The Weekly Ringer

The University of Mary Washington Student Newspaper

Are colleges robbing athletes of their education?

5 min read
By COLEMAN HOPKINS Illiteracy, useless degrees, fake classes, lack of financial compensation – these are the problems at the forefront of college sports today.
Hector Alejandro/ Flickr


Illiteracy, useless degrees, fake classes, lack of financial compensation – these are the problems at the forefront of college sports today.

Every year, there is a three to four percent chance of a collegiate basketball player making it in the NBA draft. To make things even more challenging, there are also roughly twenty international players on average who participate in the draft.

With only two rounds and sixty total spots available for the hundreds of young men every year who graduate from NCAA basketball ranked colleges, it is plain to see that a career in basketball is highly competitive and highly unlikely.

Recent investigations at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill show that, all too often, the school took to banking on their basketball players making it in the NBA.

In fact, Chapel Hill is ignoring their athletes’ education entirely, going so far as to induct fake classes to act as substitutes for athlete academic coursework.

Chapel Hill has not only taken such questionable academic steps with just their basketball players, as a recent article on CNN shows, the University has indeed engaged in a similar practice with their football players.

The overall scandal swirling around Chapel Hill has existed for nearly two decades, though the extent to which it has been understood has increased rapidly in the past months.

Mike McAdoo, an ex Tar Heel football player who lost his eligibility in 2011 for cheating, stepped forward in an interview with CNN in which he said that he took classes that “never met,” which became known as “paper classes” that existed in the African-American studies and communication departments.

McAdoo went onto say that he had been interested in criminal justice when he came to the school but that his coaches and counselors pushed him toward these “paper classes” because it would be easy for him and would allow him to focus on football.

In fact, McAdoo was not alone in these classes as, more often than not, they were filled with other athletes who were advised to take such classes because they would work with their athletic schedule.

McAdoo has since filed a lawsuit against UNC for kicking him off the team for cheating, an action he saw as a move to scapegoat him, rather than realizing that he was a victim of a system and culture that the athletic community was fostering and which the coaches denied existed.
McAdoo has not been alone in his effort to expose the university’s careless attitude toward athletes.

Mary Willingham, a former employee of Chapel Hill is also suing the school and has publicly denounced the university’s policies as illegal and exploitive.

The Chapel Hill scandal has come to light after a study within the university revealed findings earlier this year that student-athletes only read between a third grade and fifth-grade level.
In response to the initial break in the story, the university admitted that it had “failed its students.”

Adding to the drama is the movement within college sports to begin paying student-athletes for the revenues that they bring into their schools. Unfortunately, this effort is being viewed by some as highly political and in turn is being turned into a contentious issue.

Some critics have denounced this as nothing less than a “pro-sports” approach that can only hurt the players and the school by offering too much to the athletes. There is some evidence to support this: as McAdoo said, he got into UNC with a 2.9 GPA, which was roughly .7-1.4 points lower than his classmates’ high school GPAs. In light of this, some say that the trade for acceptance is actually fair since the students are getting access to a school they otherwise would not have gotten into.

On the other hand, proponents are using these new findings as proof to suggest that maybe the school is not really giving the athletes as much as you would expect them to.

On the academic side of things, it appears as though that exchange is not as fair as previously thought. If athletes are not taking real classes, then are they really getting access to the school’s programs?

When considering that the university’s internal investigations collaborated McAdoo’s story, it is hard to argue that the perceived trade-off no longer exists. In fact, thirty administrators, the ex-head coach and McAdoo’s academic adviser all admitted that such a system existed and that it was essentially a scheme on the university’s part.

If a student-athlete is not given the chance to be a student then their only hope would be to become a professional athlete.

However, becoming a professional basketball player is a very difficult feat, and becoming an NFL athlete is even more difficult, with only two percent of players making it in the draft.

Being a pro athlete is an incredibly shaky career, and it is a huge gamble on the part of the school to assume that their players can all make it in the world without an education.

“I lost an education,” McAdoo told CNN, going on to say that he had no trust in the school, that was supposed to have his best interests at heart, but he now has even fewer prospects on his horizon.

While McAdoo and Chapel Hill are an unfortunate example, it is hard not to say that they are likely a microcosm of a larger problem in college sports.

North Carolina is a top fifty national university that is doing this for a football program that is middle of the road in the ACC, so just imagine what could be going on at a bigger, less prestigious, more football-centric SEC school.

Regardless of how you feel about college athletics or athletes, it is clear that the current system is broken and disproportionately benefits the schools at a serious cost to the players. To even things out, I believe that a reform is in order to ensure that the relationship between athlete and institution is a fairer one that involves more than just playing ball.