Keili’s Korner: college athletes can be stars on the field, duds in the classroom

College sports are a nationwide phenomenon generating large audiences at each event. March Madness is a perfect example of their popularity. What draws audiences to games of young college athletes rather than seasoned, highly paid professionals?

A common dispute among sports analysts has to do with the degree of commitment at both levels. Critics argue college athletics are more exciting than professional sports because the players show more passion for their team, whereas the professionals tend to worry about self-image and income. But when college athletes, more importantly STUDENT athletes, are placed in a classroom setting, does that passion pitter out?

Athletes, in relation to academics, are a popular topic among critics of college sports who say student athletes are notorious for being stars on the field but zeros (or absent) in the classroom. This, of course, is a generalization of all student-athletes. A few bad apples in the bunch, however, have spoiled the entire system’s reputation.

Mary Willingham, a learning specialist at the University of North Carolina (UNC), told CNN she has first-hand experience with such situations. As part of a CNN story, Willingham said a UNC basketball player came to her for academic help. But he could not read or write.

Moreover, this brings up the issue of teachers being unfairly lenient with athletes. If athletes do not pass their classes, they usually risk losing playing time.

Athletes and coaches place pressure on professors, putting them in a tough position. No one wants to be the reason a team’s star player is on the bench, but as representatives of the educational system and their institutions, teachers have a duty to uphold. It is their responsibility to prepare students for tests and other tasks that make up the final grade. But if the student is not successful in the preparation, a justifiable grade must be given – athlete or not.

In today’s society, we allow those of a certain status to follow a different set of rules. Yes, athletes provide us with entertainment, and in that light are focused and passionate. But it is just as important to carry the same motivated mindset into the classroom, rather than scoffing at an education with arrogance and laziness.

The classification “student-athlete” comes with a responsibility, one that signifies the ability to thrive, not only in one’s respected sport, but first and foremost in the classroom.