Thinking back to my college years and how scholarship athletes were treated back in the 1970s, I can't help but marvel at the progress that's been made since then. In those days it was rare to find an athlete with much intellectual curiosity. They simply wanted to play, and that's where they put all of their focus and energy.
To make matters worse, this mindset was fostered by coaches, administrators and even other students. The expectation for a student athlete in the classroom was pretty low, and as you might suspect, the athletes themselves were very happy to meet that expectation. We've all heard stories about athletes taking "basket weaving 101", and about "tutors" doing work for the athletes. No one questioned the grades of the athletes in the major sports as long as they were doing well on the field. Grades could always be adjusted. Coaches just wanted the kids there to play. After all, how smart do you have to be to hit someone hard or run fast? And so what if they don't graduate? After all, the team got what they needed out of the athlete, and if he or she didn't get the job done in the classroom, then that's too bad.
Well, thankfully, those days are over.
Individual colleges, and then the NCAA, woke up and realized that student athletes are in college to get an education, and too few of them were actually making that happen. The result was a renewed energy and a more focused effort on raising the standards for college athletes.Gradually the bar for success was moved higher and higher, and the new expectations began to be met by the athletes. Better time management and better study habits first led to more student athletes becoming college graduates, then as that trend continued and the bar raised further, those athletes began to emerge as scholar athletes.
This increased intelligence on the part of the student athletes had an interesting bi-product – it actually contributed to changes in the game. It's no secret that on the football team, the big eaters in the line were the ones who took the brunt of the ridicule. They were big, strong, and all they had to do was hit people, so it was natural to consider them a brawn and no brain. In today's game, however, the linemen are pulling, stunting and shifting all over the place depending on the play. They have to remember all of these plays and stick to their jobs, be creative, think fast and they often have to learn what they do on the fly. It's an awesome responsibility, and no players have stepped up to the plate more than the Ohio State players.
This past weekend, Ohio State honored a record number of their athletes as scholar athletes – those students playing a varsity sport and earning a GPA above a 3.0. An overall total of 548 students were recognized across all sports. Of those honored, 37 of them were football players. That's over 40% of the entire football roster. These are both amazing statistics. Many colleges don't even have 548 student athletes, let alone that many of them who are scholar athletes.
Well done, Buckeyes. Congratulations to all of you who worked so hard to achieve this admirable goal.
For more details on the awards, please check out the Official Ohio State University Athletics Website.
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