Guest Commentary: Athletics shouldn’t overshadow academics

As far as collegiate history dates back, the image and accreditation of a university has rested solely in the hands of its pampered athletics department. This also coincides with the admission process of a university – the luring and persuading process is mainly done by heavily advertising the athletics department. Instead, more emphasis should be put on academics to help overshadow the representation for athletics programs.

It is a common trend for a Tier 1 school, such as the University of Texas, to garner more attention than Tier 2 and 3 schools, such as Rice University and Baylor University. Excluding the University of Texas, which is pretty balanced academically and athletically, the other schools’ admissions and funding prominently come from their athletics programs. This takes away from the population, funds, public support and recruitment that Tier 2 and 3 schools lose out on because their athletics programs are far less superior.

As a result, more prospective students will choose a Tier 1 school over a Tier 2 school because of the school’s success in sports. It also leads to a recurring chain because once an athletics program is ranked low it tends to stay low because it does not receive enough media support, which in turn leads to funding.

Academics are what a university should focus on. There isn’t a significant difference between the academic and athletics achievements between Tier 1 and Tier 2 schools. A 2004 McKinsey ‘ Co. study found that at Rice, the non-athlete grade-point average was 3.3, while the average for football player’s was 2.7, slightly less than the non-football athletes at 2.9. This demonstrates that the non-athlete who usually makes better grades should be used to lure prospective students rather than athletes with sub-par grades.

Universities are sending out a message that says outstanding athletics programs are not only the most important, but that they are all a university has to offer. It makes these institutions more known for their athletics achievements than their academic achievements. However, if academics were promoted just as well as athletics, funds would increase.

One of the most popular pastimes is sporting events. To help balance the over-advertised sports and under-advertised academics during sporting events, more initiative should be taken to advocate the accomplishments of the other college departments. For example, at a heavily populated football game statistics and figures based on academic progress stating national rankings of good colleges could be shown on the large monitors present at the game. This solution would bring the school’s accomplishments to the attention of sports fans who may not know of a school’s academic reputation. By using a public showing to excite awareness, people would be able to see the likelihood of attending such an esteemed and caring university.

Media can also contribute by helping to counter the constant depiction of athletics programs. A helpful study titled "Consumer Masculinity Behavior Among College Students and its Relationship to Self Esteem and Media Significance" correlated the relationship between male self-esteem and media images. The study of 209 males found that theoretically the media controls the actions of these young males resulting in "consumer masculinity" or the role media plays in defining what is masculine.

Of the males studied, norms were found that posed the question of what media can control. Magazines, books and television all contribute to what it means to be male or female, so why can these portals not be used to help define people as college students based on academics rather than athletics? If media can come together and encourage the advertising of the academics as far superior to the advantaged athletics programs, then perhaps the snare of the athletics associated with college identity will change.

Byron Johnson, Marcas Addison, Janaya Jones and David Dawkins, English 1304 students, contributed to this column. They can be reached via [email protected].

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