Athletic programs don’t deserve blame

We begin this academic year boasting a football team poised to sweep the national championship and bring in millions of dollars for USC.

But even on our spirited college campus, many students challenge the merit of athletic programs, adding to a growing debate over the place of athletics in an academic atmosphere.

Lener Jimenez | Daily Trojan


Across the nation, student-athletes are used as scapegoats for unfair admissions practices and a rising sense of anti-intellectualism on college campuses. Athletic programs, however, should no longer be thought of as contradictory to a university’s academic pursuits, but instead as complements to the inherent goals of a university.

Unfortunately, the criticism comes from those who know the academic goals of a university best. In a blog post from The New York Times, University of Notre Dame professor Gary Gutting accused college athletes and programs of catalyzing an anti-intellectual culture on American college campuses. Gutting argues that the college athlete does not treat his or her sport as a secondary, co-curricular activity, but as his or her main focus, which “marginaliz[es]” academics.

Indeed, many athletes spend more time preparing for their sports than they spend concentrating on schoolwork. A 2011 NCAA study found that Division I baseball players devote 42.1 hours a week to their sport during the spring season — 10.4 hours more than they spend on academic work. For DI football players, the study found that the number of weekly hours spent solely on sports is even higher.

At USC, athletes are certainly given an abundance of resources to help them succeed on the field and inside the classroom. Some Trojans even point to the recently completed McKay Center, created in the hopes of fostering both academic and athletic pursuits, as an example of university irresponsibility. After all, the building’s $70 million construction cost could cover one semester’s full tuition for more than 3,300 USC students.

It’s easy to lambast this degree of funding without examining a fuller picture. USC invests in all of its programs to ensure the best faculty and facilities are available for students. To single out athletics as undeserving of this treatment begs the question: Are athletics truly co-curricular, or do they deserve to be recognized as curriculum themselves?

It’s clear that many student-athletes are athletes first and students second. But perhaps the two groupings aren’t as mutually exclusive as they are thought to be. Becoming an accomplished athlete is a process reached through time, study and perseverance — a development path shared by all ambitious USC students.

Our school’s athletes should be no less admired than our talented artists, actors, engineers or businessmen. Each student’s journey demands a significant level of skill and dedication that can be honed in college. USC is well-regarded for its ability to help students excel in a variety of technical as well as liberal arts areas of interest, such as our film, theater and fine arts programs — all ranked among the highest of their kind in the country.

The goal of a college education is to prepare students to excel in their chosen areas of interest. By every standard, USC’s athletic program is aligned with the goals of our university.


Ryan Townsend is a sophomore majoring in business administration. His column, “The Blame Game,” runs Tuesdays.

4 replies
  1. Ricardo
    Ricardo says:

    Athletics should not get all the blame. But the athletics game has got out of control in the United States. Penn state even had a statue of its coach!

    Universities should focus on what universities do: study, research, and debate.

  2. Nicole
    Nicole says:

    This is a very well written and thought out opinion piece. As a mother of a 15 year old daughter who plays competitive soccer and hopes to play in College someday, your points are all well said. It is not easy to be a top athlete and student trying to gain entrance in a top university. Athletes work very hard, both physically and mentally, to be at the top of their game. Add to that the intense pressure to be a top student and get good grades, it is no walk in the park. Having brains is to be applauded, no doubt, but to have brains and athletic attributes, to graduate (hopefully) from a top ranked university, well, that’s priceless.

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