I admitt a more than a passing interest to collge football. After the Penn State scandal, I’ve found my interest waning over the sport. I still occasionally read on-line articles about the University of Tennessee Volunteers. Earlier this week, a freshman wide receiver, DeAnthony Arnett, asked for an unconditional release from his scholarship to return to a school closer to home due to his father’s illness. I don’t know the ins and outs but the comment section of the News Sentiel is lighting up on both sides of the argument. Arnett went public with an open letter stating his reasons for wanting an unconditional release. The letter states in part:
“My mom is in a finacial bond my father was forced to retire from his job at General Motors because of a Lung Diseas on Disability, so I started recieving social security checks for a monthly payment of 1100 a month. I was 14 years old when most of this occured so I was un able to recieve my own check until I turned 18 years old so she always controlled my money and she used that as part of her income. When I turned 18 years old the checks came in my name but my mom and I always shared the funds with her. When June came upon my graduation I recieved a letter from the social security adminstration that my checks would be cut when I graduated so a 1100$ of income was taken from my mother household. She only attended one game this past season.
As this season went on I never was use to my parents not being at my games so it made the season a little harder for me but I still competed hard in my classes as my transcript grades from last semester were three B’s and C and I appeared in all 12 games as a true freshman this season working hard every weak to earn my playing time.”
UT is not the best school in Tennessee: the main campus is probably the 4th best in the state (private and public). How did Arnett manage the grades he did? Better question: how did Arnett graduate from junior high, let alone high school? How did Arnett manage to qualify academically? He may be a gifted wide receiver. He may be a wonderful 19 year old kid. Maybe I’m judging a book by its cover (or the standards of UT and other programs by one letter) but what on earth is going on in the public education system that allows spelling and grammar like the one Arnett wrote to be considered acceptable (as I am guessing this is close to his style of writing)? What happens to people like Arnett when the playing days are over and skills may not be there for the next level?
College athletics is a money making venture for the schools. It is fun for the alumni and students to attend games. Make no bones about it: being a D-I college athlete is a full time job: to balance academics and athletics is nearly impossible (it is part of the reason the NCAA gives 5 years of scholarship dollars to complete a degree) which is why basketball programs like Duke, UT Lady Vols, the UConn women deserve a nod for very high graduation rates. Not everybody who attends a university is going to come from equal academic backgrounds. But the ability to write a basic (without glaring grammatical or spelling errors) letter to the editor of on a subject matter should be at the very least a requirement for graduation from high school.
Much has been debated (almost ad nauseum) about the rise of China, the slipping of the United States as an international power. With an education system that allowed Arnett to graduate from high school and be admitted to a mid-ranked university with the writing skills he displayed is a national tragedy. It’s time we put the money we spend on sports aside and use it towards education. It is the very least we can do for a future. While I hope Dooley grants the release, I also hope that Notre Dame, Michigan and Michigan State do not offer Arnett a scholarship: the kid simply doesn’t have the writing skills to compete at 2 of the top schools in the country in the classroom.