On the license plates for cars here, you often see the tag line, Louisiana, Sportsman’s paradise. Ireland is very much in the same vein, something of a sportsman’s Valhalla. I am very very proud to come from a land that takes its sport so seriously. As I am sure many many of you are proud to come from a state imbued with sporting passions that run deep. However, I learned something recently that really really shocked me about sports in this country and it is this: many college athletes are complete and utter academic failures. So much so, that a significant number of them are so far behind academically they’re reading at a 4th grade level.
But, if I was shocked to learn this, I was astounded and appalled to learn that, guess what, you knew this. You’ve all known this for some time now. This dirty little secret has been in the public domain for ages now and no one has expressed outrage or shame or disgust. In fact there was a piece on the radio recently about a college professor who dared to speak out about this at her college and she was sanctioned and silenced. I have spoken privately to many people of this and they’ve said, the report of the intimidation of this professor for having spoken out does not surprise them, though it does not please them either.
There was a time was when the universities ran their Academic departments. Now it seems the Academic departments are running the universities. The argument runs, these football and basketball teams generate phenomenal revenues which allow us to run really great universities. OK, so, some of the jocks are not exactly intellectual titans, but hey, that’s the price we gotta pay for having great universities. Balderdash!
I could name right now 20 world class universities from across the world that generate little or nothing from their sports teams. Universities such as Oxford, Cambridge, Glasgow. Universities in Paris, Berlin, Sydney, Toronto and Tokyo that have college teams with players who MUST pass their exams, or they are OUT. Academic standards are not compromised for the sake of tailgating. Each and every member of each and every team at the university meets the minimum academic standards required of the university. No one on any team is viewed with suspicion as being some sort of second-class member of the academic community – there only because you’ve a great right arm.
I do not deny people the right to make a living out of sports. More power to those who strive to do so, for I could certainly not, however much I might have dreamed of doing so. And I utterly refute those who claim I am being some sort of academic snob by insisting that academic standards must be maintained at a university.
Brian O’ Nuanain runs “Across The Pond And Beyond”, a company that organizes international vacations. You can reach him at acrossthepondandbeyond.com