While watching the State of the Union address the other night, I was surprised to find myself agreeing with a few points the President made. One in particular stuck out in my mind. Towards the end of the address, President Obama made the remark that we, as Americans, should put more emphasis on education than on sports. I totally agree.
Today we, as a society, put too much emphasis on sports and the athletes that participate. The NCAA only delivers a slap on the wrist for student violations, and the participants are more athlete-students than student-athletes. We do not even require that student-athletes complete the education that they start. Those playing basketball can enter the NBA draft after one year of college, and before this change, they could enter out of high school. Football players are able to declare after their sophomore year. And while baseball has the strictest requirement, baseball players are still allowed to declare for the MLB draft after their third year of college. That is if they decide to go to college, because baseball players may declare for the MLB draft after high school. The problem is schools do not prepare these athletes for life after their sport. While some will go on an make millions upon millions, the majority will make a little money playing their sport and then have to try and find a job after they either retire or cannot cut it anymore.
I heard a statistic that over the next few years something like 60% of the jobs available will require some sort of education past high school. The NCAA needs to prepare these young men and women for life after competition. As a former athlete, I can testify to the lack of forward thinking on the part of athletes. There is only the next practice, the next game, or the upcoming off season. There is little to no thought to their future. I propose that the NCAA make it mandatory that all student athletes obtain a degree in order to go into professional sports. While some argue against this rule saying that the athletes need to go on an make their money while they can, nothing is guaranteed. At least they would have an education to fall back on. Being a professional athlete is a privilege, not a right, and somewhere along the way we have forgotten that.
Education is important, but unfortunately children these days are not getting that message. We tell them that if they play sports, maybe you can go on and make millions. "Who cares about a terrible GPA or even failing classes, you;re a sports star, you won't need a degree!" That seems to be the message we are sending. We need to push education. We need higher standards and quit giving student athletes a free pass just because they entertain us. Then maybe Americans will be able to compete in the international job market, instead of continuing to decline in the rankings concerning math, English, and overall proportion of citizens with a college degree.