From Ed O'Bannon on athletes and education

Had to go get a new tire put on my car this afternoon (screw in the sidewall, which may also describe me from time to time), and was reading the post-Super Bowl issue of Sports Illustrated in the waiting room. It had a quote from Ed O’Bannon’s new book on the demands of playing a sport in college. I don’t have the exact quote, but here’s the crux of what he said:

Yeah, college players get a free education. But how much of an education is it? You’re at the mercy of your schedule. Or your coach’s schedule. Say there’s a class you really want to take but it’s only Monday-Wednesday-Friday at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday is usually a game day (sometimes out of town) and you have practice on Monday and Friday at 3. You can’t take that course. Even worse if that 3:30 p.m. class is one you absolutely have to have for your degree. A basketball player is pretty much screwed, since hoops is a two-semester sport; you can’t wait to take it in the fall because you have practice and games then too. So that education takes a back seat to the demands of being an athlete.

I remember something similar from my time at UA. I started out as an architecture major. So did Robert Farrell, our WR from Little Rock Central at the time, whose dad was an architect. But architecture at the time (maybe still is) was built around a design class that met from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. every weekday. Farrell had to be at practice every afternoon. So did I, as a Sports Information employee. Rick Schaeffer told me flat out I would have had to give up my job if I couldn’t be at practice on at least most days. I eventually changed majors, but not because of that; I just decided I didn’t want to be an architect enough to go through that. Farrell changed majors as well to get his afternoons free. So the demands of the sport ended up changing Robert Farrell’s education and thus his career path (he’s doing OK; he’s CEO of a Fayetteville packaging company).

O’Bannon, of course, is the former UCLA basketball star (on their ‘95 NC team that beat us in the NCG) who filed the lawsuit about college athletes’ likenesses and images that led to the end of the EA Sports college game series. He currently works selling cars at a Las Vegas dealership; not exactly a job requiring advanced education.

I think most professors will work with you. There were several players in my MWF morning class, who could not always attend the friday classes due to travel for away games. The teacher would usually let them take the tests the following week if I recall correctly. I really don’t think people like O’bannon can make claims like these when you see college football and future NFL players graduating with degrees such as engineering, finance, and economics, all of which are not easy majors. There are even several players who finish MBA’s and other master degrees while playing division 1 football.

Don’t forget there’s also these things called online classes I know several of us did not have the luxury of. Not all classes are offered but quite a bit are and more are every year. Bigger schools also have the luxury of more class offerings, compared to a smaller school that may only have 2 sessions or 1 for a particular class, that makes it pretty cut throat. A good advisor will have them on the right track.

My son played a sport as a Biology major and had no problems graduating in four years.

The gist of O’Bannon’s comments are absolutely true. Professors are not required to “work with” student atheletes’ schedule at many schools and, consequently, many do not. This is understandable in some ways as some sports require an abnormally high number of absences requiring the professor to potentially re-teach material inordinately often.

Therefore, student athletes do frequently schedule courses - and choose degrees - based around their sport of choice.

A couple years ago I had a conversation with a football player from an Arkansas D1 university. I asked him how many weeks per year he was off from football. The answer: 2 weeks. He had 2 weeks every year where there were no football obligations.

Most of us can not fathom how much time these students spend on athletics. This does affect their academics.

School is supposed to be hard and time consuming.

Yes and no (and this shows you it isn’t just and issue for athletes). My son is graduating in May with a degree in Engineering. His Freshman year he was in the band (got a scholarship, it wasn’t much money but it helped). The Engineering Department pretty much told him from day one that after his Freshman year, he wasn’t going to be able to do band and stay in Engineering. When he was working on his schedule for his Sophomore year, there was a conflict between a mandatory Engineering class and band practice. Neither the band director nor the Engineering department would compromise. He dropped out of band. Now might there have been a different answer if he was 6-3, 190 pounds, ran a 4.3 40 and had great hands to catch a ball, instead of being a trumpet player? Maybe. :slight_smile:

MBA is probably a poor comparison. When Robert Farrell changed majors back when, he changed to business, because it was easiest to work that class schedule around his football duties. While MBA is harder than an undergraduate business degree, the scheduling issues are about the same.

I doubt you’re going to see any football or basketball players majoring in pre-med or any lab sciences anytime soon, because the required labs tend to be in the afternoon.

Some schools will work with athletes more on that, in that athletes are allowed to be late for or miss practice entirely to attend a required class or lab. Stanford is known for doing that. I would expect that Duke, Northwestern, places like that would do the same. But the priorities are a little different at a school like Arkansas. We’ll know a coach at Arkansas is paying more than lip service to academics when they let an offensive lineman show up late for practice on Tuesday because he was in A&P lab for his pre-med major.

But there have been players at power 5 schools who have majored in pre med

Brooks Ellis?

But remember that unlike others in his family, Jake Bequette couldn’t work on his law degree in his fourth year at Arkansas. The requirements had changed. He would have been required to devote more time to his law degree than had been the requirement in the past. I can’t remember all of the details, but things have changed.

When his Uncle Chris was in law school (with me), the law school had to let him do a few things different than the rest us, but it wasn’t a lot. The biggest thing I remember was he missed a week long class that actually started a week before law school started (so it would have been during 2 a days). Seems like we went most of the day for 5 days. It was kind of a class to just prepare you for how to study for law school. I think we all got one credit hour for it. If I remember correctly Chris told me in our 3rd year that he had to find an extra class to take or he was going to be an hour short to graduate! I don’t know what changed by the time Jake came through.

I know he was in all the rest of our classes our first year. (My last name started with a C and his with a B so we had almost all our classes together!)

The only thing else I can remember the school having to do for Chris was one year we played Hawaii the last game of the season. The team stayed for a few extra days after the game. Chris insisted on coming back right after the game to not miss class (finals??? Can’t remember). They didn’t like to spend the money to fly him back early, but they did.

The most amazing thing (to me) about Chris was that while playing football he graduated college in 3 years, then went to law school for 2 years while still playing (redshirting his first year). Law school was hard. Doing it while playing major college football??? Wow, just wow.