Educating Athletes Re-Envisioning the Student-Athlete Model

by William W. Berry III

This article contends that if the NCAA and universities are serious about saving the current student-athlete model, then they should double-down on the concept of “student” in the student-athlete model. In particular, this paper suggests that adopting a more realistic approach to educating athletes will benefit both the universities and student-athletes, relieving pressure on the current model and improving educational outcomes.

Specifically, this article argues for a revised student-athlete model. First, the new model would require mandatory six-year scholarships for student-athletes and a reduction in the required academic hours “in-season” from nine to three. The model also mandates that students use their eligibility in the first four years at the university. After student-athletes have used their four years of eligibility, half of their education will remain. The students can attempt to become a professional athlete, but if that fails, they will have the opportunity to engage academically for two years in a discipline that will prepare them for the career they seek, rather than follow the path of least resistance to graduation. Indeed, this idea that graduation rates alone indicate the receipt of a robust and valuable education, rather than a short-circuited and compromised one, cheats many student-athletes of the education that they deserve.

Part I of the article briefly describes the broken model of intercollegiate athletics. In Part II, the article advances its central proposal for saving the concept of student-athlete: six-year scholarships with a reduction to three hours in-season for student-athletes, coupled with a requirement of eligibility use in the first four years. Part III concludes the paper by demonstrating how the proposal can resuscitate the concept of student-athlete and why the proposal can improve outcomes for universities and student-athletes alike.

 

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