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Should athletes be able to major in their sport?

Bryan Haskins, ‘Doah Contributing Writer
November 6, 2013

Could you imagine doubling your workload for a half of a year or more, only to receive credit for half of your work? College athletes confront this unbalanced scale of workloads every year they step onto campus. Shenandoah University basketball player Kyle Murph states, “We work harder than anybody else. We have workouts, practice, games, and those workouts [are not a] joke.”

But yet, all we hear is constant nagging about college athletes illegally accepting money, breaking NCAA drug policies and being told what they can’t do. With the amount of time and work that athletes put into their sports, you would think that they would receive more than a trophy for winning and a pat on their backs for losing.

How about a Bachelor’s degree in their athletic sport? After all, college athletes spend the majority of their time learning and mastering their sport.

Granted, college sports are an extracurricular activity that students choose to participate in, which is the main argument for not being paid to play. Then there is the “well they receive scholarships – a free education should be enough compensation” argument. This ends up being a scholarship for a free education used to study your sport more than your major.

Looking at football, at the Division I level, we can break down the amount of time that students spend focusing on their sport rather than their major.

This year the University of Alabama Crimson Tide kicked off their football season on Aug. 31 — ten days after classes began on campus. Twenty days prior to the beginning of classes, football players were reporting to campus for their first day of practice. Their season is scheduled to end on Nov. 14, but they are the favorite play in the National Championship in January. The school academic season ends the fall semester on Dec. 13, but the football season won’t end until nearly a month after that.

The end of the season is really just the beginning of offseason. The team has ten weeks to focus solely on school after the championship before starting spring ball on March 21. Offseason lasts until late April which leaves players two measly weeks to focus on the remainder of their academic year.

Out of a 36 week academic calendar, a football player only gets to live the life of a normal college student for one-third of that. Unfortunately, this makes school sound like the extracurricular activity.

As careers in sports are steadily expanding from the media to the medical fields, the real experts of the sport study everyday throughout college. Players learn sports from the inside out by studying offense, defense, special teams and their respective positions. They also learn communication and leadership skills and how to deal with extreme pressure. I’m not saying that that’s the curriculum, but for a basis of study, it seems fitting for a bachelor’s degree.

In terms of academia, allowing students to earn college credit for playing a sport will give those who don’t get to shine in the light an opportunity to level out the playing field with knowledge of the sport. Of course, some random average Joe can’t just walk onto a campus and say I want to major in baseball. But to play at the college level means that they are preparing to perform at the professional level, which is directly in line with coming to college to train in a specific field.

The fact that students spend just as much time training and practicing for a sport as they do for their declared majors is justification as to why they should be compensated for their efforts. I say substitute the practices with classes, workouts with homework, games with projects, and you’ll have an exact exchange for the work that students do in the classroom. Balance the scales and give students credit for what they work for.

5 replies »

  1. Question for Bryan:

    I understand that it does take a vast amount of effort to balance academia with a sport during college, but what happens when a player is injured? What can they fall back on?

    To me this is why professional players have a degree of their choosing in case an injury affects their professional sporting career. I believe that a player needs to be well rounded. One who succeeds on the field, and one who succeeds in life. College gives one the opportunity to expand their mind, and gives players the opportunity to develop careers well after their professional career is over.

    I respect your look on the difficulties of maintaining a proficient academic and sporting life in college, and I do believe some are unaware of how difficult that lifestyle could be, but I think that knowledge can further an individual long past their sporting career.

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    • What happens when players get injured, what will they fall back on?

      Great question Curtis, but I do believe that when injuries happen or when students realize that playing football (or any sport) is not going to last forever, that this will help them in the long run. The idea stated above is an in addition to idea. For example

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    • What happens when players get injured, what will they fall back on?

      Great question Curtis, but I do believe that when injuries happen or when students realize that playing football (or any sport) is not going to last forever, that this will help them in the long run. The article above is written in addition to academics. For example, in addition studying Business Administration, John played four years of college football. This article is saying that because John is studying his sport just as much as his major, that maybe his sport should be a major as well. Therefore, in addition to Business Administration, John will also receive a degree in Football. The degree in sports is compensation for the work that students are required to put in, in addition their regularly assigned coursework. With as much money as they earn for free labore, they deserve more than a pat on the back or a trophy.

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  2. While this article certainly brings an interesting topic to light, it conveys the information in a very “athlete-biased” manner. I think that I would be challenged to find a curriculum at Shenandoah (or any college) that solely educates students through classes, homework, and projects.

    As a graduate from the conservatory I can only speak from my experience. On average, conservatory students take an average of 10 (or more) classes per semester. That is double the amount of most college students. The classes are worth less credits than most, to enable students to fit all the expected criteria into four years.Those students work very hard and probably deserve more credits than they are actually receiving for the amount of work that they are required to put forth. And, the one or two credit lessons that the conservatory students are taking, yeah, those kids spend hours upon hours in the practice rooms honing their craft. Did I complain about my work-load in college? You bet! I spent at least 10 hours on campus every weekday, not to mention the extra time I had to spend studying and doing homework outside of school. It has definitely paid off though now that I have graduated and found a job. I attribute this to the hard work I spent not only on my studies, but also the non-credited time I devoted to extra-curricular activities.

    I know for a fact that lengthy hours and hard work do not end at the conservatory. I’ve known some biology majors to work on homework for 6-8 hours a day. Do they get extra credit for studying above and beyond the recommended amount of hours? No. Again, their hard work pays off when they submit their transcripts to grad school programs and get to have the professional careers that they aspire towards.

    Now, does it suck that those who play a sport don’t receive any college credit for all the time and effort that they are putting forth? Yea, I have to agree that I would also be miffed. However, I think that athletes need to take this in stride and not assume that they are the only people who are given less credit than they deserve. This is the reality of today’s society in general that we are all “over-worked and underpaid” so to speak. Playing a college sport is a choice that these students have made. And despite the comment about these students only being able to live 1/3 of the normal college experience, I saw athletes out and about around town partying just as much, if not more, than myself and my classmates. I would be very interested to know how this figure was calculated, and what the baseline “normal college life” consists of.

    Bottom lines:
    -Hard work is relative.
    -“Credit” is not always awarded in the form of our choosing but generally, pays off in the end.

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  3. After reading the article it seems as though the author is trying to compare playing sports with that of learning to treat and diagnose illness and disease, to teach our nations future, and all the other great occupations that university prepares us for. Yes playing sports requires dedication and practice, and can be quite a physical, mental, and emotional commitment, but we learn to overlook these obstacles because they are our passions. Music is my greatest joy and I wanted to share this passion with the rest of the world, so I decided to teach. Not only did I get to study my passion every day for four years, but now I get to share it with 600 little kids everyday. I guess my advice to the author is to find a connection between your passions and chosen field. Those practices and games will seem less like a chore and have more purpose.

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