By Bryan O'Keefe
Like many people, I have just finished one of my favorite rites of spring -- filling out multiple NCAA tournament brackets, all in the futile hope of maybe picking the right winner. As most people know, I am a fairly ardent sports fan and especially like college sports. I am a season ticket holder for college basketball at my alma mater the George Washington University and I am a huge Penn State football fan (in fact, one of the bright spots of going to GWU was that, since they didn't have a football team, I could continue to root for Penn State and not feel the least bit guilty). And just like everyone else, I will be intently following the next couple of weeks of college basketball and hoping that a few of my bracket upsets come to bear fruit. (Note to Georgia -- You can do it! Keep on that roll from the SEC tournament! I have you in the Sweet 16!)
Never the less, even though I love college sports, I felt it was important to link to a piece in the Wall Street Journal from yesterday on renewed efforts to make "student atheletes" students once again. This has historically been a bright spot for the Penn State football program (less so for GWU baskteball). But in any event, in our sports crazed culture, of which I am a very guilty participant, it's important to keep some sort of perspective, especially at the college level. As the Journal story correctly points out, the vast majority of big time athletes in college will not make it in the pros. Since more and more of these students also leave college early and do not graduate with a degree, they can easily find themselves in a less than desirable situation if the pros don't pan out. I don't exactly fault the athletes for leaving -- if somebody would have dangled the possibility of a multi-million dollar contract in front of my eyes when I was a junior in undergrad, I probably would have bid school farewell too.
But that doesn't mean that colleges can't do more to ensure that students actually receieve some sort of reasonable education while they are there. For far too many schools, the academics part of the equation is a mere afterthought. They have very few academic standards, low graduation rates, etc. etc. The good news, at least according to this Journal dispatch, is that the tide might be turning in favor of giving academic standards some real teeth. I think we can all agree that would be a welcomed development.
So, have fun while watching the NCAA's today -- I know I will. But let's not lose sight of why we even have the very enjoyable games in the first place.