By Jessica Lyons
The Perception of Student-Athletes
Students who aren't on their college or university's sports teams oftentimes feel that athletes are given special treatment. After all, in addition to frequently getting full athletic scholarships, it's accepted as part of players' college years that they'll have to miss classes for away games. Some college professors even make special accommodations in case a player has to miss a test or is going to be gone when a paper is due. It's easy to see how other students could see this as unfair since they could also have many commitments but are still required to be present for exams and hand in all their assignments on time. Athletes also tend to be labeled as being less intelligent, which could be because of frequently missed classes and a perception that athletics, and not academics, are their priority.
Reforms on the Horizon
One thing that might help change these perceptions are new academic standards that the NCAA is looking to institute. In October of 2010, as reported on the NCAA's website, the organization was planning reforms that would strength the high school academic requirements of its players in addition to raising the bar when it came to the academic standards they'd have to meet once in college. At that time, the NCAA explained that its 'ultimate academic goal is for student-athletes to graduate with meaningful degrees preparing them for life.'
More recently, in an August of 2011 article by the NCAA, it was reported that, following a special two-day retreat, the unanimous decision had been made by the members of the Division I Board of Directors to increase academic performance requirements. Teams that fail to meet these new requirements will not be allowed to participate in championship games held by the NCAA. By October, the NCAA anticipates having a more specific reform agenda planned.
According to the NCAA, of the Division I student-athletes who received scholarships and began their college careers in 2001, 79% successfully earned 4-year degrees. This number could increase if academics are focused on even more and made a bigger priority.
Less Game Time, More Class Time
Increasing academic requirements isn't the only thing that might help student-athletes. In the report 'Restoring the Balance: Dollars, Values and the Future of College Sports,' the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics made the recommendation that sports programs further limit the amount of time that their players have to spend away from the classroom. This could include having shorter seasons and fewer games. Although the report focused on addressing spending issues, these measures could also have the positive impact of letting athletes spend more time focusing on their coursework and studies, which could also improve the negative images some have of student-athletes.
The Importance of Emphasizing Academics
Although all students should be given the chance to make use of their talents, whether they are athletic, artistic or intellectual, it's still important for students to focus on their academics. After all, the whole reason for enrolling in a college or university is supposed to be so individuals can gain a proper education and degrees that can help them achieve their goals in life.
Placing an emphasis on sports instead of academics could hurt these student-athletes in the long-run. While they can use the knowledge they gain in class for many years to come, there is more of a time limit on how long they'll be able to play their sports.
Players are also helping to show that athletes are smart. Read about the success student-athlete Sam Acho is finding on the field and in the classroom.