by Kate Didion
Andrew Luck. Tim Tebow. Cam Newton. Anthony Davis. Natalie Coughlin. What do all of these athletes have in common? They were all recruited by colleges when they were in high school because of their outstanding athleticism.
Elite-level athletes in high school are faced with a tough decision when deciding where to go to school. College recruiters and coaches have to recruit them starting in their teens to put their school in the athlete’s mind. In some sports, athletes receive letters from colleges as early as middle school. The National College Athletic Association has put strict regulations in place for how colleges and athletes have to approach the recruiting process. Student athletes and their families are never allowed to be paid by their college. Stories of football and basketball stars being paid by their college sometimes emerge in the news. However, these are rare instances and a violation of the rules and the spirit of collegiate sports.
It is important for schools to recruit athletes to make their sports teams successful because it gives students and alumni pride in their school. In addition, having elite teams is a potential draw for incoming students. Having nationally recognized college athletes makes people want to come watch a competition, generating revenue for the school.
College football teams compete annually to earn a spot at one of the Bowl Championship Series games. These games are just entertaining football games on the surface, but in reality, they earn millions of dollars for colleges. In the past 10 years, more than $1.8 billion has been paid out to colleges by the BCS, according to their website. Last year, the Pac-10 received a $27.2 million payout from the BCS. Even a smaller school like Navy still received a $100,000 payout from the BCS.
Sports recruiting does not provide athletes with an unfair advantage. Instead, it is a fair way to make sure that athletes go to schools where they can reach their fullest potential academically and in their sport.
Contrary to popular belief, student athletes cannot get into college with poor grades. Individual schools have certain requirements for student athletes that are not far below those of the average college student admitted to their school. Student athletes have to work equally hard in school as non-athletes, because student athletes must balance schoolwork with practice, which for some sports can be four or five hours a day. Sports like swimming also have morning practices, requiring athletes to work out before school and still practice after school. Athletes are physically and mentally exhausted after so much practice, and still have the stresses of school. College recruiters recognize the strenuous schedules of student athletes and that factors into their admission, even if their grade point average is a few percentage points below a student who is not accepted to the same college.
Some may argue that sports are not as important as academics because they will not help people in real life. This is untrue because sports teach valuable life skills to help people succeed in life, such as self-discipline, teamwork and sportsmanship. In addition, student athletes have proven to be very successful in college. According to the National Collegiate Athletic Association website, student athletes “annually outperform their student-body counterparts in graduation rates, usually by several percentage points.”
When thinking of sports recruiting, don’t think athletes are getting a free ride to college. Think instead about the incredible motivation and commitment student athletes have to their sport and their school.