Role of Faculty’s Influence on Athletics Creates Debate at Fordham

New Survey Examines the Relationship Between Academics and Athletics


Published: November 8, 2007

Faculty members and athletic department administrators from universities all across the country assembled in Washington, D.C., at the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics the week of Oct. 15 to discuss what role faculty should play in governing collegiate athletics.

Almost two-thirds of the professors who responded to the University of Michigan’s Center for the Study of Higher and Postsecondary Education’s survey felt that academics and sports in their school were governed separately, according to a report from the Knight Commission presented at the event. Faculty members and students at both Fordham College at Lincoln Center (FCLC) and Fordham College at Rose Hill (FCRH) expressed similar feelings on the issue.

Marleen Barr, a communication and media studies professor at FCLC, best summed up the general opinion of most Fordham professors: “I think athletics is not the job of the classroom teacher,” Barr said. “I do not care if someone can run across a football field; I care if the person is smart and can write.”

Larry Cerpas, FCLC ’09, feels that athletics and academics should remain separate. “Sports and academics are two different things,”  Cerpas said. “What kind of impact can faculty really have on college sports?  I feel that faculty can only really have an administrative role, at best.”

The survey findings, released in October, asked faculty members a broad range of questions about intercollegiate athletics, concerning topics such as awarding scholarships based on athletic ability, the amount of salaries paid to football and basketball coaches, the motivation of student athletes to finish their degrees and the academic standards for athletes.

Over 60 percent of the faculty members surveyed said that athletes were motivated to keep working toward their degree; these professors felt that student athletes want to have a backup plan in case their professional athletic careers do not work out.

“The purpose of college is primarily to give young men and women the tools to succeed in the professional world,” Dave De La Fuente, FCLC ’10, said. “Encouraging student athletes to hone their talents in football, track or another sport is important, but I feel that there should be a connection between the work ethic of an athlete and the work ethic of a student.”

Close to half of those surveyed felt that athletics exist solely for their marketing value, to bring in advertising dollars and television ratings and have little relevance to academic progress.

Eric Berger, FCLC ’09, believes that athletes are admitted to schools regardless of their academic credentials due to this type of marketability. “It is stupid to give some athlete who can hit a ball 30 grand, while I drown in loans because I have to work,” Berger said. “I didn’t have the time or money [in high school] to play on four teams at once.”

One-third of the professors who responded to the survey felt that academic standards have had to be lowered in order to admit the athletes necessary to create winning sports programs.

Roger Quiles, FCLC ’09, believes that this practice is unfair to students who attend college for reasons other than athletics. “I think it is a cheap way to get into a school,” Quiles said. “You should not get special privileges just because you are good at athletics.”