There is currently a debate among the American public as to the value and benefits of the National Collegiate Athletic Association. While it is easy for society to draw conclusions based on an opinion, personally I find these opinions to be nothing more than uneducated assessments. For an individual to attack an organization for its core values without considering the impact of the organization is unjust and frankly unacceptable. Chuck Neinas, the Interim-Commissioner of the Big 12 conference, shared that the NCAA has provided more scholarship opportunities for the American youth to receive a higher education, than any other institution in the world.
While I understand that 2011 may not have seemed like the best year for NCAA sports, it is actually the opposite. Instead of focusing on the minute number of scandals involving a handful of individuals, we should be focusing on the unprecedented success. (I am not under assessing the severity of the scandals, but merely sharing that they are in fact not the norm.) This year the NCAA has shown increased emphasis on education as it has increased the standards for high school students to become eligible. In addition to increased eligibility standards, in order for teams to compete in post season play such as the Bowl Championship Series or the NCAA Basketball tournament they have to achieve increased academic standard as well.
Power conferences such as the Atlantic Coast Conference, BIG Ten, Big 12, Big East, Pac-12, and Southeastern Conference draw mass amounts of attention however; those conferences only hold a fraction of all NCAA institutions. In fact there are over 300 Division Institutions, which is more than three times the number of schools in the preceding conferences. Division 1 athletics provide an opportunity for hard working, driven individuals to continue their passion for sports, and even provide assistance with college tuition. It is in no way the norm for the 300 plus Division 1 schools to grant full tuition waivers as if they were candy bars just laying around for athletes to consume.
To sit back and attack a system which provides such an essential piece to the “College experience” is not only crude, but offensive and ultimately irrational. Student athletes at the majority of Division 1 institutions are essentially full time employees of the College/ University. They start off their day incredibly early, typically attend two or three practices, and then attend classes, work on assignments, and some even work throughout the day as well. These students are faced with the challenge of balancing a tough schedule while maintaining their academics in order to compete in their sport.
Now to address the specific issue at hand:
For someone to make statements that suggest student-athletes are only competing for a cash benefit is beyond insane. Outside of Football and Basketball, full scholarships especially at mid-major programs, are exceptionally rare. Students typically receive some financial assistance towards their tuition cost; but the majority of the burden is on the student and their family, like every other college student. Student-athletes do receive meals that are paid for by their Athletic departments after competition and over school breaks. This occurs because these students are away from their institutions or typically competed during normal dining hours. We do not just wake up and decide we do not feel like paying for a meal today and call our AD or Head Coach. To address the player packages described as “new winter coats, warm ups, shoes, t-shirts, shorts, and backpacks” I can speak as to how these are purchased for my individual team. Our new winter coats were purchased for the program, not the athletes (they are turned in after each season) and were paid for by two families of current student-athletes. Aside from our grey sweats and two shirts and one pair of shorts, the rest of our apparel is purchased out of pocket by the students and their families (shoes and backpacks included). So the “must be nice statement” most definitely applies to students at larger institutions if their schools provide larger budgets however, here we pay for our apparel to look as a united group.
The student-athletes at this college are no different than any other organization or club, who puts in significant time to accomplish a goal, and wants to be united. If someone is to question our apparel than why not do the same of the student government, which has their own polo and logo; or even question as to why Fraternities and Sororities bother to buy letters. The answer is these items have value to each of their owners and to overlook that is ignorant.
I do not question the work ethic or students, club athletes or student athletes who compete at the Division I level and neither should ANY other individual. Unless you are that specific person you have absolutely no right to question their motives or state that they do not care. Every person handles emotion differently; and if you feel student-athletes are the only people to ever complain about something in college you must live in a bubble. I do not discredit the hard work of others and take offense that someone would take the time to do so for their fellow classmates. It is opinions or assessments such as these that cause conflict among students and create blinders which instead of uniting a student body ignite conflict; something which this current world is in no shortage of.
The heart of a lion of, the soul of an eagle…