What about the college non-athletes?

ESPN, the sports channel, a couple years ago paid homage to the multitude of high school seniors picking their colleges to play football. Time was spent beyond my imagination to determine the top 300 prospects. When some were identified, they donned the hats of their intended choices. Parents and friends embraced.

Before I proceed, there is no question that I’m a sports fan. I’ve been that way my entire life. I have my favorites, specifically in major sports. As for college, while the games are exciting, I’m inclined not to watch much college sports. I’ve been influenced by a sore subject that I want to speak about — that is, academics and entitlement.

A newspaper article printed years ago was telling. It provided the reader with statistics (sports fans love statistics) on the graduation rates of major successful college’s sports teams. Some were surprisingly high, but most were below 50 percent. There’s a vocal school of opinionated sports fans who take a steadfast position on this matter. They believe that when major sports allowed underclassmen, even high school graduates, to make the jump to professional sports, the game, therefore, changed. Naturally, another segment of the population believes that the current process is wholesome and needs to be maintained.

One current professional basketball player I’ve followed has my utmost respect. Tim Duncan, a former basketball player for the San Antonio Spurs, committed to completing his college degree at Wake Forest University while refusing opportunities to be drafted in earlier college years. The pride he exemplified by completing college is a radiant example for budding high school and college players. A new question arises … how many high school and college athletes actually make the grade at sports’ highest level? Probably 0.1 percent. Making it is the ultimate dream for so many talented athletes. Yet, the reality of the publicity and huge pay check is exclusively set for only the elite. The rest do what? Another well-respected athlete, now retired and writing books, is Kareem Abdul Jabbar. He completed high school with a B+ average and completed college at U.C.L.A. While in the category of the elite, he has pursued life after sports by utilizing the power of his academic prowess. What’s the powerful message here?

I wonder how many of the aforementioned 300 chosen ones will complete college. I wonder how many will take courses that will help define life with or without sports. Yes, clearly athletics draw major revenue to the university coffers. And yes, it’s great to dream. How many dream of a career beyond athletics? How many achieve greatness and success measured in the classroom? Major professional sports athletes generally peak in their 30s. Then what? I really wonder how true to the importance of academic achievement are the coaches and athletic department heads. What attracts those 300 students and more we’ve not heard about to a particular college?

Yes, I enjoy sports and I really enjoy knowing that college is for academics first and foremost. Oh, one more thought: Students who aren’t athletes yet perform well enough academically to attend college either on scholarship, grants or private pays deserve equal notoriety to the aforementioned 300. Maybe I can support my children and your children who complete college and find good jobs. Everyone, no matter race, color, religion or sexual orientation deserves the same entitlements that talented athletes receive. Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.

Marshall Greenstein, a Cassadaga resident, holds a master’s degree in marriage and family counseling and is a licensed marriage and family counselor and a licensed mental health counselor in New York state. He has regular office hours at Hutton and Greenstein Counseling Services, 501 E. Third St., Suite 2B, Jamestown, 484-7756. For more information or to suggest topics, email editorial@observertoday.com.