Kevin King

Student Athletes: A Heel of a Hypocrisy

The University of North Carolina has been entangled in allegations from the NCAA for more than a year now. Charges of misconduct revolve around their athletic programs and twenty years of imaginary classes. Allegedly. Probably. Well, at least strongly probable.

Now UNC must await a full-on investigation by the NCAA whose inquiry began Spring of 2015. Citing lack of institutional control as well as other infractions, the Tarheels face an uphill battle.

Meanwhile, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges removed its probationary label from their accreditation – rolling back some of the fog shrouding the program. Violations included failures in academic integrity and control of athletics.

It seems some of the reforms are working to restore faith but the impending NCAA investigation still looms.

Although the NCAA will undoubtedly make a fair and just ruling, it’s the court of public opinion that will be the harshest judge. To that honorable bench the question must truly be asked: What difference does it make?

While this may sound like a question posed by presumptive presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, it is actually a rather serious one. Do academic standards really matter in collegiate sports or are they just a feel-good pat on the back akin to COEXIST bumper stickers or hybrid SUVs?

Every Saturday, from the turn of autumn leaves to frost-laden turf, college football grips America’s majority of television time. Rivalries fuel friendships and divide families. Once the frost begins to thaw, March Madness enthralls the Carolinas as Tobacco Road shows the rest of the country true basketball prowess.

As thousands of collegiate athletes take the courts and fields each year, not much unlike the Gladiators of ancient Rome, millions of adoring fans cheer on their battles. Buzzer beaters and fourth down conversions are met with roars of applause. In fact, the furthest thing from the minds of these paying spectators is the current GPA of the star player.

Look at the 2015 revenue totals from collegiate athletic programs. Coming in first place across all NCAA schools is Texas A&M with an impressive $192,608,876 in total revenue. The top ten schools have a combined revenue of over $1.5 billion. Our most egregious offender of NCAA rules, UNC, didn’t even make the top thirty, coming in at thirty-second with just over $89 million in revenue.

It’s not philosophy or calculus that has created a multi-billion dollar industry — it’s athletics.

Sure, rules are important to follow, and no one should be given carte blanche to break those rules. If UNC is found guilty, the NCAA has a right to impose sanctions, sentence the Heels to double secret probation, or any other form of punishment they see fit.

What truly needs to be addressed though is the hypocrisy of college sports. No stadium is packed for mathletes and no professor will ever draw in a multi-million dollar salary like Roy Williams or Urban Myers. It will always be an arena packed with paying customers, looking for a show performed by young college students, that puts food on the NCAA’s table. Either they will back up their stance that academics are top priority and place athlete education above the ESPN contracts, or they will embrace their true motive of building luxury boxes on the backs of talented youths looking to better themselves with a depreciating degree.  Once they start treating it like it is, then they might have grounds to take a serious stance on something as trivial as academic standards.

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