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My Take - Football in the classroom

An awful lot of talk has been going around the Eagle Nation about the Georgia Southern football team, grade point averages, academic progress rates and just what, exactly, college football players are supposed to be accomplishing in the classroom.
    Why has it been such a hot topic?
    Well, let’s just say that the NCAA recently released the APR scores of its member institutions for the 2010 academic year, and the information has resulted in a great deal of public discourse.
    I probably would have ended up more privy to and involved in the conversation if I was more privy to and involved with social networking, but I’m not, so I guess that’s why some of you may think I’m a little late to the discussion.
    I’m not really trying to start a whole “thing” here, so I figured I’d just throw out my two cents on what it really means to be a “student-athlete.”
    Since the football team has been central to this particular discussion, and it is pretty apparent that football is central to GSU athletics anyway, please allow me to start this thing off by congratulating the football Eagles for achieving the highest collective GPA in program history last semester — 2.65.
    Not to get too personal, but that is actually awfully close to the GPA I finished with when I earned my BA.
    I’ll be the first to say that I should have done a lot better than that. I could have put a whole lot more work into my classes — especially the core classes — but the entirety of my extra-curricular college life consisted of, to put it succinctly, recreation.
    In other words, I wasn’t attending voluntary workouts, mandatory study halls, practices, film sessions, team meetings or community service functions when I was in college. I also wasn’t accountable to over 100 teammates working toward a common goal.
    If I did have all of those responsibilities, I can honestly say that I may not have had anything left in the tank when it came time to go to class.
    Should all of the players — even the ones who aren’t on scholarship, pay their own way through school and still have to meet the same requirements on the field as the rest of the team — be held to a higher standard?
    I would argue that they already are.
    They deal with all of the above-mentioned requirements, not to mention bed checks, scheduled meals, loss of time with family and friends and all of the other restrictions of freedom that come with representing a university on the football field.
    The fact of the matter is that the NCAA has academic minimums required to enroll at a school and play a sanctioned sport. If you don’t meet the NCAA’s requirements, you don’t play.
    Most schools, including Georgia Southern, have their own additional academic standards that go above and beyond what the NCAA requires. If you don’t meet the institution’s requirements, you don’t play.
    If you don’t show up to meetings and practices, show up for meals and bed checks, participate in community service and live up to a coaches’ standards while preforming all of those duties, you guessed it, you don’t play.
Believe me, I’m not trying to take away from students who participate in on-campus government, media, tutoring, theater, music, dance, debate, literature, culinary arts or any of the other disciplines available in college.
All I’m saying is that if football players excel in the classroom, it’s great for the school, and more importantly it will pay off personally for them in a big way at some point down the road.
    If they simply fulfill their requirements in the classroom while contributing to a GPA that is the best-ever in program history, and oh, I don’t know, say, go to the semifinals of the playoffs, I’d say they're still living up to quite a standard.
    Believe me, earning a 2.65 while living up to the demands of a college student-athlete is a lot more socially beneficial than learning how to be responsible, competent, skilled, disciplined and productive the hard way, in the real world after you graduate.

    Matt Yogus can be reached at (912) 489-9408.