Why Competitive Athletics Belongs In Higher Education

It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of competitive athletics. But I think I have never explained why I think it should be part of the educational process. We all know how it has been abused by some universities. The recent scandals at UNC where high profile athletes were allowed to take basically no show courses, and remain eligible, is only one example. The influence of professionalism in many of the sports that generate huge sums of money for the “revenue” sports of football and basketball has caused distortions in the good that competitive athletics can do.

I am a big fan of the Patriot League, who has managed to keep everything in perspective. Looking at our own athletes, who graduate with degrees in economics, chemistry, and engineering along with a plethora of other legitimate rigorous offerings, is a source of pride for many alumni. I do get annoyed from time to time with a minority of those in the academe who berate and diminish the contributions of our athletes and the rigor and discipline they demonstrate during their four years.


I was amused during the period when Lafayette was considering joining the rest of league in offering athletic scholarships. Members of the joint committee that studied the issue were astonished ,that all things being equal, athletes received higher starting salaries than other graduates at the end of four years. I must say when I was hiring, I was much more impressed with the athlete’s 3.5 GPA than a person who spent four year planted at a desk in the library to get the same 3.5.

Athletes at Lafayette have over a 90 percent graduation rate, their GPA average is higher than the general student population , and they perform on the field. But there is even a better reason for its inclusion in the education process. It is an anchor to the real world. There is always a score that you can’t walk away from. I look at the academe today and there seems to be a sort of an Orwellian shift. Students are demanding a fundamental rethink of their education.

There is a demand by English majors at Yale to abolish classes that feature white male poets. So Chauser, Spencer, Shakespere,Milton, Pope and T.S. Eliot would be purged. At many colleges and universities some students feel they don’t like to have  to spend time with people that are not like them. Demands for segregated “safe” places are popping up all over the country. At Oberlin College, Asian students complained the General Tso’s chicken was not up to real asian standards. This is the same college where students believe no one should get less than a “C.”


At Johns Hopkins, administrators do not count first semester freshman grades. Low and behold, it discouraged new students from studying as hard as they should….duh. It  is now being phased out.

The athletic field is different. No one really cares about your background, just what you bring to the game. If you don’t do well in your studies you can’t play…. period and you have let down your teammates. Athletes have accepted a harder path and they get more out of it in the end. It is for that reason, I am proud to support our Lafayette College field hockey team…..because they earn it. The members of the team were chosen  because they are the type that have the potential to succeed.  Those new recruits who arrive this fall begin a journey filled with obstacles, but that’s just the point……isn’t it??




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William Rappolt

I am past chairman of the Lafayette Friends of Field Hockey and a former BOT member at Lafayette College. My wife and I are members of the Board of Trustees for USA Field Hockey Foundation. I am currently Chairman of that Board. I am the retired treasurer of M and T Bank Corporation and a 30 year fan of Division one field hockey

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