Where are we going with big time college athletics?

Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

How would you feel about Tech football and basketball if we were experiencing what UNC is going through?

As most of you know, I live in North Carolina and get a steady feed of UNC news from local media. I also have friends and neighbors with diplomas from UNC. As you can imagine, the talk about academics at Chapel Hill recently has not been fun for most of them.

The university publishes a report each year (I think Tech does the same) that shows how the athletes at UNC are doing in the classroom. It also provides data on the high school performance and SAT/ACT scores of admitted athletes. An interesting data point in this year's report shows that UNC admitted football players with an average SAT of 904 and a high school GPA of 2.91. Both of those are below the standard admissions criteria for UNC. I know of at least one high school kid who recently scored way above 904, and had GPA of 3.8, who was not accepted at UNC-CH.

My real question is, how does a student so ill-prepared for college maintain a 2.0 average in a system that says my kid was not qualified for admission? It seems to me the system is rigged to invite cheating in order to keep these star athletes in school long enough for them to play four years, no matter how ill-suited they are for collegiate studies. I am not saying Tech is a tougher school than UNC, but we have fewer places to hide a poorly prepared student. I think everyone has to somehow manage to get a C or better in calculus and one of the sciences.

I was a college basketball player without a scholarship. I know how difficult it can be to manage your time commitments to the games and practices (plus required time in the weight room), attend class often enough to remain in good standing, and have time to actually study. Forget a social life. I never sat with a tutor, so I do not know how much that helps. But that also invites the cheating. If an athlete submits a paper to the tutor for review that is totally trash, what does the tutor do in response? Where does showing the student how to make the paper acceptable cross the line to become rewriting the paper for the student? This a hard question, as the tutors are usually fellow students who also want the football players to remain eligible. There is a lot of gray between a clear violation of rules and what is acceptable.

One of the solutions to this problem is to eliminate big time sports at the college level. That has been suggested for UNC. So far, no one is seriously considering it. The question remains, has the sports business of the university so thoroughly corrupted the academic mission of the university that the mission is no longer academic? Would you be happier if Tech dropped D1 football but remained true to its academic mission, or winked at the double standard that allows poorly prepared athletes to slide through for four years? Even if that devalued your diploma?  That is the bottom line of the discussion in my home state.

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