More focus needed on scholastics

By Travis Brown
STAR Staff
tbrown@starhq.com

   With the return of the school year and the college football season now underway, all the hype seems to be on sports and the sports world.
   However, the main focus of scholastic athletics is in need of a little refresher course, and that is these kids are in school to learn.
   The scholastic accomplishments of athletes in our area all too often go unnoticed, and these are the very students that should be held in the highest regard.
   Our school systems seek to produce youngsters that are not only strong of mind, but of body as well.
   Athletics indeed plays a large role in maturity and growth, however we here in the sports department are focused on the playing field, and I'd like to take this opportunity to look inside at the classroom.
   I congratulate all students in our local schools for achieving the grades that allow them to play sports.
   There are many good athletes out there, as well as a good deal of sharp minds, but the combination of the two is precious, and to these individuals goes the highest of accolades.
   So congratulations go to those who have stepped up to the challenge and met the standard.
   Moving on the world of higher education, I have the utmost respect for the colleges and universities that maintain a high level of academic standard.
   Universities such as Vanderbilt and Stanford have entry requirements that eliminate most of the athletic talent from the roster. Yet these schools field semi-competitive teams that are both athletically gifted and academically superior.
   This brings me to an objection about our larger colleges and universities; I respect the athletes of top 25 college football. After all they are a lot of fun to watch.
   However I think it reflects poorly on our standard of education, when some of these star athletes look less than intelligent during the post game interviews.
   Granted there is a certain level of stage fright involved that could make a Nobel Lauriat behave like a deer in the headlights, but these youngsters have more potential to be role models than anyone.
   I was recently impressed with the composure and clarity of the Volunteer football players at this year's media day. They handled questions with care, and delivered worthwhile answers.
   Meanwhile programs of UT's size and stature are cranking out broadcasting majors who have trouble answering a direct question in front of a camera, much less reading 30 minutes worth of news to a primetime audience.
   With the vast sums of money offered up by the professional ranks, I do not expect athletes to stay in school; there are too many zeros in some of those figures to stay in school.
   But it is hypocritical to talk about academic standards when discussing pro football especially.
   Look at baseball, they have a minor league structure that produces most of the major league talent, the vast majority of those ballplayers never go through more than 2 years of college.
   With the major sports becoming more distant from the college ranks (with the exception of football) I suppose we can expect more athletes to have less education.
   I sincerely hope that the high school and collegiate ranks will re-double their efforts to increase the academic pursuits of their ballplayers.
   College football is so exciting to watch, and I want every good ballplayer to be on the field, but primetime sound bites from guys who cannot read past a ninth-grade level is embarrassing.