Runner's Web
Runner's Web Guest Column

August 16, 2000:
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This is the first what is hoped will be a regular feature on the Runner's Web - A Guest Column.
In a previous editorial, dealing with the issue of athletic scholarships, the Runner's Web made the following comments:

"This is the first step on the slippery slope to what has happened in the US. Instead of varsity sports being an extra-curricular activity for legitimate students who are at the university primarily to get an education, we are on the way to the semi-professional athlete who takes classes and "maintains" whatever academic standards he needs for the sole purpose of remaining eligible to play sports. The jocks at Canadian universities will soon have the power of a Bobby Knight."

The following rebuttal has been written by Ms. Stacey Chyz, a current member of the OAC Racing Team who is an active road racer. Stacey attended university in the United States on an athletic scholarship.
In response to the comments above regarding university athletic scholarships, I disagree with the author's assertion that varsity sports are not extra-curricular activities for legitimate students, but instead for semi-professional athletes who have no interest in obtaining a university degree. While I believe this is the case for certain men's sports especially such as basketball, football, and baseball, this is not the case for many other varsity non-money making sports (especially on the women's side) such as cross-country and track and field, and field hockey.

One only has to look at scholarship athletes such as Villanova's former distance running standout Neneh Lynch, who was awarded a Rhodes Scholarship to study at Oxford for her academic and athletic achievements, or a lesser known, but equally as outstanding Samantha Salvia, an academic and athletic All-American field hockey player from Old Dominion University who graduated with a 4.0 GPA and was the university's first Rhodes Scholar in 1996. Neither of these sports are particularly lucrative at the professional level, and clearly both of these women were true student-athletes. *(It should be noted that Old Dominion has one of the best field hockey programs in Division I of the NCAA and has won the National Field Hockey Championship title more times than any other team - a total of 8. Villanova is well known as one of the best US schools for distance running and has produced countless All-Americans as well as Olympians).

There are thousands of other athletes, men and women alike at universities across Canada and the United States who work hard both in and out of the classroom. Many of these student-athletes are truly there to get an education as well as to perform as best as they can in their chosen sport. It is a difficult job to be successful in the classroom as well as being a full-time athlete, and I think that athletic scholarships provide a wonderful opportunity for earning a degree as well competing at a high level. It should also be kept in mind that many athletes also hold down part-time jobs in addition to their academic and athletic commitments and they are not getting rich off of their scholarships - in fact, many athletes receive partial, as opposed to full scholarships.

For most athletes, university competition is as far as they will go, as only a small percentage actually make it to the professional level or the Olympics. In order to have high quality athletic programs, scholarships are necessary, just as they are necessary for attracting the best and brightest academic talent. Universities are about (or they should be about) developing the whole person, and athletics are one way to promote the well-rounded student ideal.

Finally, I would like to add that the author's comments represent only one side of the story. While there are many faults with an athletic scholarship system, there are also many benefits which I feel outweigh the negative aspects.

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