Big time college sports have morphed into a multi-billion dollar business, culminating with last night’s NCAA football championship game between Ohio State and Oregon. College coaches today earn significantly more money than their bosses college presidents (millions more in many cases), and some college athletic facilities actually dwarf professional facilities in both size and amenities. As this trend continues and colleges nationwide continue to widen the gap in priorities between academics and athletics, some research polls are beginning to reveal that the majority of Americans are seeing through the “student” athlete moniker assigned to college athletes. Does this public opinion matter, and should schools worry?
The short answer might be “no,” since the revenue is so good – and what’s not to like about that? Still, when you step back and take a landscape view of things, there are a number of growing concerns that could eventually chip away at the integrity of higher learning:
- Corruption, cheating, and integrity issues. With so much money to gain, college personnel are continuously put in compromising positions when it comes to questions around student athlete grades, eligibility, and off-the-field problems. This trend will only continue as bigger dollars roll in for the future — and star players are needed to perform on the field.
- “Re-balancing” the perception. The recent poll revealed most folks don’t think there is much “student” in student-athlete these days, prompting a branding issue the NCAA and member schools may want to look at for the future. Can better efforts be made to re-establish the balance between student and athlete?
- Mislead student athletes & pro aspirations. The other side of big time college sports that is rarely talked about are the athletes that don’t “make it” to the next level — and we’re talking 98% of college athletes here. Oftentimes all the glitz and glamor of big college sports clouds the reality that student athletes are well served to hit the books and prioritize academics over athletics if they are interested in long-term personal and career success.
Will things change, or will college athletic departments and the NCAA continue to push ahead with the sole focus on greater revenues, regardless of the cost to integrity or public perception? The future remains to be seen, but it appears as though the public has already decided that clearly academics take a backseat to athletics in 2015.
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