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Essay: Going to college for athletics

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  • Subject area(s): Sports essays
  • Reading time: 7 minutes
  • Price: Free download
  • Published: September 15, 2019*
  • File format: Text
  • Words: 2,134 (approx)
  • Number of pages: 9 (approx)
  • Going to college for athletics
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There are many reasons that people choose to go to college, the main two being for academics and for athletics. Division 1 (D1) programs recruit across the nation and offer full ride scholarships to many athletes to bring them to their university. Many people believe this to be a great opportunity for young adults to use their athletic ability to pay for a college education, but when academics and athletics are mixed, things can quickly go awry. College athletics has become a way for universities to make a large sum of money, with D1 Power Five (The Power Five is the term used for the five major conferences in D1 athletics) football programs bringing in up to $30 million annually (Gaines). The entertainment aspect of athletics has caused many universities to focus on maximizing revenue, no matter the cost. This has lead to many programs becoming corrupt; doing whatever it takes for athletes to stay eligible to play for the program. This goal has harmed many educations, with athletes taking paper classes, receiving answers to tests, and their grades being inflated, all leading to a loss in value of their college educations. Many professional athletes have even stated that they feel like they didn’t learn anything in college, and were being used as a product to make money.

Before getting into scandals, background information is needed to understand exactly how theses athletes are receiving free grades to stay eligible. The first major way to do this is by taking paper classes. A paper class is a class where the students aren’t required to attend class or do work, but instead write a single paper for the semester. According to Qian, “in many cases, the final papers were plagiarized.” So even when the athletes are only required to write a single paper, they are still unable to do that on their own and they receive papers of work that are not their own. Along with the paper classes, some teachers are bribed to raise a student’s grade, making the student eligible to compete according to NCAA Regulations.  While this is obviously unethically, when bribed with a certain amount of money and being told that an athletic program’s future hinges on these student’s being eligible, many teachers accept the bribes and “inflate” the grades. The last major way the athletes receive aid that harms their educations, and the most blatantly obvious, is when they are given the answers to tests or given a very similar test as a study guide.

After understanding the background of the different ways students are being passed through college, noticing the corruption in college sports becomes clearer. One of the most famous academic scandals in college athletics is The UNC Academic Fraud Scandal. From 1993 to 2011, over 3,100 students “received credits and grades from bogus courses” and were often enrolled in the “shadow curriculum” (Qian). The shadow curriculum, according Qian, were the paper classes needed to maintain eligibility, where, “in many cases, the final papers were plagiarized.” Two former players, Deunta Williams and Bryon Bishop, were enrolled in some of theses paper classes and have stated that they never met and only needed to write a paper at the end (Kane). UNC Chapel Hill is one of the elite basketball programs in the nation, routinely making it to the Final Four in the March Madness Tournament, and their football team recently had a player drafted second overall in the NFL Draft. With a major university driven by a corrupt athletic program, student-athletes are treated more like machines built to increase revenue instead of as students.

650 miles south, FSU was also dealing with an academic scandal. According to an article in the St. Petersburg Times, “the school recruited athletes who could not read above a second-grade level, then provided them with remedial reading help and used old tests as study guides.” Also, students were “tutored,” meaning they were given “outlines for the athletes' papers, then helping them redraft their papers when they didn't measure up.” In many academic scandals, it boils down to the academic advisors for the athletes helping the students cheat and keeping them eligible. While only having to give minimal effort to writing their papers, they are able to focus more on their craft and less on their schoolwork, hopefully improving their play. Because of this scandal, 10 sports at the school had wins taken away from them. While this punishment seems harsh, many students have graduated from that university without learning much about their degree, harming them when it is time for them to put their degree to use after their athletic careers are over.

UNC and FSU aren’t the only schools that have been involved in major scandals. The University of Minnesota was also involved in an academic scandal. Unlike UNC, the University of Minnesota had hired a new president, one that was focused on fixing the cheating problem. Mark Yudof, the new president, fired Coach Clem Haskins with a contract buyout of $1.5 million after “a preliminary report proved players had cheated” (Borger). Yudof was determined to fix the problem at the university, and is one of few presidents who have been bent on changing the corruption in college sports. Firing the head coach of the basketball team was a start, given that the coach was responsible for many athletes cheating and remaining eligible. Yudof has become of one the main faces of the athletic reform to try and fix the corruption in the system.

Most recently, in 2015, the NCAA announced that 20 schools were under investigation for academic misconduct. While these schools are unnamed, according to Wolverton, 18 of the schools were D1 programs. Wolverton also states that coaches urged “members of the staff” to get players to be eligible, no matter what it took. Even with the rules put in place to try and prevent cheating and academic misconduct, many schools still find ways to do it and break the rules. While it is unclear which schools involved, the amount of schools that have been involved with some sort of academic misconduct is too high, and there are still universities out there that have yet to get caught and are inflating the grades.

