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News: Term 'Student-Athlete' Should Be Questioned


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Term 'Student-Athlete' Should Be Questioned

By Dom Giordano, For The Bulletin

Published: Friday, December 19, 2008

This column is dedicated to Dr. Jan Kremp, who passed away this past week at the age of 59. Who is Jan Kremp? Jan Kremp is the former University of Georgia professor who made national news in the 1980s when she blew the whistle on the University of Georgia Athletic Department for their preferential treatment of college athletes who could not meet academic standards.

Her courageous decision to do this forced a widespread examination of the questionable practices at athletic departments of other schools across the country.

Kremp was dismissed from her job at Georgia and embarked on a big legal battle to fight this injustice. A jury ultimately determined that she was dismissed illegally and awarded her $2.5 million in damages and forced the University of Georgia to give her job back. Her case forced examination of many colleges with big-time athletic programs and found widespread abuses.

Kremp?s cause was not only noble, it was absolutely necessary. Thanks to her, the scrutiny over this controversy meant abuses like these could not, and would not, be able to be quietly swept under the rug.

Her trial also gave us great insight into the mindset of the college leaders, administrators and athletic staff who are only interested in keeping athletes eligible, rather than actually try to improve their abilities off the court and field. The defense attorney for the University of Georgia gave us the summary of their incredible position when he said about many athletes, ?We may not make a university student out of him, but if we can teach him to read and write, maybe he can work at the post office rather than as a garbageman when he gets through with his athletic career.?

Who would have thought that our nation?s colleges had such dismal aspirations for its students? Universities are supposed to be institutions of higher learning, not lowered educational standards.

I wonder how many people, when rooting for their favorite team in the upcoming BCS battles, will think the same thing? Will they face the truth and embrace the notion that college teams are really semi-pro teams?

The reality is, many of these players are not ?student-athletes,? because cannot even meet the bare minimum academic requirements that a typical institution would and should expect of them.

I was thinking about Jan Kremp a lot when I recently interviewed a representative from the New America Foundation on my education/parenting radio show. Every year, New America Foundation conducts an eye-opening Academic Bowl Championship Series [Academic BCS] rankings. In this poll, they rank the top 25 football teams by their graduation rates of players and other academic measures. It came as no surprise to me that Oklahoma and Florida, who will face each other in the BCS championship game, rank at near the very bottom of the academic rankings. Oklahoma comes in 20th and Florida comes in at 21st. Florida even had an astounding margin of 25 percent more white players graduating than black players.

For the second consecutive year, the Boston College Eagles ranked first in the Academic BCS rankings.

They were followed by Northwestern and Penn State. Penn State is ranked sixth in the entire country in the football polls and is an athletic powerhouse yet they do well academically. In fact, my guest told me their graduation rate is stronger for black players over their former players who are white. Again, Penn State points to the notion that you can do well in sports and still help athletes to achieve in the classroom.

Let me say right here that I love sports. I love competition. I think the branding of the NCAA?s ads about student-athletes should be a noble one. But in reality, they should be cited for fraud.

How many of the athletes that we see playing in football bowl games over the next few weeks are students at all? How many will never play pro ball, or if they do play briefly, get injured and then have nothing to fall back on? I guess the defense lawyer for the University of George said it best: They can be prepared to put their college experience to work as a garbageman.

Teacher-turned-talk show host Dom Giordano can be heard weeknights on WPHT Radio (1210 AM). You can send questions to Dom via e-mail at askdomg@aol.com. You can also write to him with questions at PO Box 355, Lumberton, N.J. 08048.

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