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For college football fans nationwide, today marks a day as important and exciting as opening day and bowl games. High school football players will spend their days signing letters of intent to accept scholarship offers from universities across the country. This is often done with much fanfare. Coverage on national networks feeds the frenzy and insider Web sites capitalize by selling fans premium content. Camera crews will broadcast from high school libraries and cafeterias while students enjoy their first taste of national stardom.

Each athlete has more to worry about than his game statistics or 40-yard dash times – he needs to qualify academically. But for many prospective students, test scores and grades are not always their strongest attributes.

This often leads to a conflict for athletic departments at many major universities which seek to admit star athletes, even though they do not meet criteria other students are required to meet.

There have been many cases of academic dishonesty. Recently, 23 athletes at Florida State University were suspended for receiving aid from a part-time tutor or submitting papers written by members of the athletic department.

An article on the front page of Tuesday’s Tampa Tribune reported that USF, led by Provost Ralph Wilcox, was taking steps to ensure that academic integrity and admissions standards would not be compromised by the athletic department’s decisions.

One of the changes planned is to discontinue the athletic department’s oversight of the academic aspects of athletes’ lives. That responsibility will now appropriately fall under the supervision of USF’s undergraduate studies division.

The Tribune also reported that student athletes are no longer permitted to enroll in courses taught by members of the athletic department due to the conflict of interest it presents.

Additionally, a committee will make the final decisions on the eligibility of new recruits before they are offered letters of intent.

This will also go a long way toward righting a statistical imbalance of academic exceptions made for athletes versus those made for other students.

While the relationship between universities and student athletes should be re-evaluated, these are the appropriate steps that are necessary to ensure that all incoming students are held to the same standards.

Credit must also be given to Wilcox for making wise decisions that will not be popular, but have the integrity of USF as their central focus.