by Rachel Ball-Jones
Consider two students who are academic equals but participate in different extracurricular activities. One is the football star who could potentially bring in money to a college as a starting player. The other is a skilled debater and is a member of the speech and debate team. One student is going to have to suffer through the stress of college applications and admissions because she is competing with all of the other seniors applying for colleges with strong academic credentials. The other gets recruited by a top university, essentially guaranteed entrance, and can relax for the remainder of his senior year.
There is something wrong with this situation. Valuing sports above education will only serve to devalue academia and work in American culture.
Not only does sports recruiting detract from academics, it places unnecessary pressure on students to perform well in sports. Students must show that they’re improving in their competition and continuing their training. Recruiting has negative effects on athletes too.
Once athletes have been approached by colleges, they experience pressure from college coaches to attend certain schools. Students who have been recruited are expected to commit as soon as possible, and many receive mixed messages about whether they will be recruited in the end. For example, a coach may tell an athlete who is being recruited that they are also looking to fill other sports, and they may be given a less competitive spot if they don’t commit. This can lead to injuries and decreased academic performance, as students are focusing too much on sports so that they will be able to attend the college of their choice. Sports are also less lasting than other professions.
Most professional football players retire from the National Football League earlier than the average adult. Lawyers, doctors, and other professionals work longer and therefore are able to make more money. Perhaps for this reason alone, sports recruitment should be downsized. In the long run, academic achievements will pay off more than sports, and therefore colleges should select students based on who they think will be the most successful after college, rather than the biggest money maker.
Though recruitment is illegal before the end of junior year, many colleges side step this rule by simply “talking” to athletes rather than directly recruiting them. While the rest of the junior class is slaving away at SATs, the school quarterback is hanging around with a UC Berkeley admissions scout.
According to a USA Today study on athletic spending, athletic budgets are growing at double the pace of academics. Additionally, over $1 billion are given in sports scholarships each year by universities and their affiliates. In fact, out of the top five most well-paid people in Northern California, three are coaches for a big university. This insane amount of money devoted to sports reflects the values of the American college system- sports are beginning to replace academics in achievement value. While tuition goes up, sports recruiting and athletic spending do as well.
But what is the reason that these athletes are so much more appealing to a college than say, a mock trial champion? Athletics programs, especially ones like football, gain a lot of income for colleges. In that way, it makes sense for the colleges to want these athletes, but it doesn’t justify the fact that athletes get a leg up on the competition.
When admittance rates are down below 15 percent in some college, the “playing field” needs to be as level as possible, and all qualified students should be considered equally.