Sports: 1, Academics: In Progress

I realized for the first time two years ago that not all sports teams in Seattle were called the Mariners. As one might imagine, I’m not a huge sports fan. I knew I wasn’t alone in that when flocks of other students were asking the same question I was the morning after the Super Bowl: who won? More specifically, what sport is that? I had hoped that college would bring the mental shift high school had lacked and that academics and football might finally be valued for their respective worths. Unfortunately, I struck out and football once again took precedence in both the minds and hearts of most students.

It seems incomprehensible that an institution centered around learning would have such a focus on one sport, but it is just par for the course. Colleges across the nation have proved it to be true. The university can push academics as much as it likes but until the students recognize education to be of equal or greater value to athletics, MSU is playing defense trying to validate learning. The students have dropped the ball when it comes to remembering why they are here. College should be an intellectually stimulating environment devoted to broadening opportunities for the students in the future. The entertainment-driven emphasis on athletics takes away from the integrity of the learning experience.

It would be ever-so-easy to ignore this inequality and flip a few pages over to the sports section. But that would only further the disparate interests as it is impossible to find an academic section in this newspaper. There isn’t a section dedicated to the life-changing research done by MSU students. The students who placed second in an academic quadrathlon, the collaborators who pieced together the most detailed life history of any dinosaur ever known, the participants in a national biomedical research workshop hosted by MSU, have all received far less recognition than they deserve from the school media and students

I don’t mean to imply that sports are bad. Just because I don’t idolize athletes like Tom Brady (yes, I did just google “famous sports people”), doesn’t mean that others are wrong to do so. Sports are an incredible way for the overly athletic students of MSU to demonstrate their physical prowess. As MSU is such an active campus, it is awesome to see what all these humans are capable of, most of which hurts me to even watch. The problem arises when sports divert the focus from education.

Students are willing to put thousands of hours and hundreds of thousands of dollars into their education because they know knowledge is intrinsically valuable. Years of ingrained lectures from parents remind kids that college opens more doors in the long-term. Yet, the atmosphere on campus doesn’t necessarily reflect that. The number of students and members of the community that will cheer at the football game is dramatically greater than those that will make an appearance at the celebration of student research in April. There are countless games to attend but only one event dedicated to appreciating the hard work of MSU’s undergraduate scholars.

For majority of the MSU’s sports, academics remains the focus of the athletics program. Bobcat Athletics has rigorous standards academically and has received recognition for the success of its students. In 2014, the graduation success rate for the athletic program was 85 percent which is drastically higher than the overall MSU graduation rate 49.6 percent of students who graduated within six years. One of the goals for the program is to maintain an average student-athlete GPA of 3.0 or better. For the most part, they have fulfilled these goals so well that President Waded Cruzado has commended them and looked into ways of replicating the athletic academic programs in a campus wide effort to raise graduation rates. Football, however, does not fall into this category of great success. Despite receiving the most publicity, the football team failed to meet the minimum GPA goal at MSU, with a team average of only 2.76 this last year. The athletics program has run interference for the academic failings of the football team in the past but that is simply condoning the football team’s priorities of sports first, school second.
The members of the athletic program at MSU have so many wonderful qualities outside of their athletic abilities. It might be time to focus on those qualities in conjunction with their season stats. When game day arrives, it would be refreshing to see GPA listed next to the weight of the player. Or focus on the Cap on Cancer promoted by MSU and Bobcat Athletics. Someday, the MVP award will gather dust and biceps will atrophy but knowledge and experiences will live on.