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Recently, disturbing revelations about a number of college athletics programs have shocked the nation. Allegations of fake courses at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, abusive coaching at Rutgers, sexual abuse at Penn State, a multi-million dollar pyramid scheme at the University of Miami, and transcript fraud at a New York community college to help athletes get into Florida State, among others, have rocked the college sports world. Add to that lawsuits by athletes over mismanaged or ignored concussions and a growing call to view them as employees deserving of pay rather than as students, and it’s no wonder we are seeing a flood of articles, discussions, and opinion pieces that question whether sports should even be a part of the college experience.
Such a response is totally understandable. Clearly, discussions need to be held, actions taken, and abuses ended. Universities must be held accountable for educating all of our students, not the least our student-athletes … students first, athletes second. We cannot allow the prestige and money that follow top-tier college sports programs to blind us to our overriding purpose: preparing our students to be successful adults and to become the thoughtful, learned, and productive citizens our communities, states, and nation need.