Student-athletes are more like athlete-students. Universities in the United States have found a way to get athletes to believe that they should be able to maintain academic excellence all the while performing at a high level on the playing field. I argue that the likelihood of being able to accomplish this feat low. Very low.
Former UCLA and former NFL quarterback Josh Rosen raised eyebrows when he said the college workload was excessive. “Look, football and school don’t go together. They just don’t. Trying to do both is like trying to do two full-time jobs,” said the son of a Los Angeles area journalist and a spine surgeon. Having gone through exactly what he spoke about, I would have to agree. Rosen’s major Economics & Cognitive Science is an indication that he is intelligent. He started his athletic career as a top ten tennis player before switching to football.
The average college student who wants to be a doctor studies about 3-4 hours daily while taking a full course load. According to the Medscape Physician Compensation Report 2020, physician incomes continue to rise. Primary care physicians (PCPs) earned an average of $243,000 in 2020 while specialists earned an average of $346,000. The average basketball player at a Power Five University also must take a full course load and maintain a GPA usually set by the head coach that is higher than the standard to remain eligible. Athlete-students also study 3-4 hours daily with an overall career income level lower than that of a doctor. The difference between the two is that the athlete practices 20+ hours week with the team and work on individually skill that is another 5 hours weekly. Here are some other factors:
- Team events/obligations
- Media obligations
- Social life
Add in that if you do not perform at a high level your scholarship can be taken away. Scholarships are generally one-year deals.
There are some perks to being an athlete student. The biggest is that you receive a scholarship and depending on the sport it could be a full ride. Revenue generating sports like basketball and football typically get full rides. A tennis player or baseball may only receive a partial scholarship that may only cover some tuition cost or can be used for books and/or housing. Even if the athlete-student receives a scholarship check monthly, parents still find themselves sending their child money to soften expenses like food, car insurance etc.
So how can one be a successful athlete-student?
- Decide what it is you want out of life. Being a professional athlete is a very difficult career path to choose but is still a path.
- Choose a degree path that will help you later in life, if you know what you will want to do. It’s idiotic to attend a university and not get a professional degree. In most places, you can be a teacher or go into law enforcement with a certificate or training. Do not allow colleges coaches or the sports academic building to choose your degree path.
- If you are blessed enough to pursue a professional career, you can further your education online from an accredited institution. The life of a professional athlete is a great one. It is filled with a lot of down time. Use this time to sit in front of your computer and work through your general education courses at the very least.
- Look inside yourself and figure out if college is really for you. This is ideology is unpopular because most believe that a degree is a must have. I couldn’t disagree more. The reality most people in the workforce, blue or white collar, do not work in their field of study or must go back to school to learn a new trade.
Josh Rosen came from what would be considered a good family; two parents with stable incomes. Surely, he’s been prepped on the rigors of college life, but what happens when the athlete-student comes from underprivileged situations: inter-city challenges, single-parent, low-income household? The likelihood of the child being prepared for college is low. Even if they were prepared, most are in college to pursue an athletic career not to sit in a classroom. This leads to academic fraud to keep athlete-students eligible to play, the athlete student not learning, athletes being thrust into what I like to call useless degrees, to stay on track to graduate. FYI, the institution receives money from the NCAA for every student who graduates, regardless of the degree.
Our student doctor will be a professional after finishing school. Financially, this person has the security to raise a family in a nice neighborhood and will retire in their 60’s. Our basketball athlete-student will probably never see a professional arena. Even if he had a professional career, on average it’s only going to be 5 years. Short lived to say the least leaving the athlete with no other work experience, even as it pertains to coaching basketball.