Special treatment product of student-athlete status
By Henry Schweber ‘19
Just this past week, Rutgers Football Coach Kyle Flood was suspended three games and fined $50,000 for attempting to get a professor to change a player’s grade. Knowing that if a player doesn’t meet the level of academic standards set by the school, then they would be kicked off the team, the coach attempted to take matters into his own hands. These kinds of stories are far too frequent, with most of them including some sort of illegal benefit for the student-athlete.
As a society, we hold athletes in the highest regards. What they can do on a football field, basketball court or hockey rink can only make us stare in awe. Often, we aspire to be like them. When you consider how much we value athletes, it makes you wonder, how do athletes view themselves? The answer shouldn’t be surprising, as most athletes are enamored with themselves and the status that comes with being a star player.
The psychology behind it is fairly simple: When people look up to you, it seems like you have a sense of importance and power, which leads to a sense of entitlement. That entitlement can lead to athletes holding a warped sense of their role in a collegiate community. In the classroom many athletes believe that they don’t need to put in the necessary amount of work, because their effort on the field should be enough. Outside the classroom, athletes may act with a sense of impunity believing that their prestige and renown can protect them if they get into trouble. This is bad in and of itself, and what makes it worse is that the coaches tend to side with their players. This has led to a number of complex situations and scandals in college sports. Reggie Bush, the 2005 Heisman Trophy winner was stripped of his title in 2011 after an NCAA investigation ruled that he was ineligible to play due to accepting gifts from coaches and agents.
Unfortunately, this is just the tip of the iceberg. You read a lot about sexual assault cases on college campuses, and a good amount of them come from college athletes. When players feel entitled, they think that they can do no wrong. This belief of being of such a high stature leads these students to have no regard for their own actions, and it can be damning to themselves and to others. What we see all too frequently is that the supposed “better” players get away with certain exploits. When a team has a star player, its coaches, fans and even management will support that player through whatever troubles there are. Jameis Winston, a wildly popular quarterback and Heisman trophy winner, was accused of sexual assault when he was playing football at Florida State. Even through an investigation, there was no talk of him being suspended from playing. After all, who would have the guts to potentially ruin a championship season? The worst part was how the entire Florida State campus treated his accuser. Already a possible victim of sexual assault, this poor girl had the whole school turn against her, as they were defending their star quarterback. The girl had to transfer schools due to the constant threats and bullying exhibited by the students and staff at Florida State.
The problems exhibited by many student-athletes can be boiled down to one thing. They forget about their role as a student-athlete, and instead consider themselves athletes who just so happen to go to school. Cardale Jones, quarterback for the National Championship Ohio State Buckeyes, once tweeted an insightful question regarding this subject manner, asking, “Why should we have to go to class if we came here to play FOOTBALL, we ain’t come to play SCHOOL classes are POINTLESS.” This tweet encompasses the problem with student-athletes today. Student-athletes don’t take their classes seriously enough because they feel a certain level of entitlement from being part of a collegiate team. As soon as the public stops feeding into this college football frenzy and starts putting ethics above sports, then these student-athletes will follow suit.