Road kill on the road to reform

January 17, 1992

A year ago, after college presidents pushed through several new, tougher proposals for governing athletic departments, an athletic director said he felt like "road kill on the road to reform." Last week, the presidents hit and ran again, raising academic entrance requirements for scholarship athletes and imposing progress-to-graduation requirements. The academic guidelines at the nation's colleges now are the strictest ever.

On many campuses, when the new rules go into effect entrance requirements for athletes will be higher than for non-athletes. That is also true with requirements for completing courses on schedule. This creates an anomaly that college presidents need to explore. It can be argued that this will impose an unbearable and unfair burden on some student-athletes, for whom playing football or basketball is the equivalent of a full-time job.

The real problem is that being a college athlete has become a full-time job on so many campuses. This is an area the college presidents need to work on, now that they have the academic requirements reformed to their satisfaction. They should think more about limiting the amount of time coaches demand of student-athletes.

Playing big time football or basketball has become overly time-demanding on many campuses because so much now rides on the games -- and we don't mean bragging rights, we mean big money. We don't favor full de-emphasis, but we would like to see college athletics become less consequential financially speaking. Money can corrupt sports actively and passively. A basketball coach who is "worth" over $200,000 in salary and over $200,000 in free tickets a year to his school (and there is at least one) is surely a greater threat to a college's integrity in the long run than a dormitory full of failing students.

Colleges need to get rid of both, as they continue to speed down the road to reform.

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