Op-Ed

Sports, with academics, strengthens leadership

At issue | June 21 column by professor Bill Moloney, "Stop the athletics arms race; Separate college sports from academics"

As an industrial research chemist, academic professor and government safety and health consultant over 45 years, my career goal was to inspire individuals to learn the principles of science and the scientific method that might lead to the development of leadership skills in our society.

This goal is similar to that of my learned colleague as stated in a recent column. The actions of a few college athletes and programs are apparently leading the whole athletics system down the road to "... mutually assured destruction," according to the column.

Athletics directors and coaches who are responsible for multimillion-dollar programs should receive salaries that are commensurate with job efforts put forth by mega-company CEOs.

Athletes are not paid per se. But many schools give athletes more than $150,000 in scholarship and room and board benefits for their four-year efforts.

One would hope athletes take advantage of the partner and leadership training they receive in sports to become society partners when they graduate.

What should be known about student athletic team participation?

■ Remember that less than 1 percent of college athletes make it as a professional. These programs are not "minor league havens" for the NFL or NBA. They are just places from which student athletes can make it into the professional leagues, if desired.

■ Few athletes linger around a 1.8 grade point average.

■ Two examples of excellent student-athlete performers in 2009: three-year graduates Jimmy Clausen (All-America Notre Dame football quarterback) and Patrick Patterson (University of Kentucky basketball forward). They are certainly not fluke, low-enders on the academic grade-point-system totem pole.

■ To imply that a higher percentage of athletes are involved in "...burglary, assault, robbery and rape" than non-athletes is a generality that begs for real numbers.

Athletes are societal beings whose behavior reflects general tendencies even under ESPN scrutiny. "Super school" Michigan graduate, Gerald Ford, All-American football center, would not appreciate such negative behavioral comparisons.

■ College sports fans ask for and pay to watch football on TV. Often fan and alumni ticket sales pay for entities as far-reaching as science laboratories, law school classrooms and endowment enhancement besides excellent athletics facilities.

To separate athletics from the academic classroom would lessen the partnership and leadership qualities that evolve from student participation in team sports.

Let us not fall into the pattern of blaming the questionable acts of a few athletic programs on all major participants.

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