Title 9 Essay Research Paper Athletic Scholarships

Title 9 Essay, Research Paper

Athletic Scholarships: Who Wins?

Athletic scholarships are designed to support physically

gifted and talented students. This simple description makes it

difficult to envision the problems associated with athletic

scholarships, but recently, athletic scholarships and the

programs linked with them have become quite controversial.

In spite of this controversy, athletic scholarships should be

retained, but college athletic programs should be reformed to

deemphasize winning at all costs and to ensure that all

student athletes are treated fairly.

College athletic programs are certainly valuable. These

programs increase school spirit and help to create a sense of

community. They also help to raise money: winning teams

spark alumni contributions, and athletic events raise funds

through ticket sales. In addition, athletic programs–like

programs in the performing arts and music–help to provide

a rewarding, balanced education for all students. Student

athletes make important academic, social, and cultural

contributions to their schools and thus enrich the college

experience for others. Finally, without athletic scholarships,

many students would not be able to attend college because,

as Alvin Sanoff observes, the aid for which many

economically deprived student athletes are eligible does not

cover the expense of a college education the way athletic

scholarships do (par. 5).

Despite their obvious advantages, college athletic

programs have problems. First, not all athletes–or all programs–

are valued equally. On many campuses money, equipment, and

facilities have traditionally been allotted to football and

basketball at the expense of less visible sports such as

swimming, tennis, and field hockey. Men’s sports have been

given a disproportionate amount of support, and “winning”

teams and coaches have been compensated accordingly. In fact,

according to Sue M. Durrant, until recently it was not unusual

for women’s teams to use “hand-me-down” gear while men’s

teams played with new “state of the art” equipment or for

women’s teams to travel by bus while men’s teams traveled by

plane (60).

Another problem is that college athletes at all levels

complain that their roles as athletes are overemphasized, to the

detriment of their roles as students. According to Francis X.

Dealy, some college athletic departments have become little

more than glorified training camps for professional sports

teams. This problem is compounded by overzealous recruiting

practices, with colleges accepting academically unqualified

students solely because of their athletic skills. These students

are exploited and overworked, treated as commodities rather

than as students, and given little academic support; many fail

to graduate (106). With the demands of heavy travel and

practice schedules, many student athletes, even those with

strong academic backgrounds, risk falling behind in their

studies. Moreover, their grueling schedules tend to isolate

them from other students, excluding them from the college

community. Given these difficulties, college athletic programs

are under considerable pressure to institute reforms.

The problems associated with athletic scholarships are

numerous and complex, but they have less to do with the

scholarships themselves than with the way dishonest and

exploitive athletic administrators run their programs. It is

understandable that the main focus of most collegiate sports

programs is winning. According to Vince Lombardi, the

famous football coach, “Winning isn’t everything; it’s the only

thing.” To the alumni, the administrators, and the fans, the

only measure of an athletic program’s success is its win/loss

record. A winning record attracts money and students; a

losing record does not. They seem to believe, as the

philosopher George Santayana has observed, “In athletics, as

in all performances, only winning is interesting. The rest has

value only as leading to it or reflecting it” (qtd. in Dealy 61).

This concentration on winning has led to some of the

worst abuses in college athletic programs. Francis X. Dealy

reports that this competitive attitude existed even in the first

American intercollegiate competition, an 1852 rowing contest

between Harvard and Yale. Harvard won, and so began a

fierce rivalry between the two schools (56). As Dealy observes,

“Judging from the intensity of the spectators and the

participants, the stakes included which school had the more

beautiful campus, the smarter faculty, the brighter student

body, and the more successful alumni” (59). The emphasis on

winning encouraged the recruitment of the best athletes, no

matter what the cost. In fact, Dealy observes that the first

athletic scholarships were in the form of salaries paid to

professional athletes to perform in the name of a particular

school. Without regulation, athletic scholarships were like

shady financial deals arranged in smoky back rooms (56).

Athletes became commodities to be bought and sold.

Fleisher, Goff, and Tollison report that until the late 1870s,

collegiate games were generally “marked by violence . . . and

controversy over eligibility requirements. Athletes moved from

school to school, . . . and club members hired professional

athletes to participate in intercollegiate events” (37). Several

organizations were formed to help control violence and to

standardize rules, but all had spotty participation and were

short-lived. In December 1905, in order to deal with violence

and to standardize rules of play, the National Collegiate Athletic

Association (NCAA) was formed in response to the concerns of

Theodore Roosevelt, then president of the United States. Even

though the scope of the NCAA has widened tremendously in

the last ninety years, one of its main concerns remains the

equitable distribution of financial aid and scholarships (Fleisher,

Goff, and Tollison 38-41).

Today the NCAA continues to address abuses associated

with athletic programs and scholarships, including aggressive

and often unethical recruitment techniques, a disproportionate

amount of money being awarded to men over women, and

academically underprepared athletes being admitted to and

retained by colleges and universities. The organization’s task is

a difficult one, however, because the problems have deep roots.

