Athlete Favoritism 101: A+ For Everyone!

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From the time I understood the concept of “sports” I understood that the athletes who participated in such activities were loved and respected. They showed up on the fronts of my cereal boxes, on TV, and some even made the somewhat ungraceful transition into film.

Maudit animated GIF

As I grew older, entering high school and then college, I came to realize that student athletes were not only loved and respected, but given special treatment. They could miss class, skip tests, and all around give half the effort a normal student would have because they had to stay focused on whichever sport they happened to excel in.

I did not have a stereotypical “American” upbringing in which sports reigned supreme. My father taught music and my mother taught dance, and so I grew up with a healthy passion for the arts. My sister and I went to “rival” state schools, but since we didn’t choose those schools because of their football teams, that rivalry didn’t matter. I became a little bitter toward those athletes who had it all while art classes were cut, and dancers or drama students who had rehearsals late into the night were still expected to perform academically. To me, that didn’t seem fair. Besides, doing a triple pirouette en pointe takes way more skill than running down a football field right?

"oh you play football? that's cute"

Obviously, the slightly biased opinions I held toward sports as a student are not completely factual. The various performance and visual arts require different skills than those of various sports, and so it is impossible to compare the talents of a soccer player to the talents of a ballerina. However, it is true that athlete favoritism exists in academic institutions.

Just this week, the University of North Carolina has come under fire for its preferential treatment of student athletes. UNC is a well-respected university, lauded for both its academic superiority as well as its exceptional sports programs. Recently, the school had defense attorney Kenneth Wainstein perform an internal investigation on some discrepancies in its former Afro and African-American Studies department. What did he find? For the last 18 years the department has been enrolling athletic students in freebie “paper” — or non-existent — classes to keep them on the field.

Eighteen years.

Obviously, these classes were only meant as grade boosters to maintain the athletes’ eligibility. For your viewing pleasure, here is the only required paper from one of those courses, which received an A- :

The text says:

On the evening of December Rosa Parks decided that she was going to sit in the white people section on the bus in Montgomery, Alabama. During this time blacks had to give up there seats to whites when more whites got on the bus. Rosa parks refused to give up her seat. Her and the bus driver began to talk and the conversation went like this. “Let me have those front seats” said the driver. She didn’t get up and told the driver that she was tired of giving her seat to white people. “I’m going to have you arrested,” said the driver. “You may do that,” Rosa Parks responded. Two white policemen came in and Rosa Parks asked them “why do you all push us around?” The police officer replied and said “I don’t know, but the law is the law and you’re under arrest.

Gripping stuff.

After the truth behind the fake classes was revealed, UNC fired the faculty members responsible for starting and “teaching” those classes. The student newspaper, though, the Daily Tarheel, revealed that the fraud went much further, saying the report “found clear evidence that academic counselors from the football, men’s basketball and women’s basketball teams asked for players to be enrolled in bogus independent study classes in order for them to be eligible.” That answers the question of how no one in the last 18 years noticed that the classes weren’t actually meeting — the athletic chairs and faculty members already knew!

This scandal is just one example of athletic favoritism, which has existed since colleges first started athletic programs. Apparently, football is so important to some people that they will break school policies — and sometimes laws — to keep their athletes playing. It is just insane. In most schools, if a student who is involved in a non-athletic club or activity fails a semester, they give up that club or activity until their grades are better. Several on-campus organizations require a minimum GPA for membership. Athletics should be the same way. If an athlete cannot perform well in school, they should not be permitted to play. End of story.

Morgan McMurray (@mcflurrybatman) is a freelance copywriter and blogger based in Savannah, Georgia. She spends her time writing, reading, and attempting to dance gracefully. She has also been known to binge-watch Netflix while knitting scarves.

Featured image courtesy of [Hector Alejandro via Flickr]

Morgan McMurray
Morgan McMurray is an editor and gender equality blogger based in Seattle, Washington. A 2013 graduate of Iowa State University, she has a Bachelor of Arts in English, Journalism, and International Studies. She spends her free time writing, reading, teaching dance classes, and binge-watching Netflix. Contact Morgan at



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