Football and Basketball Athletes Barely Allowed to Pursue Degrees?

I am posting this from Rachel Bachman’s “Bachscore” Twitter Page. She added elements from our interview to her Twitter. Before you view my comments below, I must say that I always think about Robert Brooks who while playing football at Ohio State took a year off because he was told that his pursuit of a degree in medicine was in conflict with his job/scholarship responsibility to play football. I recently met a young man who plays in a major university football program who will earn a degree in Engineering this spring. He intimated that he was a 5th year senior and that had he not gotten hurt and been able to spend the previous season on injured reserve he would not have been able to take the labs or complete the projects necessary for his degree requirements.
See “Bachscore” comments below:

Do college athletes have time to study? More with an academic Baller
Published: Monday, February 21, 2011, 10:30 AM
Rachel Bachman, The Oregonian By Rachel Bachman, The Oregonian

Thabiti Lewis is an associate English professor at WSU-Vancouver.
The danger of chasing a college athletic scholarship isn’t just that you might not get it. It’s that even if you do get it, you might not get the education you bargained for.

That’s the assertion of Thabiti Lewis, an associate professor of English at Washington State-Vancouver and author of “Ballers of the New School: Race and Sports in America.”

In a Q and A published in today’s Oregonian, Lewis laments what he says is an over-emphasis in communities of color on pursuing sports careers, to the detriment of academic pursuits.

Even some of the NCAA’s own data back up Lewis’ assertion that it’s difficult for athletes in high-profile college sports to get the time they need to complete meaningful, useful degrees.
Lewis had some interesting thoughts that I couldn’t fit in today’s print story. Here is a sampling.

On the state of college sports:

I’m not trying to eliminate (college sports), but I’m trying to refocus the mission of institutions of higher education. When you have academic institutions that value more — our values placed where our wallets are — the production and the contributions of coaches and administrators in athletics more so than university professors who are the reason why you’re in this institution….

And people say, No one’s paying to come see you diagramming a sentence or deconstructing a novel. My argument is that they are. Every time they pay their tuition, they’re paying to see me, and they’re paying to see me perform. Sometimes a big lecture hall, sometimes smaller. I’m not on TV as often, but they’re paying for that.

On sport, race and politics:

Because Obama is president, the racial tensions in contemporary society are quite heightened.

I think on one hand, some of the players, I have to imagine (Obama’s presidency) has a bit of a positive effect on them. It has to, this notion of leadership. What’s unfortunate is that because of the highly professionalized nature of sport culture, I just don’t think there are enough balanced, developed individuals. This is what’s so bothersome to me, is that the level of political consciousness or intellectualism is lower than it should be and it’s very sad.

Rachel Bachman’s look at issues, trends and people behind the games.

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I don’t care where you stand, I just want you involved, intelligently involved.

On opening opportunities in sports:

I think we do ourselves a disservice by failing to open it up. We have to approach the diversity of sport and addressing these notions of race the same we approach fielding an Olympic basketball team, right? We’ll at least get 10 or 11 of the very best, because we want to make sure we win. Let’s approach it that way.

My goodness, if (Tennessee women’s basketball coach) Pat Summitt is probably the best person to coach the (men’s) Olympic team, which she could be, because she is really a good coach…. Why isn’t she at least an assistant coach? She knows something. They would give (U Conn women’s coach) Geno (Auriemma) a look.

How come men can have opportunity in women’s collegiate coaching but women don’t have opportunity in men’s collegiate coaching?

Those teams that can’t quite make it off the ground, maybe if you opened it up to get the very best, maybe you’d find that, Wow, we’re [teams that hire candidates without worrying about gender or race] winning now.

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