Recruitment of student athletes, a large and

controversial part of the athletic scholarship process, is often

unethical. Understandably, colleges and universities want to

recruit the finest athletes for their teams, but sometimes this

quest for the best has led to overly aggressive recruitment

practices. Dealy reports, for example, that until the late 1980s,

recruiters openly enticed talented high school football players

with promises of generous financial aid and merchandise,

including cars or expensive athletic clothing and shoes. After

several instances of unethical recruitment practices became

public, most notably the fact that one university had been

paying its football players salaries to play ball, the NCAA

intervened and became more vigorous in its attempt to

regulate the recruitment process. Recruitment is still the

principal means of matching students with available funds. For

this reason, violations continue to account for 60 to 70

percent of all NCAA infractions (Dealy 173-80).

Perhaps due to the intense competition for positions and

scholarships, unethical recruitment has not been eliminated.

Skippy “Tiptoe” Walker, assistant football coach at a large

Texas high school, reports that some of his athletes have been

recruited in ways that could be considered unethical 1. Walker

is quick to point out, though, that most of his athletes do not

receive scholarships. In fact, only two football players from his

high school have received athletic scholarships during the past

ten years. This statistic is in line with statistics from the rest of

the country. As reported by Dealy, very few high school

seniors–one out of every 118–actually receive athletic

scholarships (180). Understandably, competition for funds and

positions is stiff. Some students try to locate their own athletic

scholarships by paying a nominal fee to an independent

search service, which enters the student’s name into a national

database and also provides the student with a list of available

scholarships and schools seeking recipients (”You C.A.N.”).

Sexism is another serious problem in college athletic

programs. In fact, the economics of college sports almost

ensures that female athletes will not be recruited as

aggressively as male athletes are. The strongest teams, in the

view of colleges, are the ones that generate the greatest

amount of interest (and revenue). In general, the money-

making teams are the men’s teams. Because the emphasis is

on winning and making money, it is not surprising that

colleges and recruiters concentrate on men when building and

maintaining their sports programs. Since the introduction of

Title IX in 1972, however, this focus on men’s teams is illegal.

According to Title IX, “No person in the United States shall, on

the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied

the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any

program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance”

(qtd. in Durrant 60).

Sue M. Durrant reports that although Title IX

encompasses nearly all facets of education, it is mainly

associated with increased opportunities for women in the area

of athletics (60). In fact, Durrant notes, “Title IX tilted the

balance of power. Title IX granted acceptability and status to

elementary school, high school, and college female athletes”

(61). During the first decade that Title IX was in place, the

number of women athletes in colleges doubled, and there was

rapid growth in female athletic programs at all levels of

education, particularly in colleges and universities (Durrant

61). Since this ten-year-span of compliance to the law,

however, there has been an obvious slowing of the movement

toward equality between men and women in collegiate sports

programs. Even as recently as 1997–ironically, the twenty-fifth

anniversary of Title IX–parity had not been achieved. As

Secretary of Health and Human Services Donna Shalala

commented in a documentary film that year, “In twenty-five

years, Title IX has still not been fully realized” (”Breaking

Through”). One of the areas in which this lack of progress is

most visible and measurable is athletic financial aid and


A 1992 NCAA study of gender equity in colleges that

play big-time sports showed the degree to which men’s sports

received more money than women’s sports. The following

graph illustrates this disparity in spending.

Fig. 1. Summary of Comparative Spending for Men’s and

Women’s Sports. Based on information from Douglas

Lederman, “Men Get 70 Percent of Money Available for

Athletic Scholarships and Colleges That Play Big-Time Sports

Programs,” Chronicle of Higher Education 18 Mar. 1992: A1.

The NCAA study found that men’s teams received almost 70

percent of the athletic scholarship money, 77 percent of the

operating money, and 83 percent of the recruiting money.

And, as a 1997 New York Times article reports, “for all the

progress women have made, they are still far behind men on

the playing fields” (Chambers A1). In fact, the 1992 NCAA

gender equity study found that “the finding for men’s

athletics continues to dwarf the money spent on women’s

sports” (Chambers A1).

Supporters of women’s programs argue that the

distribution of money should be based on enrollment, which,

as reported in a Chronicle of Higher Education study of

gender equality, would give women a slight edge over men

(Lederman, “Men Outnumber” A1). In order for progress to

be made in gender equity in college sports, it is important for

the NCAA and other independent organizations to continue

surveys like the NCAA gender equity study. And, as Durrant

points out, it is also important that complaints continue to be

filed when discrimination is suspected or encountered (63).

Admissions irregularities have also plagued college

athletics. Proposition 48 was an effort by the NCAA to address

the problems. When it was made public that some of

America’s star college athletes were unable to read (Dealy 111),

the NCAA was forced into action. Proposition 48, the result of

much compromise and maneuvering during the NCAA’s 1983

convention, required that athletes meet two basic academic

requirements before they could receive athletic scholarships.

