A few years ago when I was teaching at USC, I made an assignment which included a written statement describing the student's career objective. A varsity football player penned this personal goal: "I wants to go to the prose and come fames." He was obviously at USC to showcase for professional sports rather than to acquire an education. A few weeks later, I learned that a UCLA superstar had the equivalency of a fifth-grade reading level.
As a junior member of the USC faculty, I didn't realize until those two incidents how severely institutions and student-athletes were being exploited. I began to question the "farm systems" employed by such professional sports as basketball and football which virtually allow the college system to pick up the tab for the training of what they rely on as their most viable source of income (blue-chip athletes).
Big time college athletics is an embarrassment to higher education in the United States. Yet, there are some healthy signs for the future. As a faculty senate representative to our athletic council, I am aware of the concerted effort many universities are making to assure that athletes graduate with bona fide degrees. Further, presidents of NCAA Division I institutions recently supported a new academic requirement which stipulates that incoming freshman must have established a C average in 11 academic courses and a minimum national standard on entrance exams to be eligible to play. Plaudits to Jan Kemp, who had the courage to stand up in court against the University of Georgia after she was fired for speaking out against academic favoritism for student-athletes.