Division 1 athletes should be held to the same admissions standards as all students

September 15, 2015 — by Caitlin Ju

The academic fraud and the lower academic and admissions standards of Division 1 athletes are unfair, to say the least, biased towards those athletes.

 

“Extra benefits to payments, failure to follow its own drug-testing policy, and academic fraud.” These were the violations the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), the association in charge of enforcing the academic integrity of college athletes, charged Syracuse University with in 2001 in one of the most notable NCAA cases involving Division 1 college athletics.

The academic fraud and the lower academic and admissions standards of Division 1 athletes are unfair, to say the least.

In the case, former Syracuse director of basketball operations Stan Kissel was found guilty of collecting and maintaining players' usernames and passwords to their email accounts and giving full-time tutors in athlete support services complete access to the emails. It was obvious the university had helped its athletes turn in and submit papers to professors, actions that clearly violated NCAA standards. Kevin Wall, the director of athlete support services, saw what was happening but allowed the academic fraud to continue.

Remarkably similar cases in colleges occurred at the University of Minnesota in 1999 and Purdue University in 2007. The latest case in June 2015 involved The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, which created “paper classes” for athletes to take and receive easy passing grades. All this news disturbingly shows how valuable Division 1 athletes are to these institutions and how far the colleges are willing to go in order to get and hold on to them.

The college recruitment process starts extremely early for some athletes, sometimes even before the athlete has entered high school, and, in many cases, these young athletes commit to a college long before their peers have begun their college applications or even taken their standardized tests.

It’s ironic to note that the NCAA is the one distributing punishments for violations of its own rules. While it was created to serve the purpose of enforcing the academic integrity of college athletes, NCAA has been known to give lesser to no punishments to top football colleges such as Florida State, where student-athletes were given “improper help” in 2007.

The truth is, without their sport, many of these athletes have no business at the academically competitive institution they are let into. The leniency given to top college athletes thus undermine the overall meritocracy of the college admissions process.

Admission integrity is traded for these colleges to stay competitive and maintain their teams’ rankings (and thus bring in more millions). They are much too willing to be academically lenient with their star players and are making qualifying GPAs and test scores much too low compared to the traditional threshold. Division 1 colleges rely too much on athletics as a major money generator and are unwisely compromising the other aspects of their school to keep their often academically unfit athletes.

The consequence of bending admissions rules for athletes, making them “special admits” who are tagged during admissions, is that athletes who lack the academic criteria unfairly gain “slam-dunk” admission into top colleges. The extent to which coaches and admissions officers go to for these athletes is troubling, but somehow, the practice has become acceptable and even a necessity to win.

For instance, at UCLA, a Division 1 powerhouse, athletes are admitted even with significantly subpar SAT scores, up to 247 points lower than the school’s normal cutoff, according to U.S. News.

Tom Lifka, chairman of the committee that handles athletic admissions at UCLA, claimed in an interview with USA Today, “Every institution I know in the country operates in the same way. It may or may not be a good thing, but that’s the way it is.” This statement does nothing to justify the unfair policy of the school.

Ultimately, colleges need to hold their athletes to the same academic standards and academic integrity rules other students are held to. Before they are recruited, athletes’ academic records should be deemed reasonably close to the university’s average scores for non-athletes.

In order to keep the college admissions process fair, athletes need to show intellectual promise beyond their sport and demonstrate the ability to handle the academic rigor of the universities they attend.

Maybe then, students would not be able to say, “I don’t need to worry about school. I’ve got a sport.”

 
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