Athletics vs. academics

Filed under OPINION

DR. WILLIE J. KIMMONS
GUEST COLUMNIST

A majority of the biggest, most athletic and talented football players do not attend small colleges today.  On Sunday, Sept. 22, the sports section of the Daytona Beach News Journal listed the scores of college football games.  I noticed a huge disparity in school size, budget size, athletic facilities and overall talent of the football players from several colleges. Is it fair to expect small colleges to compete with colleges that have three to four times the resources to participate in football at the highest competitive level?

It is almost impossible to do this in the sport of football and be effective and consistent.

Basketball, tennis, softball, baseball, golf, cross country, swimming and other sports are different and require more finesse and individual talent than mere brute strength talent.

As one that played football and basketball from high school through college, I know the training, reaction time, and preparation for football is totally different than any other sport.

History has proven this in the past when small college athletes competed extremely well and sometimes defeating large colleges in basketball, track and field, cross country, bowling, swimming, tennis, baseball, softball, golf and other sports, but not football.

Big losses
Therefore, why have Bethune-Cookman play Florida State to lose by 54 to 6?  Florida International played Louisville and lost 72-0; Florida A&M lost to Ohio State 76-0; Louisiana-Monroe lost to Baylor 70-7; Savannah State lost to Miami 77-7.

In most cases, the large colleges took their first string players out of the game by the third quarter of the football game to prevent the scores from being even greater.  I know that athletic directors and football coaches at these small educational institutions would probably defend their position by saying that these games give their college great visibility and an opportunity to make some money.  The question I ask, as a former student athlete in football, is, “Does the visibility and a little money (and I know it is a very small amount of money) outweigh the tremendous amount of physical and mental injuries that the football players at these small colleges endure – let alone the humiliation and embarrassment?”

Negative impact
I assure you the negative impact outweighs the positive impact this has on the players.  Many, many football players have been injured for life and/or had their career ended in these lopsided games.  In addition, it negatively impacts the small college football players’ preparation for the next week’s game because of the mounting injuries and lowered morale.

Can you imagine lining up in front of a football player that is 50 to 80 pounds heavier than you, 3 to 6 or more inches taller, who was trained with the most current equipment, facilities and coaching staff?

Athletics are supposed to be competitive. To me, this is not competition.  I recommend that these small colleges continue to compete on their competitive level.  When I participated in football in the fifties and sixties, Blacks were not welcomed in many White colleges to participate in broad base level sports.

I was an outstanding student athlete in football and basketball (All-Memphis and All-State selections for three years), earning seven athletic scholarships, four in football and three in basketball, all from small Black colleges.  Black athletes weren’t allowed to attend the local large White Memphis State University.

Pseudo-integration
Since the advent of so-called “pseudo-integration” in the ’60s and the tremendous need to win and make money, large White institutions of higher education are now actively recruiting the biggest and most talented Black football players at an alarming rate.

In my opinion, the main reason the Black football players attend the large, White institutions is to get more visibility and to enhance their chances of pursuing a professional football career.

It is very, very difficult for small institutions of higher education, especially Black colleges, to successfully recruit many of these talented Black football players because they simply don’t have the resources to do so and compete.

In the ’50s and ’60s, the best Black football players mostly had to attend a Black college.

Today, if a football player has some God-given talent, he can still go to the professional ranks and be successful even from a small, Black college.  It was done in the past.

Home field advantage
The vast majority of small colleges, especially Black colleges, cannot afford football.  The athletic programs at these small educational institutions, in many cases, aren’t cost effective and self-sufficient.  Many Black colleges and universities, today, do not have their own football stadium.

Therefore, when Black football players from small Black colleges play football at large, White colleges and universities, they have to travel hundreds and hundreds of miles to the White universities’ fields, which means they give up home field advantage.

As a former student athlete, and former college president, I say to the administrations at these small colleges, take heed and do what’s in the best interest of the small college football players.

There is more life to live beyond football.

We sometimes put too much emphasis on athletics and not enough on academics and preparing our young people for real life.

Dr. Willie J. Kimmons is an educational consultant motivational speaker, author, former classroom teacher, superintendent of schools, college professor, president and chancellor.

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