Sometimes, athletes even acknowledge that they feel school was pointless for them. Many of them end up treating college athletics like a job, and ignore their schoolwork, fueling the academic misconducts observed earlier. Back in October of 2012, Ohio State quarterback Cardale Jones tweeted that “why should we have to go to class if we came to play FOOTBALL, we ain’t come here to play SCHOOL, classes are POINTLESS.” This was tweeted back in his freshman year of college, and after 3 years of college and towards the end of his collegiate career, his view on school changed. He became more focused on his schoolwork, realizing the value of a true college education. Many other professional athletes have this realization towards the end of their normally short professional careers, and they unsure of how to use their degree. This has become a large problem, which needs to be fixed as more and more athletes are leaving college without an effective degree and are unable to find and keep a stable job.

Many attempts have been made to minimize the corruption in collegiate sports, including raising the Athletic Progress Rate. The APR was put in place to reward teams that are committed to helping student-athletes earn their degree, and penalize teams that have a history of academic underachievement” (Meyers). Teams get points for having athletes remain eligible and for having athletes return to the team the next year. For each athlete, it is possible to earn 8 points. The APR is compromised of adding up all the points earned, and then divided by the maximum points possible, which is then converted into a point total, with 1,000 being the highest possible total. The minimum total allowed for a program is 925 points, according to Fitzgerald. While at first this may seem effective, the process does have its flaws. Students who do four things penalize the teams: graduate early, declare for their sport’s respective draft, decide not to participate in the sport anymore, and transfer. All of these things cause teams to lose points, meaning that students doing things that can potentially benefit their academic career harm the teams. This can cause more teams to attempt to cheat, and doesn’t really benefit the teams who are committed to academics but end up losing students who decide not to return, even though there are certain rules that try to fix these flaws. The higher APR Standard would encourage more cheating where an athlete’s eligibility could be worth millions (Lanter). The higher APR by the NCAA has the right idea of trying to focus on academics, but since universities didn’t establish the rule, university officials view this as a bigger reason to cheat and steer athletes towards easier classes and a worthless education.

Another way that the NCAA has attempted to fix the cheating is by enforcing the 40/60/80 rule, which states that by the second year, the student must have completed 40% of the work for their major, and by the third they must have completed 60% of the work for their major, etc. (Meyer). While this also seems like a good idea, how many regular students decide to change their major after their first or second year because what they’re studying doesn’t truly interest them? Meyers believes that the same thing applies to student athletes, and she’s correct. Student-athletes can be discouraged to switch majors, and are given the ultimatum of either playing their sport or pursuing their desired major. So while this rule also sounds like it can be effect, it’s often not as effect as we may think.

One of the most effective rule proposals was suggested by former University of Minnesota President Mark Yudof, who believed that benching first year athletes would provide students the opportunity to focus on academics first, and then integrate athletics later in their career (Borger). Many universities oppose this, as there are athletes who come into college and can dominate at an early age, and bring the team to national attention, generating more revenue. For this reason, this rule would help minimize athletes being used as a means to make money, and help them focus on their schoolwork instead of competing straight away in competition. Student-athletes need to put academics before athletics; a priority that shifted since college athletics first began.

At its source, the main cause for cheating will always boil down to coaches and academic advisor going to whatever means necessary to keep a student eligible. Without a proper way to truly test student on their knowledge of their major through the school, academic misconduct will never fade away. Because of this, I believe that each year, a designated amount of students should be administered a test related to their major by an outside source, where the student must demonstrate enough knowledge of their major and courses to remain eligible. Under this, students from each program would be randomly selected to take a test created by outside sources, like retired professors hired by the NCAA, and if the student is unable to demonstrate that they are learning material, then they are ineligible to participate in their sport until they can pass another test administered by the outside source. This would encourage students to learn their material and not take paper classes or have inflated grades, since the risk of having to take a test that would deem them ineligible would cost universities a significant amount of money.

Overall, a combination of these four different ways would be an effective way to minimize the academic misconduct in collegiate sports. While the problem will never be truly eliminated as a whole, universities need to be held responsible for causing students to graduate with a degree they never earned. While many students-athletes who put in the work and time view college athletics as an effective way to build characteristics like time management and leaderships, there are just as many student-athletes who attend college just to progress to the next level, which sadly, only a small percentage is able to do, and those who are not leave college without an education and are harmed by not understanding how to truly function in the real world. These rules being set in place will reduce the amount of schools with corrupt advisors and athletic departments, and help build student-athletes that are prepared to move on after their athletic career is over.

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