does this encourage integration into the general student body, it decreases the chances of academic advisers whose main concern is eligibility rather than education. As University alumni can recall, tutor Jan Gangelhoff was the crucial link bridging athletics and academic fraud. There is no need for the athletics department to have separate academic support and facilities.

Second, a 2.0 GPA must be required of all athletes across the board with no exceptions. This includes entering first-year students, and especially transfer students from junior colleges. The 2.0 average must be maintained throughout the school year and any dips below would require immediate attention. If athletes are not prepared for or satisfactorily complete college-level course work, they should not participate in intercollegiate athletics.

These two steps are just a beginning to addressing the issue of academic integrity and athletic participation. The status quo is not acceptable. There are myriad problems with college athletics and we must start a discussion. Money has corrupted the games and the academic institutions. By making sure athletes are first prepared for college-level coursework and are not receiving academic help from sources beholden to coaches, some strides can be made to restoring the student in student-athlete.