NCAA

 

North Carolina head coach Roy Williams looks on during the first half of an NCAA men’s basketball game agaist Notre Dame.
(AP Photo/Robert Franklin)

College sports fans probably weren’t surprised to learn that the University of North Carolina (UNC) had been engaged in academic fraud for decades. In this particular instance, students, predominately varsity athletes, were enrolled in classes with few (if any) academic requirements. They almost always received high grades.

The UNC scandal is just one of many recent examples where universities have prioritized athletic prowess over academic integrity.

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College football in the U.S. draws millions of fans each year, but we often fail to think about the academic experience of the players on the field. (Photo by Ben Stanfield)

As we enter the heart of another college football season in the U.S., millions of fans flock to stadiums and gather around televisions each Saturday. Sometimes forgotten in the hype and excitement that surrounds the sport is the fact that the players on the field not only are athletes, but also students who must devote a substantial portion of their time throughout the week to academics. As stated in the tagline of a memorable National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) branding campaign, “there are over 380,000 student-athletes, and most of us go pro in something other than sports.” In football, only about 1.5% of college players will go on to the NFL. Given this reality, it’s important for college athletes to gain meaningful value from their education to help them succeed in careers beyond sport. In fact, the NCAA’s rhetoric often reinforces the idea that the academic experience is of first and foremost importance for college athletes.

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The football programs at Baylor University and the University of Oklahoma made headlines in 2016 due to criminal behavior by team members. (Photo by Alonzo Adams/AP)

As we welcome another college football season, players, coaches, and fans are busy breaking down rosters, reviewing schedules and predicting which four teams will remain in the hunt for a national championship on New Year’s Day.

The arrival of a new season is an especially welcomed sight for the Big 12 Conference, with the 2016 season being such a forgettable one. Not only was the conference left out of the College Football Playoff, but two of their featured programs dealt with major issues and violations relating to the criminal behavior of their student-athletes. Baylor University fired head coach Art Briles and several high level university administrators in the wake of a sexual assault scandal involving numerous football players, and the University of Oklahoma had two players in Joe Mixon and Dede Westbrook that garnered national attention for their off-field issues. A video of Mixon striking a woman in 2014 was released, and it was reported that Westbrook had twice been arrested on domestic violence charges.

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The University of North Carolina men’s basketball team celebrates after winning the 2017 National Championship. Photo From Nathan Klima/The Daily Tar Heel

Fireworks boomed from the Dean Dome two weeks ago, sparking a high-spirited time at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC-CH). Tar Heel fans had gathered around the home court and all along Franklin Street to watch the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship game. The celebrations following the Tar Heels’ victory have been a stark contrast from last year’s disappointing buzzer-beating loss.

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RALEIGH, NC – MARCH 21: Chaz Williams #3, Trey Davis #12 and Maxie Esho #1 of the Massachusetts Minutemen sit on the bench in the second half while taking on the Tennessee Volunteers in the second round of the 2014 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament at PNC Arena on March 21, 2014 in Raleigh, North Carolina. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

Over many years of watching the NCAA men’s basketball tournaments, one thing that I, and many others, have looked forward to is the video montage broadcast at the end of CBS’s coverage of the championship game, set to the song “One Shining Moment”. The montage celebrates not only great basketball, but also the range of male emotional expression in sport. Images of young men bursting with joy over a victory and crying in agony over defeat have long been a staple of this video memory of the tournament. Quite honestly, this video has often brought a tear to my eye as I connected to these young men’s emotions. However, it is not my reaction to the video that is notable, but rather the celebration of men’s emotions that is of interest.

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University of Arizona freshman Lauri Markkanen, a native of Finland, was named to the top-20 list for the Wooden Award, which recognizes the best player in men’s college basketball. (Photo from Sports Illustrated)

The NCAA Division I Men’s and Women’s National Basketball Tournaments tip off this week, bringing together players and spectators from around the world. Commonly known as “March Madness”, these annual tournaments have come to be seen as one of the biggest performance platforms for young basketball players from both the United States and, increasingly, across the planet. Generating more than $1 billion in advertising revenue alone, the NCAA basketball tournament has drawn more attention globally thanks to international broadcasting, digital technology, and the rise of international (non-U.S.) “student-athletes” at U.S. colleges and universities. In this article, I’ll discuss some noteworthy international players in this year’s tournament in light of the debate set off on college campuses nationwide by President Donald Trump’s policies surrounding immigration.

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High school senior Jamire Calvin announces his commitment to Oregon State University during the U.S. Army All-American Bowl on Jan. 7, 2017.
High school senior Jamire Calvin announces a commitment to Oregon State University during the U.S. Army All-American Bowl on Jan. 7, 2017. (Photo from USA TODAY Sports)

Each year, universities in the United States spend millions of dollars and college football coaches invest countless hours in an effort to lure top players to their schools. The recruiting process culminates with “National Signing Day,” on which high school seniors are officially able to sign National Letters of Intent that bind them to attend a particular university. As National Signing Day 2017 approaches this Wednesday (Feb. 1), millions of people will visit recruiting websites, such as rivals.com and scout.com, to follow who signs with which school. College football fans will alternately experience joy when a top prospect commits to their favorite team and devastation when a recruit goes elsewhere (this is often how I’ve felt as a fan, at least).

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