Sports degree in college doesn’t add up

Patrick Fitzgerald, Sports editor

A college’s star football player walks across the stage at graduation in the football stadium where they have spent dozens of Saturdays performing in front of thousands of fans. Their college life has come full circle, ending in the stadium where they envisioned their athletic dreams coming true. And what is their major? Sports, of all things.
In an article titled “Why Not a College Degree in Sports?” that was published on the New York Times website in September, Roger Pielke Jr. argued in favor of a degree in athletics as a way to keep big-time athletics tied to academic objectives. Another advocate of a degree in athletics is former university administrator John V. Lombardi, whose case for a “sports performance” major rests on a structured curriculum in a variety of areas pertaining to sports, such as history, law and finance. Students would receive credit for these classes as well as for playing and training for their sport.
But, this would just create one-dimensional people who know nothing besides the world of sports. College athletes often leave college early or graduate with aspirations to play professionally. When that doesn’t pan out, they struggle to adjust to life in the real world.
Proponents of the sports performance degree see it as a way to educate and train the next generation of sports leaders. They compare receiving credit for playing a sport at a high level to receiving credit for music, singing or dancing.
There is no doubt that sports, like the arts, require a rigorous level of training and mental sharpness in order to fully master. It takes thousands of repetitions over the course of many years to develop a perfect jump shot or throw a knee-buckling curveball, both of which I am still trying to master.
But, sports and the scandals surrounding them have already rocked the foundations of prestigious academic institutions, such as the University of North Carolina, where athletes took fraudulent classes in the university’s African and Afro-American Studies Department and Syracuse University, where basketball staff members completed assignments for players.
Even the most ardent advocates of the degree admit that they would require close administration. Since this degree program would be dominated by athletes, it would be all too easy for the courses to turn into “cupcake” classes.
A possible compromise would be to offer sports performance as an option for a minor or concentration so that the hard work of student-athletes would have some academic value but not be their principle area of study. Plus, athletes can still pursue related undergraduate majors such as kinesiology and sports management.
But, for now, a degree in sports performance is not the answer.