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Post UGA to look into the academic experiences of student-athletes

Wednesday January 30, 2008

The Senator points us to a Seattle Times series about the 2000 University of Washington football team. The focus today is on a player who had to overcome many things in his quest for a degree, not the least of which were institutional factors that compromised academics.

An offensive lineman exemplified the mind-set of many players on the team. “I was a football major,” he says. “Class was not important to me.”

J.K. Scott, who was a backup quarterback, says: “Most of the talk with the guys, and this isn’t everyone, was, ‘What are the easiest classes we can find?’ For everyone there, it’s football first, and education second, as an afterthought.”

The article (and series) is interesting and pretty damning at times, but it’s naive to think that the portrait we develop from this series is unique to Washington. There isn’t a football program in Division 1 that doesn’t lower its academic standards for football players, and Husky players surely aren’t the only ones even on that campus looking for the easiest path to a degree.

But while we’re talking about institutional approaches to the education of student-athletes, it’s worth noting that the University of Georgia’s “University Council Committee on Intercollegiate Athletics met Tuesday afternoon to plan a meeting with students, coaches and academic support staff to interview them about their academic experiences.”

“The committee proposed questions to ask the coaches and students, such as how many hours were dedicated to the teams per week and how they deal with academic violations,” the Red and Black reported. This event is scheduled for March 27th, and it aims to be a pretty comprehensive survey of athletic programs.

This study comes on the heels of an NCAA study that, not surprisingly, found that most student-athletes consider themselves athletes first and students second. The survey also found that student-athletes spend, on average, over 40 hours a week on their sport – far in excess of NCAA guidelines for supervised practice time.

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