From the Sidelines: Failing grades for college athletics
Something's fishy in Ohio, and it's not Lake Erie.
Instead, it's Andy Katzenmoyer, the 6'4", 255-pound, Ohio State middle
linebacker who takes to tackling as naturally as a thief to the Chapel Square
Mall. He can bench 450 pounds, stop a running back in his tracks, and run a 40
in 4.58. He's also managed to boost his team to a preseason number one national
ranking in both major college football polls.
Now, for a change, let me tell you what he can't do. Katzenmoyer is unable to
challenge league rules and enter early into the NFL draft. He can't seem to
keep his blood-alcohol level under the legal limit. And he was very nearly
incapable of nudging his GPA over the requisite 2.0 in time to ensure
eligibility for the season opener. Fortunately, his challenging summer- school
schedule appears to have pushed him over the top.
Now, perhaps I'm a little too hard on the Big Kat. I mean, seriously, a course
load of Golf 1, Music 140, and AIDS: What Every College Student Should Know may
be more difficult than it sounds. Then again, it's probably not. It is a
travesty of collegiate competition that the fate of a national championship
lies in the hands of a Golf TA.
This is not to say that academics are negligible in the grand scheme of
college sports. Katzenmoyer's situation--in which playing ability was crucial
in determining his athletic eligibility--reveals the insignificance of academic
standards in college sports. Forced to comply with eligibility requirements,
yet needing players like Katzenmoyer, schools find ways to cut corners.
After all, is it fair that low academic standards at certain universities
should increase their ability to recruit better athletes? Absolutely not. In
fact, in order to prepare sportsmen better for possible careers outside of
athletics, educational institutions should raise eligibility requirements,
which would force students to concentrate on tasks of far greater import than
sacks and slam dunks.
Any college student with a grade point average above Katzenmoyer's , however,
knows that top athletes contribute far too much to their respective
universities for the NCAA to alter academic regulations for athletes. Revenues
are too high, sporting events are too popular, and athletes are too
well-respected for most colleges to attempt to overhaul a faulty system. Choose
scholastics over athletics, and universities risk following in the footsteps of
the dodo--or in Yale's case, the Bulldog.
Yale, along with the rest of the Ivy League, uses the Academic Index (AI), a
measure of a student's academic achievement based on class rank and
standardized test scores, as an aid in freshman athletic admission. AIs below
the Yale mean for all students are divided into groups based on score. Yale
then apportions a distinct number of possible recruits within each grouping for
admission to the University's incoming freshman class.
The repercussions of these restrictions are self-evident. As admissions
officers assess possible athletic recruits, they strive to pick out successful
scholars. Certain students would be denied admission in favor of athletes with
lesser academic credentials. This is not to say that all athletes are less
intelligent than average students, but some may not have the academic records
to make the final cut. Without that athletic prowess, they may, like
Katzenmoyer, very likely fulfill their requirements through classes like
Mathematics 102: Subtraction, or Literature 161: Garfield gets Feline Leukemia.
Unless your name is Andy Katzenmoyer, you're probably well aware of the double
standard that exists between different colleges. But despite being smarter than
the Mr. Katzenmoyer, you are most likely just as unable to conjure up feasible
ways to alter the system.
So, where does this leave us? Back where we started? As long as athletes like
Katzenmoyer are allowed to inflate their grade point averages with classes like
Anthropology 197: What the Dog is Doing to that Other Dog, then schools like
Ohio State will always beat schools like Yale. (Hint to Katzenmoyer: if the
Bulldogs score seven touchdowns and the Buckeyes only two, how many jobs will
you have to choose from if your playing career is unexpectedly cut short?). All
we Yalies can do is sit back, major in economics, and take 15 percent of
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