Is a major in sports really any worse than my music major?

Should athletes have the opportunity to major in sports?

Yes, argues a piece in The Chronicle of Higher Education, which recently offered yours truly a special deal for “university professionals” in a reassuring demonstration that advertisers do not know everything about you.

And it’s a terrific argument. Add a psychology requirement, and players who don’t make the professional grade (which is still the vast majority of players, even at the top football and basketball schools) will be uber-qualified coaches. That’s not a bad thing.

A related argument: Are “one-and-dones” making a mockery of college basketball? Should they stay at least three years like baseball players who pass on the draft? Do athletes gain anything when their only academic goal is to pass enough classes in their first semester to stay eligible through March?

Also related: A new wave of concern of about athletes after their playing days are done, everything from the eye-opening ESPN film Broke to this piece from Michigan about former football players hoping to latch on somewhere.

Consider three goals of education (not necessarily prioritized):

1. Expand the mind.

2. Learn critical thinking and life skills.

3. Job preparation.

The first goal can be accomplished (somewhat) in a year. Maybe even in one class, if it’s a good one. Hopefully, it triggers a lifelong interest in learning.

The second goal is easy to stress in the first couple of years of school. Writing classes help. Basic economics would help.

The third goal is best reserved for the last couple of years of school, when students have done some exploration and can pick something. If they’re ready for major pro sports, then they can skip out.  As Yoda might say, no more training do they require. We can only hope the lessons of those first two years will keep them from sinking their fortunes into strip club “rain” and room-sized aquariums.

Schools shouldn’t give players tons of academic credit just for playing. Music majors only get fractional credits for orchestra or lessons on their instruments. Newspaper staffers that I know of don’t get academic credit for the 20, 30, 50 hours a week they spend in the office, even though that trains them for their first jobs in ways that no class can duplicate.

But studying sports topics doesn’t have to be a joke. Not if it’s done right. Not if it’s done as part of a general education that helps people who seek careers in sports, whether they make the big time or not.

Other reactions to this:

Sports Law Blog says the devil is in the details, which is true.

Deadspin: “Why can’t aspiring professional athletes just major in sports, the way that aspiring dancers major in dance and aspiring actors major in theater and aspiring dickheads major in journalism?”

I don’t think aspiring whatevers major in journalism. They all want to work at Deadspin, which probably doesn’t hire a lot of journalism majors.

But what do I know? I was a philosophy and music major.

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One thought on “Is a major in sports really any worse than my music major?

  1. I can think of several handy additions to that course list. In addition to coaching, there’s an important an viable trend towards the use of sports and games to promote development and peace, and a course about understanding how these operate would be valuable job training too.

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