Academic journal article College and University

The Coaches' Graduation Rate: A Catalyst for Academically Responsible Behavior

Academic journal article College and University

The Coaches' Graduation Rate: A Catalyst for Academically Responsible Behavior

Article excerpt

One of the most important distinguishing characteristics of sports in the United States is the industry that has been based on athletic competition between college teams. In other countries it is professional and club sports that are wholly the focus of publicity and public adulation. In the United States, in addition to our national focus on events such as professional football's Super Bowl, professional baseball's Word Series, and professional basketball cham- pionships, we have college football's Bowl Championship Series, and the NCAA men's basketball championship, ap- propriately named "March Madness." These competitions absorb us fully from late August to March. An equally competitive recruiting season occurs on a year-round ba- sis, focusing our attention on the newest crop of potential superstars. However, we must acknowledge that the vis- ibility of college sport comes with a price. We read with regularity of the transgressions of coaches who, under pressure to win, violate the regulations of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), the organization whose ostensible purpose is to ensure the well-being of its student athletes. We also read of institutions that attempt to purchase athletic championships at the price of their integrity by admitting student athletes they know have little or no chance of ever graduating. This is particularly troubling when the institution knows in advance that the student athlete will remain on campus for only one year of preparation for professional sports. Student athletes often view college only as a necessary precursor to employment in professional athletics if only they can perform well enough in college athletic venues.

What has evolved in the name of intercollegiate sport is an enterprise in which all of the participants - universities, presidents, alumni, athletics directors and players - have been swept up in an activity that focuses almost exclusively on winning and that is often corrupted by the huge numbers of dollars involved in the revenue sports of football and men's basketball. This industry is often run by individuals who believe in the benefits to be derived from participating in these programs regardless of what the facts tell us about the ancillary benefits that are supposedly derived from these programs.

How did we arrive at this point, and why only in the United States? As the cartoon character Pogo so clearly stated many years ago, "We have met the enemy and it is us." College sports is of our own making, and for those of us involvedin these programs, if we do not like what we see, we have only ourselves to blame. These programs were not forced upon us, we chose to initiate and nurture them to achieve our own goals. The traditions of American higher education evolved early in our history to ensure that the running of colleges would be entrusted to "practical" men who were engaged in business, as opposed to academicians alone. Thus, boards of control, whether referred to as regents, trustees, governors, supervisors or some other appellation, whether elected or appointed, and whether serving on boards of private or public institutions, were, and continue to be, composed largely of lay persons rather than academicians. Donald Chu (1989) describes how this orientation toward dollar balances and student enrollments became focused at Swarthmore College in the early 1900s on "...a strengthening of the applied fields of study such as engineering..." and "...the development of the 'life of fun', that is, social activities and sports. The extracurricular and big-time football was then married, comfortably or not..." Similarly, Chu describes "...examples of the power of the American college president to rapidly and radically alter institutional programs and orientations with respect to academics and sports." The University of Chicago gained prominence when Amos Alonzo Stagg built its football program into a national power. Watterson (2000) demonstrates the alliance of football and money in the 1894 Harvard/Yale football game when he informs us that Harvard's receipts from that game were in excess of $15,000 and Yale's as much as $10,000. …

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