College sports often put universities, students at disadvantage


The Appalachian Online

Kevin Griffin

Today marks the end of what has been a nearly four year tradition. At this time every year, I write something about the monumental scam that is the NCAA.

What makes this year different is that the Tar Heels will be making the national championship for the first time since the tradition began. Given those circumstances, I would like to take this opportunity to take back everything I’ve said about the NCAA.

Go Heels!

Just kidding, sort of. I’m certainly not the biggest Chapel Hill fan in the world, but being raised in a family of massive Carolina fans has definitely worn off on me.

Throughout their run at the tournament, I was cheering them on. I’d still enjoy it if they won the championship.

At the same time, I cannot ignore the enormous issues that college sports raise for universities. Putting aside the glaring problem of compensation for college athletes and the unfairness of that situation, there is the bigger problem of the culture that this system promotes and normalizes.

Universities have a basic mission: to educate their students. In the case of college athletes, that imperative is just as important and in some ways perhaps even greater than it is for other students.

After all, the main justification for not paying college players is that they are well-compensated with their free education.

No college sports scandal reveals the hollowness of that talking point than does the Chapel Hill academic scandal.

The 2014 Wainstein report documents in devastating detail the attempts of more than a decade to make exceptions for college students by herding them into sham classes with non-existent standards.

One finding in the report particularly highlights the injustice done to those athletes involved. The report concluded that Deborah Crowder and Julius Nyang’oro, who ran the classes, did so out of sympathy for the athletes, who had been accepted despite an inability to keep up with the university’s curriculum.

This type of conduct is deeply unfair not only to the athletes at the university, but also to other students who do not receive those particular “perks.”

Of course, it isn’t really a perk. The overwhelming majority of NCAA athletes do not go the pros, and not providing that education does no service to those athletes.

The ultimate end of this system is to support college sports programs that are all too often a drain on the universities. A USA Today report from May 2015 found that only 24 of the 230 Division I schools are financially self-sufficient.

These programs rely on their students to pay fees for these programs.

If life were different, and public universities were awash in cash for academics and students were paying low tuition, this might be a conversation. At a time when public support for education is dropping, it is unconscionable.

All of this is bad, but the worst thing is the culture this promotes. When sports come to dominate the academic culture and needs of a majority of an institution’s students and faculty, there is a problem.

It might be odd that a student from a different university is writing about Chapel Hill. Of course, the Tar Heels are a central part of life in North Carolina, and that alone could justify writing about them.

Still, I think this issue has a relevance at Appalachian State as well. We are not Chapel Hill and will never be, but there are troubling signs of the culture of athletics taking over in an unhealthy way.

Since we beat Michigan, Appalachian State owes a good deal of its national name recognition to sports. The move to Division I has also raised the caliber of our sports programs.

It’s beyond time that we start to really consider the enormous drawbacks that big-time college sports bring. We are already seeing increased student fees.

Events such as last semester’s conflict over on-campus parking are but one of the signs that the sports culture on the university is unhealthy.

As students who are disadvantaged by this, we should do what we can to resist this troubling transition.

Griffin, a senior journalism major from Madison, is the Opinion Editor.