Want to reform the college sports model? Reform the educational model.
One of the most prominent–and profitable–programs is taking an important step to that end, as Texas hired Vince Young to a new position in the university’s Division of Diversity and Community Engagement.
Vice-president of the division, Gregory J. Vincent, issued a statement with the usual PR tone.
“Vince’s passion for the educational success of young people and his experiences as a first-generation college graduate make him a perfect fit for this role,” he said, via utexas.edu.
Vince Young can impart his own life lessons to current and future Texas athletes in the hope they’ll make the most of their opportunities.
Young is as synonymous with the prowess of Texas Longhorns football as anyone to ever wear burnt orange.
Not long ago, Young was also synonymous with the struggles far too many college football and basketball stars face upon leaving their universities.
In January, the Houston Chronicle reported Young filed for bankruptcy, less than a decade after signing a guaranteed $25.7 million contract with the Tennessee Titans.
So much of the NCAA debate revolves around money: the money universities make from their football programs, the money athletes don’t see, the superstars whose performance commands the most money.
Not enough attention is paid to educating these athletes about money–or educating them at all.
The academic component to the NCAA reform debate is often ignored, if not outright dismissed. The value of scholarships is no longer seen as equal to the demands placed on athletes–unless, of course, you’re an athlete in a non-revenue-generating sport, in which your scholarship is overvalued.
Joseph Nardone wrote a column on this very site discussing college athletics as business. From this perspective, athletic departments, and by extension universities, are to operate as corporations. Keep profits up by trimming the fat on divisions not ringing the registers.
Essentially, that means abandoning scholarships for all but a few dozen football and men’s basketball programs.
When billions of dollars are changing hands and athletic departments’ affiliations are determined by TV networks’ bank accounts, this view is understandable. It’s also cynical.
Make no mistake, business has been allowed to overshadow the educational mission in far too many instances. Too often, athletic departments, individual programs and the NCAA have failed their athletes. But that doesn’t mean the ideal of promoting education through athletics can’t be saved.
As he led Texas to a national championship, Vince Young can help Texas lead the effort to reform the educational model.
His connection to the university’s next big professional star is evident. Young has real-life experience that will resonates with these athletes. But Young’s real-life experience also applies to students who won’t have the opportunity making millions in the NFL, like Vanessa Brewer, focus of a New York Times Magazine feature on Texas’ new program.
College sports are not the only avenue in which attitudes toward education are jaded. Education is not as valued as it once, and education isn’t valuable. It’s a vicious chicken-and-egg cycle that’s difficult to pinpoint how it began.
But how it began is irrelevant. Ending it is a priority. Football is king in American society, and if a prominent college program and one of its most noteworthy stars can take steps to fix the problem, it’s a positive sign for more meaningful reform.