College Football Programs: Academics Redshirted

Sean AhernCorrespondent IJune 20, 2009

FORT COLLINS, CO - NOVEMBER 01:  Redshirt freshman Brannon Brooks #12 of the Brigham Young Cougars takes the field during warm ups prior to facing the Colorado State Rams at Sonny Lubick Field at Hughes Stadium on November 1, 2008 in Fort Collins, Colorado. BYU defeated CSU 45-42.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

It is not uncommon in sports to see gifted players swooned by college football coaches in hopes that they will be playing for them the following fall with images of championship games glistening in their eyes.

What is also common is the loss of the fun somewhere between the summer and the beginning of their freshmen semester at the institution of their choice.

With high school graduations upon us across the nation and players signing letters of commitment to Division I schools, players are looking forward towards their first season as a Miami Hurricane, Boston College Eagle, or Texas Longhorn with anticipation and excitement.

What most people forget is that football is no longer played, "For the love of the game," as it were and is now seen as a stepping stone towards NFL combines and hopes of major league contracts.

College football takes the cream the crop, drafts them, and takes them on for four to five seasons in hopes of regional victories, bowl appearances, or even a BCS Championship.

For the players lucky enough to be recruited into these schools, pressure is no longer put on what is done in the classroom, but rather what is done on the playing field. Many of these institutions will see players go three of their five years without a planned major, and even when a major is finally picked, the area of study is ambiguous and filed under, "Social Sciences," "Liberal Studies," or "Multidisciplinary Studies."

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Academics, fun, and a social life take a back seat to the will of the coaches and the desire for a championship ring. As reported by USA Today in December, some athletes are directed towards majors that will allow for more time in the weight room and less time studying, or using that scholarship to it's full potential.

In the same USA Today article, five sports at 142 colleges and universities with exceptional NCAA programs showed that many teams cluster in certain areas of academic studying. For example, the report pointed out that all seven juniors and seniors on Texas-El Paso's men's basketball team majored in Multidisciplinary studies.

This leads to a vagueness in grading policies among players, pressure on professors from coaches, and an increased risk in academic fraud to keep the players eligible.

But what do the players gain?

Besides the minority of truly exceptional players that will go onto NFL stardom and fame, many will find themselves graduating with anambiguous degrees after taking a mixture of inapplicable classes and being sent into the real world without and understanding of anything past what shoes to wear on artificial turf.

A plan to get their Master Degree will help to pave the road to success, but for those who went to school on a full scholarship, the money may not be as accessible for another three to four years of school.

Schools with a strong academic background and championship caliber teams will always have to fight the balance between what is right in the classroom and what is right on the field of play.

For many, like Duke, Boston College, and Notre Dame, academics have impeded the progress of gaining strong teams in the past two decades. Others, like Miami, FSU, and USC have been able to make a name for their teams but have had their academics relatively unknown.

A line must be drawn to standardize not only the academic eligibility of players, but also the shortcomings of a coaching staff who would rather see wins than care about what a player is doing in the classroom.

While this type of coaching may be acceptable in high school, players whose careers will end in five short years must look past shady degrees and what one will do after the time clock counts to zero for the last time.

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