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AP ENTERPRISE: Examining football player majors
“We’re not going to say certain majors are out of bounds. We’re not going to say you have to take certain majors,” said Kevin Lennon, the NCAA’s vice president of academic and membership affairs. “Those are personal decisions that every student-athlete has to make, just like any student.”
The situation puts into focus one of the ever-present conflicts in big-time college sports: winning games, making money and keeping the boosters happy vs. providing athletes with a quality education and keeping up school standards.
Georgia Tech, for instance, receives more requests from the football team than any other for special admissions _ enrollment for those who don’t meet the standards applied to the overall student body. But officials at the Atlanta school point out management is one of the most rigorous business programs in the country, requiring everyone to take two calculus courses and two lab sciences.
“There’s always going to be that tension,” said Anderson Smith, the senior vice provost for academic affairs. “You’ve got to recruit who the best players are. But it’s a much more heterogeneous population than what we have applying to Georgia Tech as regular students.”
Vanderbilt is considered the toughest academic school in the football-crazy Southeastern Conference, which is usually cited as the reason the Commodores perennially wind up at the bottom of the league standings. And yet 35 of 59 non-freshmen were going for the same degree.
By the way, what is human and organizational development anyway?
“Leadership is one of the things that we focus on, and we have a very active and engaged student body,” said Beth Shinn, who chairs the department. “My guess is any club or sorority you would look at would have an overrepresentation of HOD people.”
In fact, human and organization development is the most popular major on campus among all students, including three of the last six student government presidents, according to Shinn. It’s a wide-ranging field, requiring courses in calculus, economics, statistics and social sciences, as well as psychology, sociology, anthropology, political science and public policy.
“Our students are prepared for a vast variety of careers,” Shinn said. “We don’t do basket-weaving, thank you.”
Chris Marve can attest to that. The senior linebacker is actually pursuing a double-major, combining human and organizational development with sociology. As part of his HOD curriculum, he interned over the summer at a Nashville law firm and has his sights on becoming an attorney.
“This major is definitely not just an athlete’s major,” Marve said. “People who come here are very intelligent and have a very high intellect, so it’s not an easy major at all even though a lot of athletes do sign up for it. I think it’s the most powerful major you can leave out of here with.”
The majors winning the popularity contest vary from school to school.
At Cincinnati, 40 players picked criminal justice as their major. At Mississippi State, 30 players have declared in kinesiology. Sports administration is the choice of 28 players at LSU. Twenty-one Iowa players are majoring in interdepartmental studies, while 20 players Clemson went with sociology.
“We used to call ‘em Mickey Mouse courses. They exists at every university,” said Murray Sperber, who teaches at the University of California, Berkeley, is a professor emeritus at Indiana University and author of the book, “Beer & Circus: How Big-time College Sports Is Crippling Undergraduate Education.”
“As an educator, my concern is: Are they getting a meaningful education?”
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