The entire premise of higher education is to allow for the mind to explore and develop, and to provide a place for students to discover their true passions to prepare them for their professional careers. That’s what we’ve all been told right? So why don’t colleges allow for their student-athletes to major in their sport?
Let me explain. In the context of being at a top-tier liberal arts college like Tufts, I don’t believe that having a football major or basketball major would be a good fit here. However, for a majority of Div. I institutions I think it would be a great opportunity for student-athletes to be able to major within their sport. It is unfortunate that many athletes are labeled as jocks, who take sketchy paper classes through departments that have adopted practices of easy grading or looking the other way. A sporting major could definitely counteract these incidents.
The curriculum could include classes on sports business, finance, contract law, sports psychology, anatomy, kinesiology, etc. These classes would definitely align more with athletes’ interests, especially in comparison to traditional majors like philosophy or English. It would also help prepare them for the real world, as collegiate athletes would most likely need these skills to manage their athletic careers in their ensuing profession after college.
You still might be conflicted. How can the star quarterback majoring in football be held to the same standards as a pre-med student majoring in bioengineering? Well, for one it would have to be rigidly structured and graded just like any other major. For example, drama, dance and music are all performance subjects, which requires a significant amount of practice, teamwork and study. If we view sports as an entertainment performance like ballet or the symphony, we can better understand how this curriculum could fit within a traditional collegiate model. Musicians are often given credit for their practice time, but are also subject to learning musical theory, history and technique. Any performance-based art has this academic requirement, just like a sport major should.
In previous columns, I discussed sports’ relational connection within society, politics and business. Preparing collegiate athletes to understand these interconnections is important in order to prepare them for a potential professional career and also to allow them to work within their passions instead of taking academically fraudulent classes like the incident with the University of North Carolina football team. Being able to study something you are passionate about can go a long way for athletes for whom the majority of their time is occupied by preparing and practicing their sport. Even if they don’t become professional athletes, they will undoubtedly be able to apply the skills they’ve learned within their major as potential future coaches, sports agents, administrators, and so forth. Learning how to sign contracts, manage finances and understand sporting business is invaluable for anyone with a passion for entering the sports world. So let’s give athletes a greater opportunity to succeed after their collegiate careers end. Whether they become professionals or not, helping prepare athletes to align with their passions is something all colleges should consider.