NEWS, NOTES &
The Bradsher Beat
Wednesday, August 1, 2012
By Bethany Bradsher
Holland raises alarm about
|East Carolina AD
Terry Holland, pictured at a baseball game
last season, advocates reigning in the
excesses in college sports and lessening the
non-academic burdens placed on
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It’s the dream of thousands of young
athletes, the kids pouring endless hours into travel ball and private
instructors and going to great lengths to catch the eye of college
recruiters. For many young people and their parents, there is no greater
goal than becoming an NCAA Division I student-athlete.
But as a parent of kids who love sports, I
have been thinking differently about that big dream lately. The question
nags me a bit: Are kids who win that coveted college scholarship actually
robbing themselves of the best parts of the collegiate experience?
Early this month Sports Illustrated ran an
intriguing article about social activism among student-athletes. The piece
explored the history of athletes as campus or political activists and noted
that such bold stands are increasingly rare, possibly because
student-athletes keep such a regimented schedule that they are unable to
really connect with their university community or its causes.
In the story,
University of Virginia Political and Social Thought professor Michael Smith
says, “We're selling these kids a bad deal. They're doing a job here —
full-time athletics. To pretend otherwise is to engage in denial. They're on
an island within a university. A subset of the staff is paid highly to get
them through, but it's not about engaging their minds with the outside
world. They lead a regimented life, no time to loaf, to think, to read a
book. It's a precious four years of a human life when you acquire the habit
of inquiry, when you acquire your intellectual capital. We have to ask
ourselves, why do we do this? To fill the endless demand for cable TV
programming? Are athletes really in college or in some quasi-factory? We've
To be sure,
Smith might be overstating the problem, but he raises an interesting point
that shouldn’t be far from any athletic administrator’s mind. It’s a
perspective that illuminates the issues in the academic integrity
controversy at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where a
recent report found issues of fraud and poor oversight in the Department of
African and Afro-American Studies.
With the heat
on the university two hours west, East Carolina conducted a study of its own
to make sure Pirate student athletes weren’t being treated differently than
their non-athlete counterparts in the classroom. The study, which was
released two weeks ago, found no cases of academic fraud or lowered
standards on the ECU campus.
which is being supported by the work of a 12-member committee of ECU
professors, is good news for alumni and students of East Carolina, whether
they are athletes or not. But the broader question is whether
student-athletes have the opportunity for a rich university experience, and
in both the academic and social arenas Pirate student-athletes have no
better advocate than ECU athletic director Terry Holland.
spent more than 50 years on college campuses as an athlete, coach or
administrator, and he is uniquely positioned not only to comment on the
excesses of this era but also to push for change. He is quick to say that
his ideas on how to fix what’s broken in college sports don’t come from him
alone, but from others who share his experience and concern.
reform, as Holland sees it, is to require every student-athlete to spend a
year in residence at their college before they start competition. Such a
move would undoubtedly raise the ire of coaches who want to use talented
young recruits right away, but Holland believes that it would give students
an invaluable on-ramp to the school that will shape them in so many ways.
“Give them a
full year without the pressure of traveling to far off places to “perform”
for their university,” Holland said. “This would allow athletes to learn
about the academic, social, and other opportunities available at that
institution that could change their lives forever, particularly since such a
small number can count on athletics providing a living — much less providing
the ability to make a difference in the world.”
quick to condemn the “dollar culture” that has made student-athletes cogs in
an elaborate profit-making machine. The freshman year of ineligibility would
help put athletics in their proper place by ensuring that students find
their academic footing before introducing practices, conditioning, film
study and travel to away games.
platform of Holland’s is those taxing road trips; he advocates eliminating
or greatly restricting games and tournaments that would require
student-athletes to miss class. When coaches and athletic directors schedule
long trips that eat into class time, they send a mixed message, he said.
Holland is not alone in his views, but his voice of reason does seem to be
drowned out by the hype of big-time college athletics at times. At East
Carolina, we are fortunate that he has brought his wisdom and honesty to his
position at the helm of the athletic department. Anyone with a young athlete
who still holds up that big dream should hope against hope that his voice is
heard and heeded.
frank: “Hopefully, we can all come to our senses before we follow the
dollars to disaster,” he said. "The signs are all around us — the
embarrassing agony of the various rules violations and the lack of common
sense in decision making by otherwise intelligent and caring individuals are
“We have lost
our way while following false prophets. If we do not make our young people
our number one priority, then our nation will fail and eventually fall.
Given the popularity of athletics today, universities have been handed a
golden opportunity to show leadership and common sense — if they fail to
take advantage of this opportunity then we will all be the worse for their
cowardly decision to allow the world to lead them, instead of vice-versa.”
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08/01/2012 03:09 AM