The nature of college sports has changed quite a bit. In times of peaking viewership for sports, subscription and streaming services, and much buck to be made out of athletic contests, it’s no surprise that some things have gone unnoticed.
Of course, it’s not 2011 and things have improved but there is still the bitter aftertaste that not all is well. College athletes are indeed given many privileges, having been admitted to possibly a great school and given (some) time to dedicate to studies.
Those who work hard, the saying goes, will make it both academically and as top contestants in the sport they excel in. Is this a realistic expectation?
Let’s Be Honest – Sports Scholarships Aren’t Academia
Going to college on a sports scholarship is a great opportunity for many. Gifted youngsters get a free-entry into some of the most accomplished schools around the country, but does this have anything to do with academic track record?
It’s hard to believe so. Even though scholarships granted to sports students come with their provisions, including an average GPA, college athletes are aware that after college is over for them, they will have to join the work force if they have failed to make a career in sports.
Universities fetch millions of dollars off the popularity of athletes but they offer little in return because a free entry and accommodation seems to be enough. And yet, it isn’t as the vicious circle intensifies and sports students hardly have time to study up.
Should Athletes Be Paid
Of course, the debate whether college athletes should be paid is an old one. Some people see it as only fair – after all college coaches’ salaries have been growing, reaching impressive numbers even a decade ago.
Doesn’t it make sense for the athletes who generate the interest and financial windfall for their universities to be granted some amount that would, in the very least, allow them to support themselves and pay for tuition should they opt out of sports?
Some say it is indeed fair, others though do point out that if collegiate sports become a paid profession, universities will be caught in bidding wars that many won’t be able to afford.
Duke’s Zion Williamson – Lessons Learnt
What was wrong with Mr. Williamson’s accident, apart from a faulty shoe, was what it meant for any athlete to be part of their school’s sports team. The risks even in college games are very real and they can lead to serious injuries, ending the professional career of rising stars prematurely. Thankfully, Mr. Williamson got away with a mild sprain, which is really nothing too serious, but it also goes to show that there are disproportionate risks young athletes carry.
Unionize the Athletes
College athletes can in fact unionize, which might give them some leverage if they want to re-negotiate broader changes to how they are treated and remunerated while part of a school. Few have tried.
Unionization could provide some additional security, though. College athletes can be thrown out of school should their academic or sports record be sub-par. However, it’s almost uncanny to expect a professional athlete to find the time to keep their GPA up to a required standard.
In a similar way, you wouldn’t expect from a mathematician to shoot hoops as Mr. Williamson does in front of huge crowds, and the truth – it’s not necessary. Then why should college athletes be asked to excel at both?
Understandably, sports athletes won’t be held to the same rigorous standards of academia, but that often comes across as unfair to students who spend the bulk of their time grappling with high costs of education and the strict academic criteria.
The Work Week as a College Athlete
College sports have become a billion worth industry, which means that competition will be cutthroat and the drive to succeed would be strong. In other words, colleges and coaches are far from being the easy-going, pat-you-on-the-back kind of guy that will tell you that there are lessons in failure.
There are none. Fail and your scholarship can be snatched from you and given to someone else. Training sessions last over 40 hours a week. Of course, not all is ruthless and the coaches aren’t barking their jaws off at athletes, but sessions are intense and everyone is focused on success.
The Abusive Coaches
Though there are quite a few decent coaches out there, there are also those abusive people in position of power who ruin morale and get a free pass at browbeating their athletes. Emotional harassment is a thing, even if you are a brawny football or basketball student and this shouldn’t be allowed.
It can be argued that after all, coaches owe to their athletes as much as the athletes owe to coaches. It’s perhaps even truer when applied to coaches, as they are the one generating a solid pay check at the end of the season.
Millions Worth of Advertising Opportunities
It’s not just coaches and universities that get a pretty penny at the end of the day. Sports apparel brands and various other investors make sure to sign up partnerships with universities, having athletes wear their branded products.
Even though getting to college is a great reward for sporting prowess, sports athletes’ work is worth much more than the $60,000 it would cost to study at a decent college. Risks about starting bidding wars are well-founded, but the entire institution seems slightly unfair.
And yet, athletes are quite willing to participate as they are given a fair shot at being picked up by noteworthy sports teams and all things considered – athletes may just make it in academia, too. It’s a challenge, though, and one that is artificially aggravated by circumstances. A better way must be found.