A different perspective: Sports (1-0) vs. Education (1-0)

December 8, 2013 | 8:11 p.m.

Opinion | Jim Fitzgerald

An editors' note:

As always, the opinions and statements expressed on our Opinions pages do not necessarily reflect the views of the Office of Student Life, The Clarion or its sponsors. This submission is not meant to be the authoritative voice on the subject. Instead, it is intended to stimulate conversation in the Bethel community. We welcome any tasteful responses to publication.

Bethel University has a storied football program dating back 25 years to the arrival of Head Coach Steve Johnson. Johnson has transformed Bethel into a perennial powerhouse, which has earned the program many accolades. Apparently, there are some who think those accolades are paid too much attention.

I disagree; playing sports at the collegiate level requires a heightened level of discipline, both physically and academically. In fact, Bethel’s student athletes are held to higher academic standards compared to the general student body. There are minimum GPA standards that all Bethel student athletes must maintain in order to remain eligible.

In addition, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) not only recognizes athletes for their athletic achievements but also for their academic endeavors. Take for example J.D. Mehlhorn, who was recognized as a Capital One Academic All-American. Through programs such as these, we can see the emphasis that institutions place on academics.

 While some view college sports as a cost, which ultimately overshadows education, I believe that the benefits created as a result of college sports are too numerous to address in this article. However, there is one issue that I must raise with the above cost argument. Bethel sports, like football, are revenue generating, which is why the school spends more on its athletes than it does on non-athletes. Non-athletes aren’t generating extra revenue for the university.

Now, for those of you screaming out loud right now about the tuition you’re paying, keep in mind that we go to a Division III university. One of the differences between a Division I university and a Division III university is that schools can give full ride athletic scholarships at the Division I level, but they cannot at the Division III level. What does this mean? It means that Bethel’s student athletes pay the same tuition that non-athletes do, except that they also generate revenue for the university through their athletic abilities.

In my opinion, Bethel does a good job of distributing recognition appropriately. Whether it be through the Dean’s List, the Bethel website or through receiving your diploma in front of a crowd at graduation, it gives credit where credit is due. When a collective group of 70-plus players accomplish something fantastic, credit is due. That is why we have a banner celebrating them at the entrance of our school.

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