Coaches Emphasize Athletics Over Academics

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 Brandon Cooper > Junior > Journalism > University of Maryland, Photo by photo-gator

Auburn University paid Cam Newton, or at least his dad.
The above statement is how many fans felt when allegations of a pay-for-play scandal with Newton dominated news coverage for much of the college football bowl season. Cecil Newton, Cam’s father, did something very illegal when his son was being recruited from junior college. 

 However, swept up within these allegations against Cecil Newton were allegations against Cam. In November of 2010, Fox Sports reported Newton cheated multiple times in class when he was enrolled at the University of Florida.

But Newton allegedly cheating on three different assignments at Florida did not garner the same level of attention that the pay-for-play scandal did. The lifespan the cheating story lasted a few days, while the payment scandal lasted months. Why was there such a difference in the attention focused on the two different controversies and why is the payment scandal following Newton around more than the rumors of cheating?
Because Newton is an athlete, not a student. 
It is not a new concept that student-athletes are often much more ATHLETE than they are student, particularly in revenue sports like basketball and football. 
But more and more the culture around college athletics is putting less and less emphasis on class. Players are not expected to be scholars if they are producing on the field or court. Coaches are not scared off by recruits who cannot pass classes, as long as that young man is one of the best at his position.
Yet, when a player is ruled academically ineligible or does not graduate from college, blame is often solely placed on the player. Meanwhile, the coach and the university move on in the pursuit of athletic achievement.   
The perfect example of this is Tony Mitchell. Mitchell was ranked 12th in the nation by for high school basketball players in 2010. Missouri recruited Mitchell, even though he was never ruled eligible by the NCAA.
Mitchell hasn’t played yet for Missouri this year and after the appeals process ended three weeks ago, isn’t going to. Instead, he enrolled at the University of North Texas and will not be able to play basketball until the 2011-2012 season.
Missouri, on the other hand, is doing much better than Mitchell is. The basketball team is ranked 19th in AP Top 25 and has a great chance of making the NCAA Tournament.  
Mitchell will take the blame for making poor grades and he deserves it. But Missouri basketball and Coach Mike Anderson should have not only focused on Mitchell’s talent when recruiting him, but also his struggles in the classroom.
Mitchell is not the only example of the lack of importance college basketball and football programs place on academics. There are plenty. 
Currently, former Michigan quarterback Tate Forcier is shopping around for a new school to play at, and that school probably will not care that he was ruled academically ineligible for the Wolverine’s bowl game.  
Ohio State basketball, ranked first in the country, has barely graduated more than half of its players since the NCAA began publishing Academic Progress Rates in 2005.
Every student-athlete needs to understand that they are responsible for their grades. Ultimately, they are the one who is most hurt when they do not perform well in the classroom. 
However, it is understandable that academics would not be important to a collegiate athlete when coaches and colleges often send signals that it is not important to them either.   



College Magazine Staff

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