Jeff Gravley

Opportunities are there for college athletes to learn

Posted July 18, 2014

Seated across the front of the room were four Division 1 athletic directors from the Triangle.

Ingrid Wicker-McCree from N.C. Central, Kevin White of Duke, Debbie Yow from N.C. State and Bubba Cunningham of North Carolina. They were a part of our Capitol Broadcasting Fan Town Hall, where they fielded questions for an hour and a half.

One of my questions pointed directly to academics and athletes: "Why do colleges and universities continue to admit athletes who academically have no reason to be there?"

Debbie Yow's quick response began with three words. "It's called opportunity," she said. Yow continued to explain "Not everyone was born in a middle-class environment and had a two parent home and everything they ever needed or wanted. This is one of the most amazing opportunities for individuals that wouldn't otherwise have that opportunity."

After our Town Hall meeting was over, one of the people in attendance shared a story with me that illustrates collegiate opportunity. Her spouse grew up in a single-parent home with very limited income. He was being recruited to play college football, which was probably his only avenue to college.

When one football coach came to visit their home, which was a small trailer, the power was out and the aluminum home was like an ice box. She continued to tell me that her husband did earn a scholarship to play football, used the opportunity to grow academically and is now an athletic administrator.

He took advantage of what was offered and grew through the experiences of college athletics. Had he been denied that opportunity, there would be one less athletic leader.

The focus can be on those athletes who don't care about academics, but there are plenty more who do.


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  • Erik Sheahan Jul 22, 2014
    user avatar

    I liked Debbie Yow' s response to "why do colleges and universities continue to admit athletes who academically have no reason to be there?" There are some athletes who are in college for one reason, sports, and to use it as a springboard into the pros. However, all four Triangle universities have had student athletes who graduated and have gone on to have respectable jobs. There are some student-athletes who may have been drug or alcohol babies and have learning challenges. Others may have attention deficit disorder which is also hard to overcome. However, EVERYONE deserves a chance to better themselves, just not at the cost of abusing the systems for ethical behavior.


    Education is the one way to better yourself,if high school student has talent to afford him the opportunity to attend college it is a way to grow and became more successful, if a high school basketball or football player goes to college under a scholarship he has obligations to the school and himself.
    If he improves as a player, student his opportunity will be there when he graduates.
    As an athlete on scholarship he will be given first class coaching, top notch equipment to improve him or herself, also is given a national platform which to display his talents, if he proves good enough he will be highly rewarded when he leaves school if he has not proven to be worthy of a career in sports he has a education to fall back on.
    It is his responsibility to make sure he has taken the right classes to reach his goal of an education.
    There are many out there that would love to have an opportunity such as this
    your talent has given you a chance,quit whining and take advantage.

  • mittnfriends Jul 18, 2014

    Meatheads have always existed. Anecdotes of that smart girl there to help the athlete write a paper or pass a test existed long before the level of monetary lucrativeness we see today. It's a bit frustrating to see y'all fantasize about this utopia where the school of your choice and it's competitors put academics first whilst putting an athletic product on the field of play worth watching- worth the money it takes to produce the show you want to pay to see.

    The same people I see on here talking about the tyranny of political correctness and the wussifying of 'Murica somehow believe that the exciting product of college football and basketball would be the same if there were a ban on academic underachievers.

    If the academics are so important, why do these academic institutions need athletic programs? Why not separate the two, so those "millions of poor ole qualified students" can have a .001% better chance of getting into the school of their choice?"

  • Daryl Hales Jul 18, 2014
    user avatar

    View quoted thread

    I agree! The first year of college is an important year, alot of times this is the first, time the student has ever been on their own. The first year should be to get situated, get into good study habits, and make needed life adjustments. The scholarships are fine for athletes, but they need to put education first. If a athlete has received a fulls scholarship, and leaves early, then he should reimburse the school for the money he received. This pay to play argument is ridiculous. In reality they are being paid to play already, free tuition, free meals, free room and board, free books, and in some cases automatic passing grades in some classes. Oh did I mention, that most, not all do not even meet the minimum requirements that non- athletes have to meet academically. Just saying. Maybe they should all follow the Division 3 schools, only receive assistance with books, no full rides.

  • Objective Scientist Jul 18, 2014

    It seems to me that one component of this issue is "expectation". I've been involved in and have "followed" college athletics for decades. From that I suggest that it has become an "expectation" that any outstanding high school football or basketball player - often those are from "impoverished" families - simply MUST be given the opportunity to play college ball for at least 1-2-3 years... because that is his BEST shot at the riches of the NFL/NBA. This expectation seems to "disregard" academics altogether! The focus of the "opportunity" is 100% on athletics... NOT on academics. If we would simply operate on the principle that no student be admitted if not QUALIFIED and capable of doing college level work. Also... the athletes that are part of this issue are "putting all of their eggs into the athletic basket" - NOT the academic basket! Such non-student-athletes should NOT be admitted!

  • SaveEnergyMan Jul 18, 2014

    "It's called opportunity," - Yow

    No, it's called $$$$$$$$. There are thousands of prospective students that would love such an opportunity, would give everything they had to take advantage of the ACADEMIC opportunity, but who won't even be considered because of athletes with little intention of truly taking advantage of the educational opportunity admitted. Sorry, it's called hypocrisy.

    UBNICE is right, money is the root of the problem. Athletes in non-revenue D1 sports are generally there for the degree, from my experience too. it's mostly basketball and football that is the problem.

  • uBnice Jul 18, 2014

    View quoted thread

    Indeed! But it is also a function of admitting kids that even if they wanted to get the degree, they simply cannot do college level work. The Universities can stop that today, right now. But if they do, they will not get the exceptional athletic talent of a Julius Peppers at the D1 level.

    We have D2 and D3 college athletics that shows that this thing can work. But it is the money in D1 that is the root of the corruption of academics.

  • Ken D. Jul 18, 2014

    Nobody denies that athletic scholarships provide a great opportunity for some. Those kids aren't the problem. The problem is with the kids who have no interest in taking advantage of the opportunity that is there.

  • Jeanne Gunn Jul 18, 2014
    user avatar

    I understand that receiving an athletic scholarship can be a wonderful opportunity for someone who normally wouldn't be admitted to a school, but if that student/athlete can't do college level work, how do they graduate? The percentage of student/athletes who go on to have successful pro careers is small, which leaves the question: what do these "student"/athletes have when their college eligibility is over when they don't make it in the pros?

  • tayled Jul 18, 2014

    The first thing the NCAA must do is to go back to the days when freshmen were not allowed to play on the varsity team. Young men and women, whether athletes or not, need that first year to grow and acclimate to college life without the pressures of the media.

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