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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    College athletes who finish their degrees are those that should be idolized

    Athletes are celebrities, and as a society, we hold them to a different standard than other people.

    But what doesn’t make the headlines is much more interesting to me than what does.

    The headlines are always about the same things: some team makes the playoffs, a player gets an extra $5 million on his contract or some athlete gets caught with a hooker in a hotel room
    .
    I wouldn’t read any of those stories. There’s nothing new there.

    Two NFL players returned to school and graduated with their bachelor’s degree.

    I’d read that. It’s different, unexpected and definitely not what’s on the front of the sports section.

    Former Arizona wide receiver Mike Thomas received an $18 million three-year contract extension from the Jacksonville Jaguars last week that takes him through the 2015 season, according to the Tucson Citizen. Great, football player makes millions.

    But what’s “new” with Mike Thomas is that he continued school after being drafted and graduated this past May with his bachelor’s degree.

    Now that’s a story.

    Baseball, men’s basketball and football teams have the worst graduation rates at the UA. I can’t blame them for leaving to go to the pros. What college can counter offer $18 million? Not a single one.

    But the real heroes, the ones I’d look up to, are the players who make the time to finish what they started.

    Miles Simon, Damon Stoudamire, Clarence Farmer and Robert Waldrop all graduated, and helped get their teams to improve their graduation rates by returning to school. But only by costing them graduation points with NCAA in the first place.

    Sometimes if a player knows that they’re going to be drafted, they might slack off, not go to classes and their GPA drops below a 2.0. Those are the ones who cost the team points and they leave in bad standing with the university.

    But they still have the opportunity to come back to school and finish their degree.

    “You would hope they have that sense of loyalty too, just their own personal commitment to own goals,” said Mike Meade, CATS Academics director. “Ultimately, it’ll be (the) student’s decision.”

    Some make the argument that professional athletes should get their degree in case they get injured.

    With a multimillion dollar signing bonus, as long as they make it past the first year, I don’t see why they need to.

    But, that’s what makes it all the more impressive and meaningful if they do.

    The most recent example is Derrick Williams.

    “Derrick Williams is in a different situation because of the lockout,” Meade said. “With his summer school classes, he may have decided to do it anyway. If the lockout hadn’t been in effect, he may not have been able to have time to do it.”

    Derrick Williams promised his mother that he would get his college degree and this summer returned to classes to get one step closer to that dream.

    He didn’t slack off, or ditch, his last semester. He worked hard, left in good standing, and came back.

    That’s a headline story.

    That’s what we should be teaching our children to idolize.

    The NBA rule for playing at least one year in college, and NFL’s for at least three years, are great rules. But there isn’t enough emphasis on those who actually graduate. College shouldn’t be some sort of limitation that players have to suffer through, and if they graduate, it should be important to fans.

    — Michelle A. Monroe is a journalism senior. She can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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