Where did things go so wrong?

This Saturday, I will be hosting a dinner for the baseball teams of Oglethorpe University and Centre College after they complete a twin bill on our campus. They will have one final game to play Sunday afternoon before the team from Centre heads back from Atlanta to their beautiful campus in Danville, KY. Less than a year ago, Centre and Oglethorpe, along with six other highly respected liberal arts colleges in the Southeast, came together and formed an new athletic conference – the Southern Athletic Association (SAA). Sewanee, Rhodes, Berry, Hendrix, Millsaps, and Birmingham Southern are the other six. The eight Presidents who govern these schools began our first meeting, held even before the SAA became a reality, with a lengthy conversation about the principles by which we would be governed. We are part of the NCAA Division III and by that common affiliation, some of those principles are already established. Among the most significant of those is the rule that no athletic scholarships can be awarded to any of our students. In Division III, anyway, we continue to subscribe to the idea of the student-athlete, where the student part of that equation really does come first. But we all agreed that simply adhering to the covenants of our division wasn’t sufficient for what we intended. It was our collective desire that we build a conference of like-minded schools that from start to finish, from recruitment to graduation, insisting upon the ideal that out student-athletes were to be no different and treated no differently than our student-actors or our student-musicians or our student-researchers.

One of the ideas that we began to experiment with is to bring our teams together during a weekend of competition for food, fellowship, and education. This Saturday evening will be our first formal attempt at this at Oglethorpe. I am hoping we will split the double header to keep things balanced, but heck, if we win two, I am good with that as well. I have designated myself as the inaugural keynote speaker. As a former collegiate athlete, I have a keen appreciation for just how long these guys will want to hear me talk after playing all day. That would be about 45 seconds, but I plan to try to keep their attention for a bit longer than that. I have chosen as my subject matter the letter “P”. “P” as in Paterno, Petrino, Pitino. Pearl (that would be Bruce), and now Pernetti (as in the Rutgers Athletic Director). Admittedly, all of the bad behavior of these men happened in big-time Division I athletics, but there are lessons to be learned for us, even from the big boys. There are lots of platitudes thrown around about participating in athletics: it builds character, teamwork, a healthy sense of competition. And, indeed, being an athlete can do all that. But today, intercollegiate athletics has been horribly corrupted and one is as likely to be exposed to bad characters and unethical behavior as you are to be taught all the good lessons of life. It’s up to our coaches and our athletes to be the standard bearers for all those good things. That will be my message Saturday night.

Lawrence M. Schall

President

Oglethorpe University

4484 Peachtree Road NE

Atlanta GA 30319

o. 404.364.8319

f. 404.364.8324

www.oglethorpe.edu

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-lawrence-m-schall/

Make a life. Make a living. Make a difference.

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7 Responses to Where did things go so wrong?

  1. Long time listener, first time caller:

    I think it’s also important to note how athletics interact with academics. I also can see that student athletes are usually building important qualities for the rest of their life (just as other students do it other ways) but sometimes they get a distorted view of how athletics and academics should interact. They should be learning a lesson on how to carefully schedule their life to complete all their obligations, make tough choices about what classes to take in a given semester, and the like. Many students do this and I’m happy to work with them – I would say that many of my best students learn these lessons well and that reflects well on them in my classes.

    A small minority of students assume that athletic obligations excuse completing academic work late and other accommodations that other students do not have. As faculty, I’m happy to work with any student athletes and am flexible as much as my schedule and sense of fairness allow but (again) a minority of students view it as the faculty’s job to schedule around their athletic schedule.

    I’m sure this sense of entitlement is worse and more common on Division I schools, where students are given full ride scholarships for their sports. Nothing (to me) conveys academics < athletics more than having your academic degree as a kind of prize for your athletics participation. At those schools, I'm surprised student athletes take academics as seriously as they do. I never was bothered for athletics at my Div I graduate school but, as I read all about the "P"s, what really oozes out is the sense of entitlement by the coaches and that cannot help but be passed on to the student athletes.

  2. Bill '64 says:

    Please carry that message forth, Larry. And, regarding the Rutgers coach, imagine what such untamed anger would lead to (off the court) if he carried a gun! (Maybe hes does?)

  3. Nancy says:

    And a fabulous message it will be. I’ll be your head cheerleader! RAH…;-)

  4. How refreshing!! Now if only you can get that all in 45 seconds!!!

  5. Paul Chen says:

    Larry, I am not clear on the reasoning behind: “the rule that no athletic scholarships can be awarded to any of our students.” I suppose, to be consistent with that, no scholarships for non-music majors to fill out a school’s orchestra, or for debate team members, etc., in which case all scholarships would be for academic merit or financial need. But if a school awards on any other basis other than those two, i.e. attract a student to participate in a particular extra-curricular activity, would not an athletic scholarship be just as appropriate? (I do concede that I know nothing about the thinking behind scholarships other than merit, need, and in Div. I, athletic!)

    • petrelwords says:

      Hi Paul, For the most part, ee do two kinds of scholarships, need-based and merit. The merit ones are academic in nature, not used to attract a students with a particular talent.

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