Darren and Tammy Pickens made a very good point about National Collegiate Athletic Association eligibility in a letter this week. Every public school has star athletes who can compete in college if they so desire. So why wouldn’t every school take the steps to ensure that those students get their chance?
Public schools don’t exist simply to meet state or federal mandates; they exist to help young people develop the skills needed to be productive members of society. Anymore, many career choices — and especially high-paying careers — require a college education. At the same time demand for college has gone up, so have the costs associated with attending college. In 2006 and 2007, about 60 percent of new college graduates had student loan debt, with an average debt per borrower above $22,000.
For students with talent and competitive drive, an athletic scholarship can go a long way to preventing such heavy debt, which means more of a graduate’s salary can go toward a higher standard of living. But more than a few prospective student-athletes have found a scholarship out of reach because of eligibility requirements, through no fault of their own. Most students take the classes that administrators and counselors tell them they will need, whether for graduation or to attend college.
NCAA rules aren’t the problem, either. Eligibility rules are in place, not to exclude people, but to ensure student-athletes are prepared for the rigors of college. I’ve seen enough college sports scandals to know that some athletic programs will cut any corners they can to gain a competitive edge if someone isn’t watching them.
For a school that is meeting its mission of providing a good and well-rounded education to its whole student body, it shouldn’t be especially difficult to provide the curriculum needs for students who may compete athletically in college — time consuming and paperwork-intense, maybe, but not difficult enough to leave those students to their own devices.
— Adam Stewart