Alvin Sanoff reports that the potential recipients had to score

at least 700 out of a possible 1,600 points on the Scholastic

Aptitude Test (or 15 out of 36 on the American College Test) or

attain a C average in eleven core academic courses. If the

student achieved only one of these requirements, he or she

was a “partial qualifier” and, although eligible for an athletic

scholarship, would not be allowed to participate in sports

during his or her first year (68). Since Proposition 48 went into

effect in 1986, approximately six hundred students per year

have received athletic scholarships under the “partial qualifier”

umbrella. Of these students, 90 percent were African-American

football or basketball players (Sanoff, par. 6).

In 1989, however, the NCAA voted to enact a series of

reforms, the most stringent of which was to take effect in

August 1995, when, as reported by Lederman, first-year

athletes would be required to achieve a 2.5 grade-point

average in thirteen academic core courses rather than 2.0 in

eleven courses as previously required. Students would also

have to score a minimum of 700 on the SAT in addition to the

GPA requirement (”NCAA Votes” A1).2

Because underprivileged athletes are most affected by

these rule changes, the proposed reforms were extremely

controversial. John Chaney, the men’s basketball coach at

Temple University, called the new rule “an insane, inhuman

piece of legislation that will fill the streets with more of the

disadvantaged” (qtd. in Sanoff, par. 7). The late tennis player

Arthur Ashe believed, however, that “any time educational

standards have been raised, the athletes have gotten the

message” (qtd. in Sanoff, par. 7). Preliminary results of ongoing

studies have indicated that the athletes are indeed getting the

message: the graduation rate of Division I scholarship athletes

entering college in 1986 was six percentage points higher

than the average graduation rates of athletes who enrolled at

those same colleges three years before Proposition 48 took

effect (Blum, “Graduation” A42). Other study results show

that the number of academically underprepared athletes

enrolling in Division I colleges dropped in 1991. As reported

by Debra Blum, however, these statistics do not necessarily

indicate improvement:

The decline in the number of academically

underqualified athletes going to Division I and II

colleges may mean that more athletes are meeting

the standard, as supporters of the standard

contend. On the other hand, the decline may

suggest that the underprepared students are simply

moving in greater numbers into junior colleges or

preparatory schools or, as some critics fear, that they

are not continuing their education at all. (”More

Freshmen” A39)

Despite the problems, colleges should retain athletic

scholarships–with certain changes. Academic support

programs should be reformed so that they are fair to all

student athletes–men and women, football players and tennis

players, winners and losers. Academics–not sports–must be

given first priority. Students who receive athletic scholarships

should not be exploited; they should be treated like other

scholarship recipients. Recruitment should be responsible,

academic standards should be maintained, and promises

made to athletes should be realistic.

In short, the scholarship athlete should be treated like

any other exceptional student on campus who loves his or her

subject and takes joy in the process of learning. Athletic

programs clearly benefit educational institutions, and athletic

scholarships should certainly be a part of any college system;

however, the focus of sports programs should expand to

encompass the personal enrichment of the whole student.

Shifting the focus of athletics away from winning will

ultimately benefit not only college athletes and the scholarship

programs that support them, but also the colleges themselves.

Blum, Debra E. “Graduation Rate of Scholarship Athletes Rose

after Proposition 48 Was Adopted, NCAA Reports.”

Chronicle of Higher Education 7 July 1993: A42-44.

—. “More Freshmen Meet Academic Standards Set by

NCAA.” Chronicle of Higher Education 21 Apr. 1993:


“Breaking Through: Our Turn to Play.” Lifetime Cable

Network. 19 June 1997.

Chambers, Marcia. “For Women, 25 Years of Title IX Has Not

Leveled the Playing Field.” New York Times 16 June

1997: A1+.

Dealy, Francis X. Win at Any Cost. New York: Carol, 1990.

Durrant, Sue M. “Title IX–Its Power and Its Limitations.”

Journal of Physical Education, Recreation and Dance 45

(1992): 60-64.

Fleisher, Arthur A., Brian L. Goff, and Robert D. Tollison. The

National Collegiate Athletic Association. Chicago: U of

Chicago P, 1992.

Lederman, Douglas. “Men Get 70% of Money Available for

Athletic Scholarships and Colleges That Play Big-Time

Sports, New Study Finds.” Chronicle of Higher Education

18 Mar. 1992: A1+.

—. “Men Outnumber Women and Get Most of Money in Big-

Time Sports Programs.” Chronicle of Higher Education 8

Apr. 1992: A1+.

—. “NCAA Votes Higher Academic Standards for College

Athletes.” Chronicle of Higher Education 15 Jan. 1992:


Sanoff, Alvin P. “When Is the Playing Field Too Level?” U.S. News

& World Report 30 Jan. 1989. 10 pars. CompuServe.

3 Mar. 1994.

Walker, Skippy “Tiptoe.” E-mail to the author. 1 March 1998.

“You C.A.N. Get Help with a Scholarship.” Scholastic Coach

Aug. 1992: 56.


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