The Suggestion That Athletes Should Major In Sports Is Not Such A Bad Idea

  • Dylan Murphy

There are two major, seemingly unresolvable problems undermining college sports’ otherwise darling reputation: athlete-students not getting paid, and athlete-students not going to class. It’s difficult to resolve the first issue, particularly in light of having to weigh the relative financial value of one sport or program against another considering the gaping fiscal chasm. And the latter is hardly a cakewalk either, especially in a system where athletes choose colleges based on athletics, and not academics, and are often not qualified or motivated academically to handle the rigor.

The result is academic violations everywhere and honesty thrown aside. There have been countless violations which, at this point, are nothing but chuckle-worthy, the corruption of institutions and willful ignorance of the college sports fan base at large becoming the norm. And the NCAA only enforces these academic standards to maintain this facade of the student-athlete, a tenuous pretense that upholds the status quo integrity of denying non-professionals compensation for their financial value to the university.

David Pargman, a professor emeritus of educational psychology at Florida State University, has come up a rather eloquent and simple solution to this problem, one that seems to resolve the disconnect between athletics and sports: creating a “sports” major, similar to that of music, theater or dance, where professional study is coupled with live performance. And for those athletes who want to major in something more commonly academic, by all means.

We won’t rehash the entire article here, but we suggest you give it a thorough read. Here are some of the more interesting parts.

“Their family members, friends, and high-school coaches acknowledge and support that goal, so why not let them step out of the closet and declare their true aspiration­—to study football, basketball, or baseball? Why not legitimize such an academic specialty in the same manner that other professional performance careers, such as dance, voice, theater, and music, are recognized and supported? Why treat preparation for professional sports careers differently? Why not establish a well-planned, defensible, educationally sound curriculum that correlates with a career at the elite level of sports?”

It’s difficult to argue this point – the ultimate goal of any entertainment profession, or even major, for that matter, is expertise. If not in practice (in college, that is), at the very least in study. But it just so happens that musicians, actors, dancers and athletes all have a forum for utilizing classroom skills somewhat professionally.

“What’s more, the young man would be given the opportunity to undertake meaningful education under the auspices of distinguished professors of sports behavior in the same way that an entering student studies within a university’s program of English literature, mathematics, or music. Elite collegiate coaches and their support staff are as competent in their specialty sports as are their counterparts in other campus departments (although their salaries are often embarrassingly incomparable). Higher education, for better or worse, purports to be a pathway to a vocational future. Why is this not so with regard to professional sports?”

Though it might be difficult to convince Nick Saban to teach “Elements of ROUGH TOUGH MANLY MAN FOOTBALL” on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 11:00-12:15, most university professors are professionals first, teachers second, anyway. And if the Nick Sabans of the world aren’t willing, there are plenty of capable assistant coaches who probably wouldn’t mind the extra cash.

Pargman goes on to outline a prospective course outline, one that involves anatomy, physiology and kinesiology on top of specific sports study. And while that might be a bit, say, intense, for the average big time college athlete, at least it’s a starting point. Because the larger point of his article is one that rids college sports of the hypocrisy that is the student-athlete. If a high schooler selects a college because of sports, why not let him pursue that professional avenue to the fullest extent as any other college pre-professional would be able to?

[The Chronicle]

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