UCLA quarterback, Josh Rosen, has stirred up controversy in the past few days after saying that “Football and school don’t go together.” While many have criticized Rosen’s comments, some have defended him. This headline seems to have been taken out of the intended context of Rosen’s entire conversation. Rosen was not saying that it’s impossible to go to school and play Division I football, but rather that you can’t get the most out of both at the same time. Yes, it’s possible to be great at both, but you can’t put 100% effort into academics and athletics.
While I personally don’t play Division I football, I am a student-athlete myself, so I completely understand where he is coming from. Division I football players (especially those like Rosen who are almost guaranteed to be drafted), will put as much effort as possible into football to ensure they are drafted and rightly so. However, at school like UCLA, many football players are undoubtedly missing out on the many academic benefits that the institution provides. These schools brought these kids to their university for one reason, to play football. Therefore, it’s not uncommon to see these student-athletes placed into majors and classes that are easier than others. Furthermore, these students are probably just passing with C’s and not learning anything. The school wants to make sure they are still academically eligible to play football so it wouldn’t be uncommon for them to be automatically passed through all their classes.
This issue is especially significant for the players who either won’t make the NFL or don’t last many years in the league. When they come out of school or the NFL, they have nothing to fall back on. These student-athletes put all their effort into athletics and didn’t end up learning much from their classes. They may have physically received their degree, but knowledge-wise, they didn’t. For this reason, their degree may not mean as much as those of regular students.
As for solving this issue, there isn’t a simple solution. No matter what anyone says, Division I players are at school to play their sport. There simply isn’t enough time in the day to fit in practice, study time, and a decent amount of sleep. Elite high school players who are super talented 99% of the time haven’t developed enough physically to play in the NFL. They need at least a few years in college to gain weight so they can compete with the size of the NFL players. If this issue exists at a high-leveled academic school like UCLA, this problem is surely worse at lower-leveled academic schools like Alabama. A possible solution could be to create a program specific to student-athletes in which they can learn and study at a pace that is appropriate for their schedule. They could take fewer core classes than regular students a really specialize in a specific subject. The tradeoff would be that their degree isn’t as valuable as a regular student, but at least they will be experts in a particular subject. Obviously, this solution has many flaws, but no perfect solution exists.
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