Kinesiology school offers sports degree

Paul Sanders

Sports stars like basketball’s Michael Jordan and baseball’s Chuck Knoblauch are more than talented athletes to Associate Professor of Kinesiology John Schultz. They are a cultural phenomenon worthy of academic study.
The School of Kinesiology and Leisure Studies is offering a bachelor degree in sports studies for the first time this fall. Schultz, who is the acting director of the new sports studies program, said the purpose of the degree is to examine sport from a social and cultural perspective.
“It’s timely that we look at sport and sport behavior,” Schultz said. “A substantial amount of media coverage is devoted to sport, and the number of people involved in sporting activities keeps growing.”
Schultz said sport is a form of nonverbal communication that crosses cultural and social barriers. Spectators respond to an athlete’s style and approach to the game.
Schultz referred to Dennis Rodman, the flamboyant Chicago Bulls basketball player, as an example of an athlete with a unique style. “He is the epitome of self-expression,” Schultz said.
Leonard Attipoe, a junior transfer student and soccer player from Ghana, attended one of the informational meetings held by the school in early June. He said the sports studies program fits into his career plans better than his current major in kinesiology.
“I’m interested in coaching, but the way the kinesiology program is structured, you have to get a license to teach,” Attipoe said, “and I’m not interested in that.”
The sports studies program requires a minimum 2.0 Grade Point Average for admission. Students in the degree program must maintain a 2.5 GPA in courses within the sports studies major.
Mark Dienhart, director of the Department of Men’s Intercollegiate Athletics, said a common misconception about the sports studies degree is that it’s for academically struggling student athletes.
“I certainly don’t see this degree program as a dumping ground for student athletes.”
In a survey of 335 male student athletes, only 20 expressed an interest in the degree, Dienhart said. The most popular degrees among male student athletes are business, social sciences and interdisciplinary studies, he said.
Jim Infante, senior vice president for Academic Affairs, said growth in the recreational sports industry requires the University to offer the sports study degree. The University, he said, has the resources to meet that need.
“We have a considerable amount of expertise in recreational sports that’s not being used,” Infante said.
The school will admit a maximum of 40 students to the degree program by July 1, the deadline for application. “Realistically, I’m thinking that we’ll probably have 10 to 15 (students) by July 1,” Schultz said.
“So far, I’m pretty pleased,” said Schultz, describing the response his department has received from students interested in the new degree. “It hasn’t been all varsity athletes, and it hasn’t been all men.”
The program requires students to complete 57 credits of liberal education requirements in addition to a core curriculum of sports studies courses such as ethics and values of sport.
The program also requires students to take at least 30 credits of “focused electives” in coaching, pre-sport management, or youth services/development.