I’m kind of torn on the so-called student-athlete. On the one hand, I like to joke about the title — for the most part, we all know that they’re athletes and not really students, right? But on the other hand, the student-athlete probably isn’t much worse than the typical student at many schools. (It’s just that non-athlete students aren’t thrust in front of the camera every Saturday afternoon after the game, so we don’t get to see and hear them.) And then, when I saw an article about what some kids are able to study in order to earn a degree, I started to appreciate the student-athlete even more.
First, I’ve known about this one for a long time: students at
West Virginia and at Connecticut
can major in puppetry. Second, according
to this article, students at Bowling Green
can major in pop culture, students at DePaul can major in costume technology,
and students at
can major in floral management. Third,
ethnic studies is all the rage at many universities. And I’m sure this list is just scratching the
surface of academic majors at today’s progressive institutions. Mississippi State
So why not a major in college athletics? Why not give student-athletes 6 credits per semester for playing their sport, and at the end of four years (provided they meet the other general education requirements) award them a degree with a major in “college athletics” with a concentration in their sport, e.g., football? And maybe even require a minor area of study beyond that?
The amount of learning in college athletics has to be great. First, there’s a tremendous amount of leadership and strategy and teamwork mumbo jumbo going on. That’s the kind of stuff businesses love. In fact, business courses and actual businesses are constantly adapting sports lessons for their own needs. (I once had a boss that not only wanted me to be “a team player,” but also wanted me to “shoot the gap” when producing month-end financial reports.) And second, there’s the physical education aspect. Students get credit for that kind of thing all the time. (I, for example, earned a college credit for a course in golf.) And third, there’s a tremendous amount of legitimate, technical learning going on in sports, including learning the highly complex playbook, studying other teams, etc.
On top of that, if I’m an employer, I would hire a “college athletics” major over a puppetry major or a floral management major any day. And why shouldn’t the student-athlete get something (college credit) for his or her hours upon hours of free work — work that often generates millions of dollars in revenue for the school? And by relieving them of some credit requirements they would otherwise satisfy with a bogus major, schools could impose higher standards on these student-athletes in their general education requirements, i.e., they’d really have to take and pass introductory courses in writing, economics, logical reasoning, psychology, statistics, etc.
I am surprised that no one has pushed for this yet, especially given that there’s always talk of “paying” student-athletes in some fashion. I suppose this idea has never taken root because many of the hyper-liberal groups on campus like to push their own programs and agendas, and would go crazy if they thought the evil athletics programs might be elevated to the same status. But I think now is the time for the academic community to realize that, with the things that pass as education today, students can learn more of value on the gridiron or on the court than they can in the classroom.