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Why not make athletics a major?

Nov 10, 2010, 12:00 PM EDT

There may not be three more intelligent people that write about college basketball than Jay Bilas, John Gasaway, and John Infante. Their latest
discussion circles around the state of amateurism in today’s NCAA climate.

Gasaway and Bilas
have essentially argued the same point — that the collegiate athletics has changed, and that allowing college players to retain their
amateurism while dealing with an agent would be beneficial and, more importantly, fair to these players that generate such a massive volume
of revenue.

Infante, formerly of the By Law Blog, disagrees. His argument is absolutely worth the five minutes it takes to read it, but that is not the most interesting point he makes in the piece. This is: The rules could be updated to address this change by expressly allowing, even promoting two majors: sport performance and sport education (i.e.
coaching).

Such a move would reinforce the idea that college should prepare you for a professional career. It would acknowledge the idea that professional athletics is a viable career, even if only for a minuscule portion of the student-athlete population. The relatively small number of graduates making a living as full-time artists, musicians, or philosophers has not killed off those majors.

It would also promote the idea that the study of athletic performance is a meaningful academic endeavor, just as the study of musical or artistic
performance is. That would open an avenue for increased study of issues like concussions and overtraining. And it would provide a new source of
professionally trained coaches, particularly needed as specialization, injuries, and money continue to grow at the youth level.

Infante nails it. I’ve been making this point for quite a while now.

There is a lot of money to be made in the world of sports, whether it is as a player, a coach, a trainer, a journalist, a broadcaster, a television producer, sports management, a front office executive, a ticket salesmen, a hot dog vendor, what have you. Like it or not, at this point sports truly are a profession; there are careers that
involve so much more than simply being the guy that can dunk a basketball or throw a football 50 yards on a line.

There is a reason they are called “professional” sports.

Different educational programs can be developed for the different caliber of player. Maybe as freshmen, these kids could be forced to take classes in money
management, contract law, and any other class that will help them avoid going broke five years after their career is over. Players can be trained in CPR and emergency medical treatment so that if a situation like the one involving Emmanuel Negedu or Herb Pope should arise without a trainer or doctor present, these kids are
prepared to save a life. Wouldn’t it be great if all the players-turned-coaches at the lower levels of basketball — the levels that can’t afford a ten-man training staff — were prepared should one of their athletes collapse? How big of a difference is there between training a person to recognize excellence in a piece of art and potential excellence in a particular player?

As Infante says, these days college is about getting you prepared for whatever career you want to pursue.

What is wrong with training these kids for a career in sports?

And what, exactly, is the difference between a career in sports and a career in acting? Or dance? Or art?

Aren’t those “real” majors?

  1. Matt B. - Nov 10, 2010 at 1:49 PM

    Doesn’t this just illustrate how college and professional level athletics don’t mix. Even though professional athletics is a pefectly legitimate career for few, there are only a fraction of a percent of those athletes who can legitimately turn pro, and only a fraction of a percent of those will ever be financially set for life based off of their athletic endeavors. The vast majority of professional athletes will not make enough money to be financially set for life and will need a career after sports. Unfortunately, not all of these athletes will be able to simply coach or join the media. For the athletes that can make a lifetime’s worth of income off of sports, almost none will ever graduate from college with any degree, so why offer a program that has no chance to be properly utilized by students.
    Many who are against the one-and-done rule argue for a baseball style rule, but what is really needed is a baseball or hockey style system, where players can be drafted out of high school, and are then signed with a legitimate signing bonus and paid a legitimate salary before being sent to an affiliate minor league team to develop, not a team full of scrubs making less than second tier European club athletes with a single spot for an NBA affiliated player. The problem with matching the baseball rule without the system is that players would have to delay their career to go college. In baseball, it takes players a few years to make the majors no matter which path they choose. High School players can’t go straight to the majors. Without a legitimate minor league, college basketball will always have amateurism issues.
    As for the legitimacy of such a major, being a car mechanic or an electrician is a perfectly legitimate career path, but you don’t get a bachelor’s degree to get their, you go to trade school to learn your craft. The same should be true of sports, you don’t get a degree in sports, you learn on the job in the minors.

  2. Oddjoe - Nov 11, 2010 at 7:52 AM

    Why not make “Athletics” a major?
    Because schools do a disservice to students when they offer majors that do get the majority of students placed in jobs in their field. I have personally met/known a few hundered college atheletes and about half of them truely belived they would play professionally and I can think of 3 who did. And there are even fewer agents than there are pro atheletes. Most of those atheletes I knew graduated and got real jobs from being forced to crack the books in real majors while they thought they were on the road to the pros (some came back and finished a year or two after they did not make a pro team)but they have a life time of fond memories from their college competitition and alot less debt than I came out with. Oh, by the way -there is an “athletics major”-we all joked about the football goons who majored in Phys Ed

  3. in FLORIDA - Nov 11, 2010 at 1:33 PM

    the only flaw in the idea of a sports major is the varying degrees that the athletes actually remain in school. the article kind of alludes to various forms of a sports major degree, one for “performance” v. one for “education”. the problem though is within each, you have athletes who only go to school (really) for one semester… (you think once John Wall knew he was eligible to compete after January 1st, he actually went to classes 2nd semester? might be a bad example, Wall may have actually gone to class, but you get the idea).
    there already are “sports management” degrees available at some universities. i doubt you’ll ever legitimize a sports major as referenced herein, let alone one that’s subtitled “performance”, and actually have someone GRADUATE from it.
    nice topic for discussion though. thanks for posting it, Rob…

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