Football field

Cheering them on

In light of this coming “Super” Sunday, I thought it appropriate to turn to the ever-hot topic of collegiate athletics.

I’ve been acquainted with some college athletes, having tutored for the athletic department of a Big 12 school, and having had a number of athletes in my English classes over the years. Most, though not all, have been committed students; and personally I, along with many others, believe athletics in general are good, and sports scholarships offer excellent academic opportunities to student-athletes.

That said, I know many professors and members of the general public consider the college sports system to be “dysfunctional” – as expressed in an intriguing Chronicle of Higher Ed piece last year titled “End the Charade: Let Athletes Major in Sports.” A major and legitimate concern is that athletic programs end up negatively impacting college academics – this theme is explored at length in Murray Sperber’s book Beer and Circus: How Big-Time College Sports Is Crippling Undergraduate Education.

Sigh. I hate to see anything erode academics, the purpose of higher ed; so I’ll end with a smidgen of practical advice for prospective and current college students:

  1. If you are a student, beware the seduction of spending too much time partying and attending sporting events. While socializing is good and the doctor says focusing on anything three-dimensional (football field?) is good for eyes frequently fixated on screens, don’t overdo the extracurriculars. Dropouts due to overindulging in fun can and do happen!
  2. If you are a student-athlete, be grateful for your sports scholarship, and to honor the character possessed by the greats in your chosen sport, be the best student you can be. (Any scholarship is truly a golden opportunity; if you’ve paid your own way in life, you’ll realize this.)

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