By Michelle Brutlag Hosick
The Division I Student-Athlete Advisory Committee is supporting proposals aimed at improving the academic performance of football student-athletes.
The original proposal, crafted from a framework built by the Football Academic Working Group, would require football student-athletes to earn nine semester-hours (or eight quarter-hours) of credit in the fall to be eligible for the entire following season. If the minimum standard isn’t met, the student-athlete would lose four games the following fall, but he would have the opportunity to earn back two of those games if he earns 27 credit hours before the season begins.
An alternate proposal offered by the Big East would allow the student-athlete who earns 27 credit hours in the spring and summer terms to play the entire season. Another alternate proposal sponsored by the Atlantic Coast Conference would also allow the student-athlete who earns 27 credit hours in the spring and summer terms to play the entire following season, but only once in his career.
Nick Fulton, chair of the SAAC, said the student-athletes saw merit in all three versions, but favored the ACC version. All of the proposals could help ensure that the academic focus is not lost for student-athletes in football, he said.
“We recognize that there are unique circumstances in football that creates a need for different rules,” he said. “They have traditionally underperformed in APR compared to other sports.”
Fulton, a former swimming student-athlete at Wisconsin, acknowledged that the group gathered feedback from football student-athletes nationally that varied.
The SAAC heard from Colorado State football student-athlete Eugene Daniels II before making its preliminary decision to support the proposals. Daniels, a SAAC member, said that while the reaction among his teammates was definitely “mixed,” he personally supported the concepts presented by the Football Academic Working Group.
“I honestly like the proposal. That’s probably a little crazy coming from a football student-athlete,” he said. “I think we need to remember that we are student-athletes – ‘student’ comes first. It’s important to make sure we’re putting people in the position to excel academically. (The current system) is setting people up for failure in life after sports.”
To Daniels, a journalism major set to graduate in the spring, the nine-hour requirement is a reasonable expectation, though he acknowledged that some football players disagreed.
“The ones who don’t agree with me say that the fall is their time to dedicate to football,” he said. “But I say we’re student-athletes. The reason we’re different from the regular student population is that we’re supposed to juggle things. That’s what I like about it – juggling all of the craziness that goes into being a college football player.”
Conversely, he thinks that earning 27 hours in the spring and summer will be pretty hard for anybody to achieve. Daniels supports providing an opportunity to earn back the time, at least once, but acknowledged that finding the time to fit in basically two full semesters of work into the spring and summer terms would be difficult. He said he already consciously schedules his more difficult classes in the spring, but he never carries (and passes) fewer than 12 hours in the fall as well.
Ultimately, Daniels said football student-athletes need to be reminded of why they come to college – and statistics show it’s not to get to the NFL. He said that while a lot of freshmen football players come in believing the pro ranks are their destiny, by the time those same players become upperclassmen, they face reality.
“They start figuring out that it’s not what we want to do or it’s not an option. Or we get hurt,” he said. “Then they start taking education seriously. We need to have football student-athletes understand from the beginning how important education is not only for passing and being eligible, but for the rest of your life.”