The term “student-athlete” implies dual responsibilities: the individual is committed to both education and athletic prowess. At the university level, it is imperative that the former not be sacrificed for the latter. According to NCAA figures, UC Berkeley had an impressive 81 percent graduation success rate for student-athletes as of October 2010. Although this is encouraging, there is still room for improvement.
According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, the NCAA will seek stricter academic policies for current and prospective athletes as early as its October meeting. Pushing for higher academic standards is never bad, but new rules must strike a balance between individual accountability and team responsibility.
Using graduation rates as the determining factor for whether or not a team gets to participate in a national championship or tournament could harm future players, many who had nothing to do with the poor academic performance of past teams. But using the graduation rate of a team also has positive effects, such as fostering an environment that encourages studying and educational performance. Finding a better percentage to mark the punishment cutoff will prove difficult for the NCAA, but it is worth the cost since fairness and academic standards are at stake.
The NCAA must also focus on enforcing rules that are already in place. Many of the scandals that come to light only do so years after the players involved have moved on, and thus the punishments are given to individuals and teams that may not have had anything to do with the violations. A more thorough job regulating conferences and teams will reinforce the existing rules and legitimize any reforms the NCAA institutes.
But moving forward, changes to the NCAA’s regulations should continue to be made swiftly and openly. A transparent process that simplifies the rules will make it easier for teams to adhere to established guidelines, and will make the entire student-athlete body more accountable in the classroom.
Academic restrictions are important to maintain the value of a college education across the board. Student-athletes at UC Berkeley understand this, and with proper implementation and enforcement of NCAA regulations, athletes will reach their potential not only on the field, but in the classroom as well.