By Ken Reed
Come on now. We’re all big boys and girls here. Despite those cute ads the NCAA puts out every year about student-athletes being great in the classroom as well as on the athletic fields and playing courts, very few human beings can excel at both academics and athletics at big-time college sports factories (Read: primarily schools in the Power Five conferences: Big Ten, Pac-12, ACC, SEC and Big 12), especially in the big revenue sports like football and men’s basketball.
As UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen says, “Look, football and school don’t go together. They just don’t. Trying to do both is like trying to do two full-time jobs.”
He’s right. Football is a 40 hours a week job for Power Five players. The NCAA says it’s less than that but when you add up all the hours studying playbooks and scouting reports, looking at game film, etc — in addition to all the hours spent at practices, in team meetings, and receiving treatment in training rooms, it’s 40+ hours a week. Just ask Rosen or any other big-time college football player.
As a student, to excel at a rigorous academic major in college demands a similar 40 hours or so a week. That’s 80 hours a week, and we haven’t even factored in time for a little social life, like date night at the local pizza parlor.
Something has to give and it’s not football because the coaches own the players via that athletic scholarship.
“Human beings don’t belong in school with our schedules, says Rosen. “No one in their right mind should have a football player’s schedule, and go to school.”
Of course, these college football factories have academic counselors to help football players with their studies. But too often they’re more interested in keeping kids eligible for the football coach than worrying about what the athletes might be doing with their careers in 10 years.
“You have a bunch of people at the universities who are supposed to help you out, and they’re more interested in helping you stay eligible,” says Rosen.
“At some point, universities have to do more to prepare players for university life and help them succeed beyond football. There’s so much money being made in this sport. It’s a crime to not do everything you can to help the people who are making it for those who are spending it.”
Ah, there it is. Money. Profit-at-all-costs (PAAC) — along with its cousin, win-at-all-costs (WAAC) — that’s what drives big-time college athletics. It’s certainly not education. Or career preparation.
Now, some people will argue that these football factories are preparing players for a lucrative career in the NFL. Well, according to the NCAA’s own statistics, a whopping 1.5% of college football players make it to the NFL.
“What about those who don’t?” asks Rosen, one of the most socially-aware college athletes in the country.
“What did they get for laying their body on the line play after play while universities make millions upon millions?”
Excellent question, Mr. Rosen, excellent question.
It’s a civil rights question. It’s a social justice question. It’s an economic justice question. And it’s an ethical question that we as a society need to ask ourselves at some point … maybe during the week, in-between those Saturdays in the Fall when we put on our school’s colors and cheer for good ol’ State U.
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of FansPrint
- League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.