College Athletics and Academics: A Balanced Perspective

By July 22, 2014 No Comments

Written by Vin McCaffrey

It’s time for a balanced perspective. Given the notoriety of college athletics in this country, let’s not jump on the bandwagon that the sky is falling. There are countless positives going on in college athletic programs.

Over the past several months, college athletic headlines have been dominated by stories such as athlete unionization, class action lawsuits and, most recently, a Capitol Hill hearing. At the heart of each of these situations is a new buzzword flying around college athletics – student-athlete experience. These stories, like many other media headlines, make it clear that the negative narrative sells.

So you may have read about some of ‘the bad and the ugly,’ but let’s talk a bit about ‘the good.’

Let’s start with the Capitol Hill hearings. As I listened to the proceedings this week, two people stood out to me: Senator Cory Booker and Myron Rolle.2students_PREP_Small

The media at times can paint a negative exception and make it the norm. So my reverse psychology is to paint the exceptional exception and call it the new gold standard.

I have included two links below – one from Senator Booker and one from Myron Rolle. These two individuals have amazingly similar backgrounds; they both were:

• Highly recruited High School All-America football players

• Competed at the highest of levels of division one football – Pac-12 and ACC

• African-American young men who led their college football teams to amazing success

• And….both were Rhodes Scholars.

More on their videos here:

Senator Booker

Myron Rolle

Are they exceptions to the rule? Sure. In fact, of the 2013 Rhodes Scholars, there were no football players but there were four student-athletes. Are Rhodes Scholar student-athletes exceptions to the rule? Absolutely. As a general rule, ALL Rhodes Scholars are exceptions to the rule. Let’s make sure we provide individuals like Myron and Senator Booker the intellectual respect they deserve.

The Rhodes Scholar benchmark is too high?

How about dean’s list?

How about an African-American young man who competed at the highest of levels of Division I football, Michigan State? He earned dean’s list as an undergraduate and went on to earn a graduate degree in public relations. Passionate about helping fellow student-athletes, he continues to work in college athletics in administration supporting another elite athletic program, Clemson University football. Oh, by the way, this young man, Ashton Henderson, published his first book this past spring assisting high school students preparing to make the transition to college football.

How about exceptional programs? The Learfield Director’s Cup, the gold standard for overall athletic department accomplishment, has long been dominated by top performing academic institutions. In fact, for 2013/14, the top ten finishers of the Learfield Cup also garnered a US News and World Report Top 100 ranking for national institutions.

• Eight of the ten were top 50 in the US News rankings

• Six of the ten were top 25 in the US News rankings

• Two of the ten, which includes the winner of the Cup (Stanford University), were top 10 in the US News rankings

How about from a coach’s perspective? There are countless examples of coaches who are passionate about student-development and the student-athlete experience. Below are two outstanding stories of a prominent basketball and football coach who see their responsibility go well beyond wins and losses.

Coach Richt

Coach Smart

I founded GTG six years ago with the mission of providing comprehensive student-athlete development. For six years, I have seen countless “exceptions” to the norm that would inspire the un-inspirable. To steal a line from my colleague and friend John Blanchard, “Everyone’s responsibility in college athletics is the same, no matter what your role is – to see girls grow to become women and to see boys grow to become men.”