Sports carry far too much weight in a system supposedly meant to produce the most academically qualified students—people who will go on to be our society’s thinkers, revolutionaries, and problem solvers.
Average Deerfield seniors probably meet with their college advisor once a week and discuss SAT scores, GPAs, and essays. And then there are those who talk erg times, race times, or batting averages. These two worlds represent a dichotomy in the college admissions process. The reality is that sports recruiting has become an integral part of the path to college for many American teenagers. But in all the hype surrounding student athletes, perhaps it is time to re-examine exactly what the goals of a college education are.
Have you ever heard of a person graduating with a degree in water polo or crew? We certainly have not. When you graduate from college, you do so with a specialty in an academic subject. But instead of being just a hook, sports have become the sole factor for which some students are being admitted.
Top academic institutions, choir directors, theater directors, or scientific researchers are not given the opportunity to shape their programs the way coaches are. Coaches have unparalleled leverage within the admissions office in order to build the best possible team.
To those who say that sports recruiting promotes a well-rounded student body, we would say that this is a very narrow vision of “well-rounded.” Sure, athletes have to conform to certain academic standards and their other co-curricular interests are probably taken into account, but not nearly to the degree that they are for non-athletes.
We believe that a well-rounded student body consists first and foremost of intellectually capable individuals, who also cultivate a breadth of interests outside of the classroom. Sports is just one of many possibilities, and yet it carries the most weight.
That being said, student athletes are no less capable or deserving of an education from a top institution. We are simply saying that they should be held to the same academic and co-curricular standards as anyone else in the admissions process. At the end of the day, this is not a debate about who is working harder to get into college. We recognize that both athletes and academic students devote tremendous amounts of time and energy to college admissions. But athletic recruiting makes the current college admissions system an unbalanced scale.