EDITORIAL: Keeping the ‘student’ in student-athlete

Every year, the drama of March Madness is accompanied by controversy over the academic practices of many of the schools that compete in the NCAA tournament. Recent proposals, including one endorsed by the Secretary of Education, would prohibit colleges with low athlete graduation rates from participating in post-season tournaments. According to a study by the  Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports, schools such as the University of California and the University of Maryland graduate fewer than 25 percent of their players, leading many to wonder whether their “student-athletes” are truly students at all.

Villanova, on the other hand, regularly receives high marks for the academic strength of our athletes. Villanova, along with fellow Big East schools Marquette and Notre Dame, graduated more than 90 percent of their male basketball players in recent years. 

There are many reasons why this is important and why Villanova should take pride in the scholastic success of its athletes. Villanova’s strong performance as one of the nation’s elite teams in recent years proves that success on the court and success in the classroom need not be mutually exclusive. Villanova has continued to attract top-quality athletes despite the more rigorous academic demands placed on them at Villanova. In fact, the high graduation rate of our players can work as a selling point to recruits and their families interested in securing a future outside of basketball. 

More important, though, is the moral obligation Villanova has to educate its student-athletes. Villanova’s athletics bring in millions of dollars in revenue and have uniquely raised the national profile of our school. No one can deny that the entire University community benefits from the success of our student-athletes.

Villanova owes it to its student-athletes to ensure that their time here at Villanova is a success, both athletically and academically. Academic support programs such as the specialized tutoring, mentoring programs and mandated study hours for each athlete go a long way in assisting them to manage their work load on top of their extracurricular responsibilites,which are among the most demanding on campus.  

It’s these programs, coupled with a solid commitment from coaches and administrators, that ensure our athletes are performing academically. Athletic Director Vince Nicastro has made academic performance a priority, and this emphasis is obvious from the exceptional success of our student-athletes. 

A rule prohibiting schools with poor graduation rates for its athletes to compete in postseason tournaments would not necessarily be effective in enhancing the academic integrity of college athletics. Such a rule would likely only result in schools lowering graduation standards and a further devaluing of the college experience. 

Nevertheless, the entire Villanova community should be proud of the continued academic success of its student-athletes, and coaches and administrators deserve praise for their commitment to academic excellence.