I ask my readers respectfully to allow for a moment of silence as we bury once and for all the myth of the student athlete.
With the corona virus off and running and spreading ill health and death to many on the planet, I note that university presidents and athletics directors around this country are desperately searching for alternatives to what they see as the end of sports as we know them. They talk about playing football in the Fall in front of empty stadia — even when the colleges and universities are closed for business due to the virus scare. I say “they” meaning “some” because a few presidents realize that the claptrap they speak in public about the student-athlete dies as soon as plans such as these are even discussed, much less pursued.
If these “student-athletes” play football before empty stadia and especially while classrooms are empty as well, then the myth lives no longer. The players are professionals and they play because the universities desperately need the revenue from filled stadia. Indeed there NFL is seriously thinking about playing before empty stadia. But they are openly professional. Colleges and universities are not, presumably. One athletics director told a spokesperson on ESPN that his entire athletics program lives or dies with the revenue that comes in from football — as much as 80% of their entire income comes from attendance and gifts during the football season. Interesting.
Another idea floating out there that is designed to save the athletics programs is to have the football season played in the Spring. This idea has very few takers, but the fact that it would even be discussed once again lends the lie to the myth of the “student-athlete.” It also lends the lie to the fiction that the student-athlete’s health and well-being is a concern. Given the notion that these young men would play (even a truncated) season in The Spring and then take a couple of months off and return in July to start practice for Fall football, it is clear that no thought whatever is being given to the health and well-being of the players themselves.
But I have said it before and I will say it again: major college football has nothing whatever to do with education. Basketball, is not mentioned because the revenue from basketball is slight compared with football. Not only are the meager numbers of graduating football players an on-going embarrassment to the universities (even those lesser players who remain on campus for four years), but there is now talk about paying them since their performances are obviously so essential to the running of the athletics programs where, in many cases, as many as eighteen different sports are played by great numbers of “student-athletes” – and supported by the football program.
The notion that Spring football is even a remote possibility, as is the more likely notion that games would go on in front of empty stadia in order to at least being in some television revenue, makes it impossible for anyone to use the phrase “student-athlete” with a straight face — at least in the context of major sports at the largest of our universities.