Seems that there is a constant discussion in my area regarding the local university, its ladder to division one collegiate sports and putting academics on the back burner. This discussion took on a national slant when “Outside the Lines” on ESPN had on Pete Thamel of The NY Times, Dr Joel Thier who is AD at Binghamton University and Tom Brennan who is a former America East coach at Vermont.
A week or so ago, The NY Times writer Pete Thamel did an article on the change in attitude at Binghamton University. The gist of the article is that Binghamton has sacrificed academics – as a research university, academics is suppose to be first and foremost – for the dream of Division 1 sports.
Do I think that some academic standing has been sacrificed at Binghamton University? Of course. Do I think this shift in attitude is solely in the basketball program? Of course not. Do I think that there should be an investigation into this issue at Binghamton? Of course not.
Athletics and academics, especially in highly visible sports or those that may be turning a profit, seldom mix well. Athletes, sometimes encouraged by their coach and other times all on their own, feel they are entitled to special treatment by professors. This is particular noticeable in sports that cover both fall and spring semesters like basketball. There is no semester where these student-athletes can take the “hard” courses needed for their majors. There is no down semester.
Binghamton University is not alone in thinking that athletes can maintain the same academic schedule that non-atheletes can. The problem is that this is seldom true. When you allow “special talent” admissions to strengthen your athletic program, you may be causing an issue for the student-athlete. There is a reason most universities and colleges have admission requirements. Bypassing these requirements means that the student may not have the ability to do the course work required at that specific university.
The reason I don’t believe that an investigation should be launched is because this is not a Binghamton only problem. This is an issue at all colleges and universities from junior colleges to division three and up. I have seen this in play since the early 80’s when I worked my way through college as a tutor for the athletic department. It happens when Cortland and Brockport let in a student who would not otherwise be admitted so that student can join the football or soccer team. This is not a Binghamton problem. This is a college/university athletics problem. If you want a winning team, your institution will sacrifice academics.