All the talk about Auburn academics has got me thinking again about something I’ve espoused for a long time, but have never written about here.
It’s a modest proposal and is quite simple:
Why can’t athletes major in the sport in which they participate?
Let’s get serious, folks. Most of the players who fill football and basketball rosters at Division One schools are NOT legitimate students. Many would not be at their universities were it not for their athletic ability.
There are entrance requirements for regular students and then there are the entrance requirements for athletes. There is usually a huge gap between the two.
Now, in my book, there is nothing wrong with that. What’s wrong is that we try to pretend that there’s no difference.
We celebrate the concept of the student-athlete and expect players with NFL talent to also do well in useless (to them) majors like sociology or public policy and management.
I say it’s time we cut all this nonsense out.
If you are football player, you should be able to major in football.
After all, if you are a gifted cello player, you come to a music school to major in cello. Why can’t Brandon Cox major in quarterback?
Here is the freshman curriculum for a music major at Auburn University:
Core Fine Arts
Granted, the music major must take a group of core classes and I am not advocating that the general classwork be thrown out. But take note that the music major is also taking classes that apply to his particular skill–playing a musical instrument.
Here is what a Football Major curriculum could conceivably look like for an Auburn freshman:
Basically, the player would get course credit for the activites he already participates in, plus there would be a special curriculum to educate them on how to be a professional athlete down the road.
Now, I can hear you saying already “But HP, a lot of these guys aren’t going to play pro ball. They need something to fall back on.”
Well, I can say the same thing for the Auburn cello major. What are the odds that he goes on to play for a major philharmonic? Many music majors end up doing things completely unrelated to their field because, like in any field, only the best make it to the top. The vast majority end up teaching.
For those players who don’t make it, there is always teaching and all kinds of related fields, from strength coach, to personal trainer, to agent, to sports marketer, to sports commentator, that a player can get in to.
And a player wouldn’t have to major in football. If he was still interested in economics, he could go that route.
But the player that does have a pro future will get to the NFL as a more mature product with a better understanding of how his career works. He would have a clue about everything from contracts to agents, to how to deal with the media, management, to marketing, to how to learn various offensive or defensive principles.
The way things are now, they are exploited by universities and the NCAA, then thrown out as babes in the woods, easy prey for runners, long-lost family, agents, general managers and so on. We get to feel good about ourselves because some of these guys get degrees. But, years later, they wonder where all their money went and end up auctioning off their rings and Heisman Trophies.
All the same principles can be applied to basketball players, too.
The end result of all this would be a more honest accounting of what to expect from athletes at universities. Right now, we have de facto football factories for the NFL, but we pretend otherwise.
That cello player earns credit for performing in an orchestra pit. A football player should get credit for performing in a stadium.