The Myth Of The Student Athlete

Christopher JonesContributor IApril 15, 2010

Archie Griffin’s status as the only man to win two Heisman’s looks to stay in tact for at least one more year. It was announced early last week Oklahoma quarterback and the reigning Heisman trophy winner Sam Bradford will undergo season ending shoulder surgery. On top of that, Bradford also announced that he would forgo his senior year of eligibility and enter the 2010 NFL draft. With his decision to go pro one year early, Bradford opens himself up to a world of criticism that comes with “a student athlete” turning his back on his University. How could he do that to his school? A student athlete is getting a free education at some of the finest institutions on the planet, and he is just going to throw it away? Hell yes!

The term student athlete is one that is used ridiculously in college sports. Big name players in the NCAA are there for one reason and one reason only, to move on to the next level. Now don’t get me wrong, there are thousands of student athletes that are there to succeed academically. I think it’s a great story when an athlete can use his scholarship to get him or her an education that they wouldn’t otherwise be able to obtain. But for players like Sam Bradford, college football is just a stepping-stone. When watching the Notre Dame vs USC football game last week, one of the commentators commented on how Jimmy Clausen and Matt Barkley used to play together in 6th grade quarterback camps. That’s pretty specific training from a young age in regards to his future. You think someone is going to go through all the camps, excel in high school, be one of the nations top prospects, play football for one of the best teams in country, to be an accountant? Of course not. For big name college players, they’ve been training for the NFL since they were young kids. So you shouldn’t be shocked when you hear that an athlete was caught cheating on a test or that a group had in some way tricked the academic system. I’m not condoning it, but they’re going to do what they need to get on the field. The NFL doesn’t care what your GPA was, they care about what you did on the field.

The argument that these athletes owe it to their colleges to stay all four years is absolutely moronic. Schools recruit you to do one thing, play ball. What you do after your done at their institution is completely out of their minds. So it is up to the player to do what is best for his future. If it’s more beneficial for a kid to stay all four years and learn as much as he can, then he should definitely stay. But if all you can do is hurt your stock by staying additional year, than he would be an idiot for staying. But how could he turn his back on the FREE education the school was generously providing for him? Oh really? Well what about the MILLIONS  and millions of dollars that these players make for their schools? I think that makes up for the free classes they receive that they will in many cases never use. So a player leaving early is hardly stabbing a school in the back. And many times the schools can see it coming. USC knew what they were getting into when they decided to offer O.J Mayo a scholarship. But even though only played for one year, he catapulted the USC program into something worth watching.

Now someone will tell me every time I make this argument “But if someone puts all their eggs in the Professional Sports basket and fail, then they are left with nothing”. Sadly, this can be true. If a person prepares their whole life to be a professional athlete and for whatever reason he or she fails, then many times they are left with very few options. But it is like that for any career you choose. If you decide to be an Art major and later on discover painting isn’t for you, you’re left with the same situation. If someone wants to rely solely on one career path then that is their choice and they will suffer the consequences themselves.

I’m not saying get rid of the college athlete because I think college sports teach young players many life skills they will need to succeed at the next level. Balancing school, sports, and a social life is something these kids wouldn’t get if we scratched the whole college sports system and just went straight to a semi pro system. But the expectations for these players need to change. Just cause they want to pursue their lifelong goals doesn’t make them bad people.