I caught an interesting interview last week with Dr. Mark Emmert, the NCAA president. There were a variety of topics covered during this candid interview, including whether the NCAA Basketball tournament would ever be expanded beyond the current 68 teams, whether college athletes would ever become ‘more than amateurs’, the current web of regulations that college athletic programs have to work within, and whether there will ever be a playoff in the football bowl system division.
What really caught my ear though was his constant reminder that college athletes are supposed to be students first. We often forget that these athletes do have to go to class and are supposed to learn something while they are in school. If we forget this or expect less from our Universities as they promote athletics, we really have entered a system where the athletes, especially male football and basketball players, are being used to generate tremendous revenue with very little benefit.
We often only hear about those athletes that do not meet academic-eligibility requirements (e.g. Fab Melo of Syracuse). However, in most cases, athletes do well in the classroom, with many graduating with honors. As we watch the Aggie Women’s Basketball team in the NCAA tournament, listen for the descriptions of the academic honors of players like Adaora Elonu and Kelsey Assarian. We are honored to have one such athlete – former Texas A&M linebacker Michael Hodges – be a part of the Huffines Discussion this Friday. If you want to see and hear one of the great examples of how college athletics can make a difference in a student’s life, come hear Michael speak about his experiences with rehabilitation and playing the game as an Aggie.
In the end, our measure of success for athletics should be how well these student/athletes transition into life after their playing careers are done and we should never allow our Athletic programs (at any level) forget that this is the primary mission. Are college sports fun to watch? Absolutely – especially at this time of year. But we cannot forget their primary purpose – to provide educational and career opportunities to students that also happen to be gifted athletically.
See you at the Huffines Discussion!