I have often heard people talk about athletes at large D1 football or basketball schools and how classes are secondary to everything they do. There are complaints as well that even the non-athletic students get so wrapped up in the sports mania at their university that they choose watching or attending a game over completing their scholastic obligations. It's a problem with no easy fix and because the financial stakes are so high for both the universities and the players, there is little incentive for either to make a change. Do we need our NBA or NFL players, for example, to have a good education? Would they take it even if it was offered? Who knows?
Unfortunately, I think this culture of big name programs has more diffuse side-effects than the ones most often debated. In my new capacity as an advisor, I met with a Student Athlete to go over their schedule for the spring and chose classes. SA is a bright kid who is double majoring in two sciences, earning a very respectable GPA and playing a sport that has no professional league to go into post-university. It is not clear to me whether SA is earning a scholarship for their sport, but what was obvious is the problems these "students" can face. When we began talking about different classes I was informed by SA that classes on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons were bad because those are days they have games. In fact, Thursdays are bad entirely, because the team often leaves early Thursday morning for away games. Of course, Fridays were often missed as well for travel on Thursdays that extends through the weekend of a series of away games. Oh, and practice starts at 2:00, so after that any day is bad. Last spring SA took too many labs and ended up losing enough practice time to lose their starting position.
What the fucking what? So a promising student double majoring in two lab science majors is being discouraged from taking labs for half the year by their coach either directly by being told or indirectly by loss of playing time? Did I mention that this is a small sport with no professional league?
Basically, it looks to me as though the big U programs have made it okay for other sports to take up an incredible amount of scholastic time for sport. I'm sure the argument is "our sport is just as important!" but can we be realistic for a second? There are enough questions about the value of massive sports that garner enormous sums of money for universities, so let's not pretend that a small sport that no one is paying to watch should have similar claims to the sport/study balance in student's lives.
So far SA has been able to balance everything and pull off a near 4.0 GPA, but I would imagine that their success is rare. I am also concerned about the ambitious academic plan SA has before them and the chance of SA finishing in their intended time frame. Most of all, I want to find SA's coach and kick them in the shins for forcing a good student with lofty aspirations to compromise their studies