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Student-Athletes Deserving of SASS Services

Northern Illinois University, The Jeffrey & Kimberly Yordon Academic & Athletic Performance Center

Northern Illinois University, The Jeffrey & Kimberly Yordon Academic & Athletic Performance Center

With March Madness right around the corner, college basketball fans are gearing up for weekends chalked full of buzzer beaters, amazing shots and the excitement only a win or go home format can bring. However, what about the student-athletes competing in these events while also keeping up their class work? What demands are they facing from professors while fans cheer their every move?

When I first arrived on campus as your average college student, I was told, “If you go to class, it doesn’t really matter how you do on the assignments. You will learn and the professors will pass you.” This adage proved to be true for most courses—going to class facilitated learning and helped me make the grade.

Yet with the travel and training demands of many student-athletes, class cannot always be attended. While most of these absences are excused and known about well in advance, arrangements must be made for make-up work and equivalent assignments.

While I firmly believe in the mission of the student-athlete, this is one area where they are at a disadvantage to other students. For example, a team participating NCAA tournament this past year could miss at minimum 12 days of class if the team reaches the finals, all over the span of three weeks. That doesn’t even take into account the conference tournament (which for the Big East could be five days of missed class) and regular season travels.

So when I read articles like those written by the Associated Press that lament the amount of money invested in student-athlete academic services, I remember the extraordinary circumstances in which these students must learn. While some can adjust to the schedule of missing class, others struggle to make the adjustment to college-level work while adjusting to the lack of professorial instruction, especially when faculty office hours conflict with practice times.

These student-athletes are deserving of the money invested into them through the university and the exclusive student-athlete academic service buildings and staff. After all, they face a different set of circumstances than most other students.

February 18, 2009 - Posted by | Academic Support, Uncategorized |


  1. Great points Taylor. As arguably the most visible and most effective marketing tool for Universities around the country, college athletic departments have an enormous amount of pressure placed on them and in turn, so do their student-athletes. Through all of the time commitments, such as conference and national tournaments, student-athletes should not have to make excuses for all the money invested in ensuring their academic success. If Universities expect success on the field and the court, they need to make sure that their student-athletes are taken care of in the classroom as well.

    Comment by Ryan Schoop | February 19, 2009 | Reply

  2. I’m kind of on the fence about this topic and I certainly see the value and need in investing in academic services.

    However, does there really need to be huge new capital expenditures to accomplish academic support? The vast majority of institutions already have academic support units on-campus. Can individuals specifically working with student-athletes be part of this group? Can they be housed in the same area?

    In fact, I think the funding for academic support services should come from the University and not athletics. When a student enrolls on-campus with a need for extra academic support, the University has programs to help that student. So, why should the athletic dept have to pay for the needed academic support for student-athletes?

    Comment by Heather Lawrence | February 21, 2009 | Reply

  3. Part of the problem is what Randy Shoop is saying–we are asking too much of these of these athletes and it is virtually impossible for them to be students, so we overcompensate and in many cases present only an opportunity at a quasi education while pursuing the almight dollar. While the myth is these centers enhance education, there is simply no evidence or data that the palaces that are being created now are better than utilizing regular academic services available to other students. Having separate, palatial facilities like this only serve as being part of the arms race and yes they are there to “take care” of the athletes usually in the form of eligibility maintenance in predetermined curriculums to reach an APR number instead of access to a real education (see Texas A&M where almost 80% of football and men’s basketball players are in poultry science and in the words of Antoine Wright on 60 minutes–“I didn’t want to know nothing about those chickens”)–just so they can be able to play and generate the almighty dollar for programs that barely or don’t even make a profit (see Florida State and if anyone thinks Bobby Bowden and his staff didn’t know what was going on with this music class and the athletic academic advisors–I have some swampland in Vegas for you).

    Centers like this are simply not needed and further leads to the unhealthy separation of athletes from the general student body, presents a huge unneeded capital expenditure, and contributes to what is wrong with college athletics, not what is right. My own research, in a hopefully soon to be published article–demonstrates that most academically capable athletes do not even use these centers as they are able to take charge of their own academic progress. These facilities are being built for the few–those who have no interest in education and those who are forced by threat of a lost scholarship etc. to stay in a major they have no interest in. Something is wrong with this picture.

    At a minimum these services must be under the control of an academic unit and not athletics where the end game goals are usually two different things eligibility v. education.

    Plus I disagree that while athletics is visible–the data is paltry showing it is the most effective marketing tool for the university. Most students do not attend a school because of athletics, successful programs do not increase donations, quality of applications, or marketability of a university overall (See Knight Commission Robert Frank Report and the NCAA’s own Orzsag Report) other than a short term spike i.e any gains touted by Boise and George Mason are things you do not hear about now because it quickly flatlined. There might be some short term gain to the athletic department but any gains are usually flushed down the drain by the arms race and often come at the expense of academics.

    Comment by B. David Ridpath | March 12, 2009 | Reply

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