A Student Athlete by Any Other Name

Illustration By Marshall Hopkins

Illustration by Marshall Hopkins

I volunteered at my college radio station. I was a DJ. Although I was an amateur, I was never called an amateur-DJ. I was a student, but I was never called a student-DJ. I was, simply, a DJ. Unhyphenated. Uncomplicated.

Jocks should have it so easy. In college they are suddenly forced to be “amateur athletes,” or better “student athletes.” At the highest levels, it’s no surprise these young men and women need a reminder of their status. Everything around them—the budgets, the media, the fans, the stadiums and the revenue streams—makes college athletics, and the people that play them, increasingly difficult to differentiate from the pros.

Lately, coaches have leveraged the notion that they work with amateurs for use in ongoing skirmishes with the media and even disappointed fans.

The moral high ground these coaches, er guardians, seem to be claiming (“I just assumed they were booing me and the coaches for a bad play call,” coach Steve Spurrier said) would mean a whole lot more if they insisted on straight A’s from all players in order to get any playing time. Don’t hold your breath. Coaches have a lot to lose if they lose.

Meanwhile, ivy league universities showed their priorities more than two decades ago by walking away from the highest level of college athletics. “Thank goodness,” said Derek Bok, who was Harvard’s president in 1981 when the university exited college’s top athletic tier. “The quality of football is not the primary objective of the institution.”

Schools with less name recognition than Harvard, say South Florida, have used big time sports to gain a national reputation. (This phenomenon has become known as the Flutie effect. )

Insisting on the term “student athletes” only reinforces its fiction. No one felt compelled to remind me—or my listeners—of my academic obligations. And why should they. We need to say “student athletes” because we feel uncomfortable that college sports are simply big business with boosters. The sobriquet is a finger in the dike.

This here student-athlete had to look up your big ‘sobriquet’ word.

— Tys    Nov 1, 01:04 PM    #

One coach was alleged to have said: “There’s only two ideal coaching jobs: An orphanage—no parents. Or a prison—no alums.”

— knoblauch    Nov 2, 09:38 AM    #

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