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Thursday, April 18, 2024

While high-school seniors all over the country are struggling to achieve nothing less than a 4.0 to get into their top-choice university, the star quarterback of their graduating class is receiving a full ride to wherever his heart desires. Admissions officers don't even glance at his grade point average.

At some universities, receiving an athletic scholarship is like accepting a free degree. Just attend class and take a few tests in between and try not to fail.

You would think that these athletes would take this free education and put it to good use. However, National Collegiate Athletic Association statistics prove that most Division I schools are experiencing low graduation success rates among athletes, namely in the college football category.

While UF's football program graduates about 72 percent of its football players, this number is sadly beyond the averages of other schools with a similar level of talent on the field. A prime example is the recent BCS tournament game between Ohio State University and Louisiana State University. Both schools graduate less than 54 percent of their football players. I guess talent isn't everything.

Besides these two schools, it is appalling to note that among the bowl games this season, at least 10 teams had players benched for academic ineligibility. According to ESPN.com, Michigan State University alone had five players sitting out for their unsuccessful match-up against Boston College in the Champs Sports Bowl.

You don't even need to look further than our own state. There was talk of Florida State University not even participating in the Music City Bowl due to allegations of academic dishonesty against more than 20 of its players.

So, let me get this straight. These athletes are given this academic reward from a highly accredited school, and nearly half of them throw it away. Of course each situation is player-specific, but isn't the point of attending college to get a degree? Or are they just using it as a stepping stone to the NFL? The chances of all of these players making it in professional ball is slim to none, so you would think they would take it more seriously.

Who is to blame here? Is it the university for setting unreachable standards for their student athletes from whom they demand so much? Or is it the athletes for forgetting the true meaning of putting academics first?

Some suggest it would be a good idea to force the players to stay in school longer than the current minimum. This could make them realize if they have come this far, then they should finish.

Another solution would be to lower the graduation standards for student athletes, considering their crazy schedules. Some have even gone as far as to recommend removing athletic programs altogether. Let's not even go there.

Maybe other schools would only have to follow UF's lead to solve this problem. Our University Athletic Association has an entire department dedicated to providing expert guidance to Gators student athletes. Many other schools, however, do not provide such services or if they do, they're just not working.

My experience here at UF wouldn't be the same without game days, tailgates and football rivalries. It's OK for both fans and players to participate in sports, but it shouldn't be the only reason they attend.

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Rebecca Ganzak is a journalism senior.

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