Sports (1-0) vs. Education (0-1)

December 17, 2013 | 11 a.m.

Opinion | Lexie Baum for The Clarion

You may have heard Bethel’s football team was just named Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference champions. Then again, how could you not have? There’s a banner declaring it in big, bold letters to anyone who enters campus. Meanwhile, students all over campus are acing tests and earning good grades, but you won’t see a banner for that.

Sports are a big part of college. They promote school spirit, and if the team does well, they help improve the prestige of the university. However, sometimes the importance of sports at school is placed above the importance of, well, school.

We hear of stories about athletes with less-than-spectacular grades who receive full-ride scholarships. But getting a full-ride scholarship for good grades is next to impossible, unless you’re the next Albert Einstein. Colleges would rather have the next Peyton Manning than the next Christopher Hirata, simply because nobody has heard of Christopher Hirata. The truth is, sports promise recognition for schools.

Yes, college sports are important and they deserve some attention, but academics are important too. It seems too often college sports overshadow a college education, and that comes at a cost. Literally.

According to a study by the Delta Cost Project at the American Institutes for Research, public colleges and universities in the Division I program spend about $92,000 per athlete, while less than $14,000 is spent per student on academics. That’s almost seven times less spending on academics than sports. Yet we wonder why America ranks 17th in education around the world.

Bethel doesn’t spend nearly that much on its athletes, and it’s not a Division I school, but this study does point out the trend of colleges in the U.S. focusing their attention on sports, forgetting about the actual learning that’s supposed to occur at college.

Of course, at Bethel we’re not exactly known for our athletics department. It’s hard to name any notable Bethel students who went on to play in the major leagues, but you probably do know a few Bethel alumni who went on to work as nurses or teachers.

The fact remains, our football players receive celebrity-like attention, but students who achieve exceptional academic standing receive little acknowledgement. No, I’m not suggesting that every student who aces a test get a banner hung in their honor, but perhaps a little more recognition for those students who excel in academia is needed.

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