Add to the long list another story about NCAA athletes chasing paper. This one's got all the usual elements: vast sums of money, additional benefits, highly coordinated programs developed by AD's and financed by boosters; we've heard it all before. This time, however, the paper chase isn't about Benjamins, but rather college degrees.
Chris Talbott of the AP dropped this article Saturday, with some contribution from local AP writer, Michael Marot, about the increasing use, cost and success of the academic support services provided to NCAA athletes. The AP polled 65 schools from the six major conferences involved in the Bowl Championship Series plus independent Notre Dame and obtained at least some financial information from 45 schools about the resources they devote to graduating athletes.
Not surprisingly, the AP found that overall spending on academic support services has increased dramatically since the NCAA implemented the APR. The AP's survey also revealed that most schools are spending in excess of $1 million annually on academic support services, and that many schools are spending tens of millions of dollars to upgrade their academic support facilities.
Yep, sounds about like 17th St. to me. Nothing surprising about national trends being reflected in the actions of IU athletics.
And with most cases involving athletics administration, this one has the usual criticism from faculty members about the disproportionate costs of the services for athletes compared to non-athletes, the oversight of the academic support staffs, and the continued isolation of the athletes from the rest of the university community.
For years, these same faculty folks have argued (legitimately) about the failures of the academic support programs in serving the student-athletes' needs and, in many cases, cheating them out of an education. Add to these arguments the astronomical sums of money being spent on the athletic programs which could otherwise provide untold numbers of scholarships for deserving students in dire need of financial assistance. I get these arguments and tend to agree with their proponents.
On the matter of athletic departments heavily investing in academic support infrastructure, however, I must diverge, greatly, from the faculty line. For all the ills of intercollegiate athletics, any movement which emphasises scholastics and advances the athletes' pursuit and achievement of a college degree should be welcomed with open arms.
Better still, how about the fact that these academic support centers are being built largely on the backs of the athletes for whom they're intended to serve. Without the athletes, there would be no ticket sales, tv contracts, booster donations, bowl berths, March dancing, etc...
With all the money that's being made by the schools, coaches, networks, and everyone else displaying the schools' logos, I can't see why the athletes shouldn't get a slice of the action; if not in dollars, degrees should suffice, at the very minimum. Especially considering that many of the football and basketball athletes (the real money makers) arrive on campus significantly disadvantaged from their peers, this one should be a no-brainer.
While it would be infinitely naive to think the faculty and athletics administrators will ever live in complete harmony with one another, the issue of academic support centers should not strike a sour note with the faculty (issues of oversight and academic integrity aside). It makes one wonder if they're not tone deaf to all things athletic anymore.