The definition and marketability of student-athletes has changed. In some cases, institutions are bringing in a substantial amount of money while the student-athlete gets minimal to no real benefits. Yes, tuition and other costs are paid for, but the value of the education is sometimes not up to par with the amount of money institutions make.
There have been cases where players who are modest assets to their teams at best get removed from the roster because incoming recruits take their scholarships. Then you have the curious case of top-flight players who get seriously injured and can’t contribute the way they were expected to. This case has played out at the University of Kentucky with the Wildcats’ star basketball player Nerlens Noel.
Noel tore his ACL in February, and his physical rehabilitation is going to be long and arduous. His injury may also cost him some of his physical gifts that made his possible future in the NBA very bright. That can cut deep into his future earning potential if he can’t regain his form.
That makes me cringe because these athletes expect to be able to grow as players and students but don’t always get the opportunity. These types of stories happen more often now that institutions are using one-year renewable scholarships, which are fundamentally opposed to the allure of scholarships.
Sadly, that is the way big-time collegiate sports work. They get the players for free, use them until they can’t anymore and make millions, sometimes billions, of dollars off them. The model is broken but fixing it looks bleak.
Players shouldn’t have to produce to unrealistic expectations to keep their means of paying for their education, which brings up another question: If players have to keep their stats up to keep scholarships, then why would they focus on their GPAs?