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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 Katzenmoyer's salary.

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