Opinion

Athletics no excuse for second-rate diploma

When I was twelve years old, I fully believed I would become a major league baseball player. At twenty, I find myself in a position where I haven’t thrown a ball for at least four years and if I have to walk up a flight of stairs, I get winded. My point? Everyone believes they are going to go pro, but merely a miniscule percentage of the amateur sports world ever actually does.

This brings up the question: should high schools and universities hold athletes to a lower academic standard than other students simply because they have a chance at becoming professionals? Some would argue that they should. Take our football team for example. I have heard many people say that players such as Andre Johnson should not be expected to perform well academically, but only to perform well-exceptionally well-athletically because this is a pit stop before they make it to the NFL. Yes, I have heard it in conversations with all types of people: Many find nothing wrong with the fact that from the high school level through college, athletes are simply passed along and are held to embarrassingly low academic standards.

Schools that perpetuate this system should be ashamed at the way they are running their operations, and I include the University of Miami in the list of shameful schools. It is hard to swallow how skewed our priorities are when education means nothing if you can run a good 40 yard dash. What message are we sending to students when academics come in second at a university?

Not only is it wrong, we are also doing these athletes an immeasurable disservice. Imagine that the star football player is about to graduate and turn professional. Now say in a fluke at practice, he tears a major muscle and can’t play again. What does he do? What can he fall back on? Certainly not his diploma from this university.

Or here’s a more plausible scenario. Imagine that I am on the football team, but am not one of the starters who are good enough to play professionally. Where do I go after college? The point is, there are so many athletes who will never make it into the professional arena that when they get into the real world with no chance of playing football, there won’t be any one to simply pass them along to a good job.

I cannot say it enough times. The purpose of a university is to educate. Being able to catch a pass should not be a viable substitute for being able to get a diploma. I challenge the university to put its priorities where they should be. But since I sincerely doubt that will happen, I have to question if my own diploma will really be worth anything.

Travis Atria is a sophomore majoring in English

literature.

March 29, 2002

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The Miami Hurricane is the student newspaper of the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Fla. The newspaper is edited and produced by undergraduate students at UM and is published weekly in print on Tuesdays during the regular academic year.