I’ll put this forth first: I am one of the most realistic sports fans you’ll ever meet. No blind faith here, just fandom in times both good and bad. As a Tampa Bay sports fan, it’s probably the best stance I could take 🙂

Along with that comes the ability to be critical of managerial and marketing decisions. Anyone who knew me during the Lightning’s nightmarish Oren Koules period is well aware of that. But the latest eyebrow raising from Tampa sports comes from this recent marketing campaign for USF Basketball:

Billboards with sayings such as “we major in home openers”, “I major in get that junk outta here”, and “I major in schooling you” send a mixed message. As an institution that speaks often of its graduation rate for student athletes and has a president who is an active member of both the Big East Conference and the NCAA, this sends a message that the school part doesn’t matter as much. That worries me.

The contemplation continued this morning when Beth Moriarty shared this article from the Chronicle: “End the Charade: Let Athletes Major in Sports.” There are elements of it that I agree with, and elements that really concern me. On the one hand, it allows a comprehensive education like many of us hope for- a way to incorporate education with something a student truly loves and understands. And if done thoughtfully, such an endeavor of marrying athletics and academics would allow for mutual support of each other’s work, a concept foreign to many institutions.

On the other hand, this to me smacks of creating a major by demand of consumers, but not the market. Just as it feels disingenuous and excessive to create for-profit programs of study in crime scene investigation based on interest in similar TV shows, does it make sense to create an academic curriculum that could flood the market with a slew of athletics majors, a market that is far smaller than the demand of students to fill it? Granted, not all students would choose this major- for some do truly see it as a means to supplement an unrelated education- but many likely would. And moreover, would those majors ultimately end up with greater support and disproportionate resources, just as athletics programs occasionally do in relation to academic pursuits?

This raises many more questions than it provides answers, and I’m sure they will be addressed in time. But what do you think? Should athletics be a major? How would you like to see it structured?

One thought on “USF’s Latest Marketing Campaign, and A Proposal for "Pre-Professional Athletics"

  1. First of all, I wasn't aware of that marketing campaign by our dear alma mater, but I hate it.Regarding majoring in athletics, this is what jumped off the page to me from the Chronicle article:"Why not legitimize such an academic specialty in the same manner that other professional performance careers, such as dance, voice, theater, and music, are recognized and supported? [..] Why not establish a well-planned, defensible, educationally sound curriculum that correlates with a career at the elite level of sports?"First, my obligatory kneejerk shudder, as a vocalist, at the suggestion that "voice" and "music" are separate disciplines. That said, having minored in one of the areas with which he wishes to make an analogy, I want to dig deeper. Programs in each of the disciplines listed above require an audition. Auditions take place largely to ensure that applicants enter college with a skillset that could lead to success. Will sports performance majors "audition"? If so, is making the team the threshold, or does it lie higher, since the threshold for gainful employment is higher?Beyond admission, there's the coursework. Parallels can be made between music theory, ear training, and performance classes and learning schemes/offensive/defensive philosophy, film study and practice/games, respectively. But if the ins and outs of playing on a sports team become credit-bearing courses, what of the students who choose not to major in sports performance and now have an overwhelming courseload? To suggest that the performance majors engage in analogous coursework outside of their team duties is disingenuous; I don't see the "professors" (read: coaches) engaging in that way.Despite the shortcomings, I'm actually for this, with proper attention paid to it. I especially like the inclusion of classes that prepare them for the off-the-field piece of professional life, and frankly, they'd make a great capstone for pre-NFL and NBA students regardless of discipline. Still, it's worth noting that a student-athlete is just as likely to be disinterested with this field of study as any other.

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