| March 22, 2018

Opinion: Broken Payment System

April 14, 2016

The journey of a college athlete is a difficult endeavor.

Student athletes must learn how to manage practice and game schedules with academics and personal care. I am routinely amazed at the time management abilities of these individuals.

To compensate for their investment in athletics, most student athletes are offered scholarships in return.

Former Stanford cornerback Richard Sherman described a hectic college schedule consisting of weights, class, practice, meetings and homework during a press conference last year.

“I would love for a regular student to have a student athlete’s schedule during the season,” Sherman said. “Just one quarter or one semester and see how you balance that.”

As a photojournalist, I understand how crazy scheduling can be. I’m booked solid throughout the week with interviews, photography work and writing assignments for the Argonaut. On top of that, I have to find a way to squeeze in school, homework and sleep.

But the thing is that I’m getting paid to do most of the stuff on that list. As an employee at the Argonaut, I am lucky to receive payment for my work.

Right now, most student athletes are given scholarships for education in return for their service to the university. Initially this appears to be a great set-up. Students can receive job training while playing collegiate sports.

But there’s a problem when schools start to abuse the system with situations like academic eligibility.

The University of North Carolina was found to be putting athletes in “paper” classes to keep the athletes academically eligible. The paper classes, which never met in person and required only a final paper, were used to help athletes maintain a high GPA.

These Tar Heel student athletes took these classes in subjects such as African American Studies and Swahili for their language credits.

Deborah Crodwer, the former secretary of the African and Afro-American Studies Department, began offering independent study courses for athletes in 1992. She assigned topics and handed out grades without regard to work quality, but was not a faculty member.

In 1999, she started organizing lecture classes that did not meet in person as a way to circumvent the independent study course limit. Advisors for athletes began steering them into these classes for the easy grades.

When Crowder retired, former department chairman Julius Nyang’oro continued this work until 2011.

More than 3,100 students, were affected by these scam classes, with approximately half being student athletes.

The Justice Department’s report said the classes “were especially popular among student athletes, particularly those who played the ‘revenue’ sports of football and men’s basketball.” The courses were considered a “key to helping academically challenged student athletes remain eligible and on the playing field,” according to the report.

More students should be livid at the fact that they were being cheated out of an education.

Collegiate athletes are student athletes. The student aspect should always come first. Sports, just much like other university clubs or organizations, are optional at college.

When student athletes are being paid with an education, real learning should be occurring in the classroom.

Some student athletes view college as a training ground for professional sports leagues. These individuals are not interested in pursuing a major for a career path after school, because they already have plans to enter the draft for their respective sport.

Even if a degree is not a primary focus for these athletes, it does not mean they should be pushed through the system with relaxed classes with little instruction. Once their athletic career has concluded, a collegiate degree could help them land a job.

For the record, I am not a student athlete. My athletic abilities go as far as intramurals, and even that is questionable. I am not going to pretend to be in-tune with the lifestyle demands of student athletes at college.

But I do know that if a university promises students an education, the institution should fulfill their end of the bargain.

Tess Fox can be reached at arg-sports@uidaho.edu or on Twitter @tesstakesphotos

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