Taking the Field
College athletics, particularly football and basketball, are big money-makers for colleges and universities. That’s no secret.
But the student-athletes who leave everything on the court or on the field to make us proud are getting a raw deal. There is not enough being done to ensure that these students are getting a solid education in addition to their athletic experience. In the long-run, that leaves few options for the thousands of college athletes who don’t go into professional sports.
And it’s happening here in California. For example, last year UC Berkeley ranked dead last in graduation rates among the six major college football conferences in the country, and the 2013 graduation rate for the Fresno State golf program stood at just 29%.
We have the perfect opportunity coming up. The athletic directors at UC Berkeley, Fresno State and Cal State Sacramento have stepped down, and the searches for replacements are ongoing. It's important that we hold the next athletic director hires accountable for meeting the academic needs and goals of student-athletes.
That begins with transparency. Information on the academic performance of an athletic program should be readily available online, and information about how conference dollars flow towards academics should be accessible as well so the public and others can make sure the system is truly putting students first.
And it continues with demanding results. The new athletic directors should be held responsible through direct financial and contractual obligations for achieving clear and reasonable academic benchmarks.
This doesn’t mean I won’t be watching once the season begins. I love college sports, and they’re important to school spirit as well as the bottom line. But our athletes signed up for an education, and it’s on us to give them a good one.