Selection Sunday

Today is a big day. Not only is it St. Patrick’s Day, but more importantly, it’s Selection Sunday. For those who are unfamiliar, Selection Sunday is the day on which men’s college basketball March Madness tournament bracket is unveiled, signaling the official beginning of March Madness.

Like so many other sports fans, I’m a huge fan of March Madness. Simply put, it’s one of the most thrilling sporting events of the year. However, more and more every year, I can’t help but think about the sacrifices that college athletes must make every year to be involved in such an event. Despite being expected to fulfill the burden of being a full-time student, these athletes devote several hours every day to their sport. Whether it is practice, fill study, therapy, games, traveling, etc., they are constantly brushing their academic obligations to the side in favor of their sport. This is virtually a year round cycle in many cases. Even in their respective off-seasons  they are still required to come in for individual work outs, team practices, weight-lifting, etc.

For college basketball players, all of this hard work comes to fruition around this time of year, when many schools are invited to play in the NCAA March Madness tournament. Only, in order to be involved in such an event, teams often time must travel far distances and play games during the middle of a school day, forcing them to miss several days of classes at a time, and putting them in an even more difficult position to thrive academically? Sorry, not thrive, I mean survive!

I could go on all day, but I think I’ve gotten my point across, so far the sake of boring you any further, I’d like to just invite any sort of feedback. What is your stance on collegiate athletics? Do you think it is fair to the athletes to be used the way they are without being paid? Do you even think they should be required to be full-time students, or would it make more sense if they just focused on their sport, with the option of being allowed to complete their degree once their athletic career is over? Does the system need to be changed, or is it okay the way it is?

7 thoughts to “Selection Sunday”

  1. Benji, your interest in this topic does not surprise me =) Though I admit I am not as much a sports fanatic as you, I too acknowledge the crazy obligations athletes have. That said, it is a choice. Athletes (generally) do what they do because they love the sport–and because they love the sport, they make sacrifices. Hopefully with the resources (tutors and other) that athletes have access to, they will not have to sacrifice their education. But all people must prioritize, right? And maybe for athletes sports comes first, then education. I do think that athletes should be full-time students because an education is necessary to be a well-rounded adult. Plus, not all college athletes become professional athletes. They need something (an education) to fall back on.

  2. Carly – I’m glad you acknowledged that college athletes need an education to fall back on, because that’s essentially what I’m getting at. Just to put things in perspective, when you mentioned that “not all college athletes become professional athletes”, you are referring to about 98-99% of them! Furthermore, of the 1-2% that are able to make it to the professional level, the vast majority of those athletes do not end up having anything close to a sustainable career that can financially support them for the foreseeable future. It is easy to lose sight of this, as most athletes that people know of and identify with are the “stars”, but think about all of the lesser players, players in the minor leagues, and players that only are able to stick around for a few years, before getting hurt or being passed by the next up and coming player. This is the harsh reality of professional sports, meaning that almost every single college athlete is in some way, shape, or form sacrificing their college education in favor of a path that leads nowhere.

    Thus, I am suggesting that college athletics are not only extremely hypocritical (D1 football and men’s basketball is all about the money, hence conference realignment – do NOT listen to what anyone else says), but in a sense, they’re criminal. Athletes are exploited and their education is not legitimate in a lot of cases.

    This will never happen, or at least not anytime soon, but I think colleges need to seriously reconsider their mission statement, and then ask themselves how athletics help further that mission. Unless I’m missing something, there is absolutely no correlation.

    On a happier note, I still love college basketball and can’t wait for the tournament!

  3. I see your argument. I’m not so sure how colleges could reconsider their mission statement though. College athletics is a huge craze…sure, a huge money-maker as well. It admittedly seems ironic that athletes devote their entire college experience to a sport that likely will reap them no professional benefits. BUT to compete at college level does require expertise…and that talent takes hours of practice. So I wonder, if we think that performing at college level puts athletes at a disadvantage academically in the ‘real world’ (since as you say, 98 percent do not compete professionally), then isn’t that to say that college sporting is bs altogether?

  4. In the case of the vast majority of Division 1 athletics, sadly, yes. Particularly over the last several years, intercollegiate athletics have been tainted by conference realignment, bribery, and fraud. All of this is a result of increased pressure to win and ultimately make more money.

    Just off the top of my head, schools such as Ohio State, Penn State, Miami, USC, and Auburn have all faced serious allegations in the last few years regarding their coach, athletes, or overall athletic program. Even here at Michigan, a school that takes pride in calling itself “the leaders and best,” we have faced sanctions stemming from excess practice time under former head football coach Rich Rodriguez. If we look a little further back in time, who could ever forget the story of the Fab Five? So, yes, I think there is a tremendous amount of corruption and hypocrisy in college sports. What is the best way to go about fixing it, though? Great question.

  5. I think there is little we can do to ‘fix’ the corruption. Regulations already exist to protect against corruption. Maybe we need stricter regulations? College athletics is a huge business and like all business, there is injustice simply because it is impossible to micromanage. I don’t mean to have a ‘that’s the way it is’ attitude, but with business money is a motivator…and college sporting, corrupt or not, is just that, a money maker.

  6. I agree. The sad reality is that money is the driving force behind everything. I think the only way to truly address the issue is by completely overhauling the current system. For example, in England, college universities and sports do not necessarily go hand in hand. Rather, promising young athletes typically join club teams at a young age, almost like a minor league system, and are given a somewhat legitimate education on the side. However, there is no confusion or ambiguity. They no that they are there to perfect their athletic craft, and will go as far as their ability takes them. I don’t know if this sort of system is the answer, and realistically, it certainly will not exist here anytime soon, but it is something interesting to think about.

    1. Okay – so I hope I’m not committing some sort of MIW felony by commenting on “the other” cohort’s blog… (JK. I hope…) but as I browse posts that may peak my interest, I stumbled upon this one about the dilemma of the college athlete. Prior to transferring to Michigan, I was recruited to play soccer for the University of Pennsylvania, and though I was an amazing student in all aspects coming out of a top prep school and most likely would’ve gotten into Penn without the sport, soccer DID help me get into the Wharton business school there, which is even more selective.

      And I have no shame in admitting that, though I got tons of crap from friends in my graduating class saying how it was a “cheap” way to gain admission – etc etc etc. Is it an admission advantage? Sure. But so is “Yearbook Editor” or “First-chair Oboe player.” I think people rag on athletics as an admissions tool because it’s not academically related, but JUST as much work goes into training for the playoffs as studying for finals – it’s just a different kind of work.

      I’d say to my friends (who were probably just jealous that by October of my senior year I’d signed a letter of intent sealing my acceptance…): “Do you know how many hours and hours and hours of my life I have dedicated to this game?” Playing Division 1 sports is an absolutely privilege and many people never make it to that level – and it is HARD. It is a commitment, and it does make it difficult, as you mentioned, to balance that commitment with studies.

      But I think that, unless you’re both A) a man and B) have a serious shot at playing professionally, academics must come first… that’s why after a year – being A) a girl and B) who would never have a shot at making a living playing soccer professionally (in a world where a women’s pro league has now twice folded) – I bid D1 sports adieu, so I could focus on the real reason I went to Penn. Oh yeah, and have a social life 😉

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