The Football Major

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 History
Core Math
English Composition
Core Fine Arts
Performance Attendance
Music Theory
Music Skills
Piano Skills

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:

Core History
Core Math
English composition
Football practice
Film Study
Weight Training
Sports Management
Sports Media

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.

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Chris Huston, A.K.A. ‘The Heisman Pundit‘, is a Heisman voter and the creator and publisher of, a site dedicated to analysis of the Heisman Trophy and college football. Dubbed “the foremost authority on the Heisman” by Sports Illustrated, HP is regularly quoted or cited during football season in newspapers across the country. He is also a regular contributor on sports talk radio and television.

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2 Responses to The Football Major

  1. The Saturday Edge June 27, 2012 at 6:26 am #

    You bring up an interesting idea and some good suggestions. However, football practice, film study and weight training should not be included.

    I am sure that the cello player who is serious about his or her craft spends a considerable amount of time outside the classroom practicing and/or doing other related skills that will enhance their ability to become a professional one day.

    I do agree that the majority of these kids would never even be admitted to most of these schools if it were not for their athletic skills. However, I also believe that these kids should be old enough to realize the unique opportunity they are being given, and it is their responsibility to take advantage of such.

    I have just never agreed that these kids are being exploited by the universities. The universities are offering 18 or 19 year old kids an opportunity for an education that they wouldn’t otherwise have access too.

    That is $100,000, and in some cases (Stanford, Duke, Northwestern) upwards of $250,000 of value. How many kids directly out of HS are making the equivalent of $25,000 to $60,000+ a year (legally)?

    In return these kids not only have an opportunity for an education, but they are gaining access to top quality coaching, facilities and equipment in order to hone their craft and quite possibly earn a substantial living as players or coaches.

    I guess what I am saying is the system is the system. If you are good enough to play in the NBA or MLB directly out of HS you sign a contract and get paid. If you are not, a great majority sign a letter of intent and than go on to colleges that not only offer them an education, but also all those other amenities I previously mentioned.

    Yes college football is different, but how many kids not named Hershel Walker or Marcus Dupree are physically prepared for the NFL directly out of HS?


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