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Student-athletes should be held to same academic scrutiny


Student-athletes have been gaining attention in some headlines around the country, not only for their usual wins or losses at tournaments and bowl games, but also for their reading ability – or lack thereof.

Recently, Mary Willingham conducted a study of athletes at the University of North Carolina and found a small percentage whose reading ability fell below a third grade level. 

CNN reports that some athletes in question, based on entry exam scores, wouldn’t have been admitted to the university if they weren’t athletes.

UNC reportedly denounced Willingham’s study, with a second independent analysis of her research pending. CNN then requested public records from 37 universities across the country, finding that most schools had between 7 and 18 percent of athletes who could only read at an elementary school level, or the equivalent of 16 on the ACT or 400 on the SAT. The national average for the reading portion of the tests are 500 for SAT and 20 for the ACT.

While these scores are only a small portion of the country’s thousands of athletes, and some universities told CNN that certain athletes only aim for scores high enough for NCAA eligibility and entrance exams are just one factor in accepting student-athletes, these athletes should be held to the same standards as every other student.

The title of “student-athlete” has two parts in a simple sense: First, the athletics part, which these athletes are highly scrutinized for in order to produce a multi-million dollar industry of entertainment that garners donations and attention of alumni and fans across the country. Second, the academics part – but in light of CNN’s findings, this criteria may not be held to the standard it should.

In recent days, the education of other athletes have been questioned, such as that of the USF men’s basketball team following an NCAA review of freshman center John Egbunu’s eligibility, sources reported to ESPN. 

Though many college athletic programs offer services for student-athletes, such as USF’s Academic Enrichment Center that offers tutoring and mentoring services, it is shocking to hear that any group of students is skating by, either intentionally and cheating the educational system, or unintentionally and being cheated out of an education for the sake of a football or basketball game.

No matter how well a student-athlete plays, he or she is still a student and should be expected to receive the same education from a university and be held to the same educational standards as every other student at the university.

Alex Rosenthal is a sophomore majoring in mass communications.