Brawn over brains wins big bucks

You could attend Harvard about 17,554 times for $1 billion. Men’s college football and basketball generate $6 billion in annual revenue. In the modern world of higher education it is safe to say that college sports have become a major source of income for universities and colleges.

It follows that colleges and universities have a lot to lose when it comes to the success of their sports teams. Alumni and university donors expect to see teams that they can put their money behind – essentially they want a school that they can be proud of. Consequently, colleges have become more and more aggressive about finding new, young athletes to beef up their teams.

According to “Athletes Wanted,” by Chris Krause, a book written to help guide parents through the recruiting process, 50 percent of the recruiting coaches’ decisions depend upon athletic ability, 25 percent depend upon academics, and another 25 percent depend upon “intangibles,” which include “character, leadership, and work ethic.”

These statistics are astounding. They are difficult numbers to hear for a hard working, but not-so-very athletic student. I, like many of my fellow students, have enrolled in as many AP classes as I could, volunteered, worked a few jobs, joined multiple clubs, and tried to beef up my academic resume. However, as much as all these things help in the race to college, being a star athlete will ultimately boost a student’s chances of being accepted into Harvard or Yale more than most other extracurriculars will.

Although Ivy League schools have never offered athletic scholarships, they have found other ways to recruit athletes, by providing need-based financial aid. Erica Reetz, an outside hitter on Yale’s two-time defending championship volleyball team, claimed that, “ I was going to Yale for the same cost as any other kid going to a state school.” Ivy Leagues have been providing more and more need-based financial aid to athletes as their teams have begun climbing in the national ranks once again.

Universities have also put their players under tremendous pressure, treating them like professionals rather than students. Students who are scouted for their athletic abilities are often brought into universities for that aspect of their talents alone. They are expected to devote their time to practice, not studying. They choose the classes that will be the least demanding, and often, at the end of their four years, they have not accumulated enough credits to earn a degree.

In a letter from Andrew DeRocco, former president of Denison University in Granville, Ohio, to John Keiser, then-president of Boise State University, DeRocco wrote, ‘’It is a frightful admission, isn’t it, that once the fictitious celebrity of athletics disappears, there is nothing left to hold an athlete to his or her institution. No bonds of loyalty. None of friendships. Worse yet, none that speak to what they’ve learned and have yet to learn.”

Perhaps I’m just another scrawny student complaining about how unfair it is that the kids who play sports are given outstanding scholarships and will, ultimately, be considered for acceptance before me. Maybe it is unreasonable to question why those in charge of higher education are focused more on something that is completely unrelated to education. Maybe our society should obsess over sports rather than developing bright young minds that are expected to lead the nation one day.

Or maybe, universities should stop focusing on making money off their students and attempt to do what they were originally created to do – helping develop and expand the minds of young adults, giving them the tools to explore their passions, and helping them become assets to future generations. It’s just a thought.

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Sofia Jeremias is a senior at Sonoma Valley High School. She is co-editor of school newspaper, Dragon Tales, where this op-ed

originally ran.