The pressures of being a college athlete are greater today than they have ever been. With sports betting legal in many states and college athletes able to make money from endorsements, the vast amount of money affiliated with these programs is at an all-time high. As the line between professional and amateur becomes increasingly blurred, student-athletes may feel the pressure to resort to academic dishonesty to meet the overwhelming demands placed upon them. Emphasizing character development and honorable competition is now more important than ever.
Cheating in college sports isn’t new. What is new is the amount of money to be made from it. Twenty-six states now allow sports betting, and 10 states allow gambling on college football games. In 2020, sports betting revenue in America was $1.55 billion.
Combine this with online platforms that help facilitate cheating by allowing students to pull exact test questions and answers, and you have a perfect storm where cheating may be tolerated in order to keep the money coming in.
University administrations and the NCAA must not lose sight of the true purpose of college athletics in the face of this temptation and do their best to keep the “student” in “student-athlete” by setting up rules and regulations to help curb online cheating.
While a handful of programs are significant sources of revenue for academic institutions, athletics on the whole cost universities more than the money they bring in. Colleges include athletics because of the camaraderie, character development, hard work, connection to alumni, and the opportunity to enjoy competition with fellow students.
Widespread cheating in collegiate athletics will undermine these many virtues, and allowing online cheating platforms to thrive is perpetuating this issue.
It’s critical at this time that colleges re-evaluate the purposes of the college athletic programs. The first priority for any student attending college is education. Only a small portion of college athletes will go on to be professional athletes. Education is not just about developing competence skills for a job, it also includes character development. We coach our students to embrace leadership values that will make them effective in a variety of fields.
At Colorado Christian University, student-athletes attend mandatory meetings each fall where the importance of academic integrity and the prohibition against any form of gambling are communicated. Any student-athletes who transfer after that point are required to go through the same training.
Knowing that such a small number of collegiate athletes ever go on to professional sports helps us guide our student-athletes to focus their time and energy on academic success as their first priority. Their best chance for professional success lies in a career beyond sports competition, and we structure their time at CCU around that priority. This priority goes well beyond grades as our coaches, staff and professors teach and model the importance of strong character and leadership.
Incoming first-year students and transfers are required to attend a weekly Academic Success session where success coaches provide study skill and time management support. Any student-athlete with a cumulative GPA below 2.5 is also required to attend.
Each week, our student-athletes are provided with various opportunities to succeed, including specialized tutoring, grade checks and discussions about improving strategies, and time to focus on studying. The program has been so successful that struggling students outside of athletics have also been invited to join.
As the pressures mount on each of our student-athletes, it is vital that they understand that they are students first and that their futures will be directly tied to their academic success more than their athletic accomplishments. The good news is that the two can work together! We realize that the same competitive drive that makes them great athletes can also help them become great students and great community members.
The integrity they are learning to bring to their academic and athletic careers will be the same integrity that will carry with them beyond their college careers into whatever professional arena they choose.
We are at a new frontier when it comes to collegiate athletics in America. There is potential for vast scandals and corruption with the amount of money from sports betting and endorsements.
Online cheating programs make it easier for athletes to get through four years at a university without committing to serious academic work. Continuing on this track will mean grim problems for collegiate athletes and future employers.
If university administrators and the NCAA implement policies to keep online cheating platforms off campuses and gambling away from sports, we can return to the true intent of collegiate athletics: education and character development.
Christy Hinch is the director of compliance for athletics and an associate athletic director at Colorado Christian University in Lakewood.