The Real Meaning Behind “Student-Athlete”

Spencer Serling

The term “student-athlete” is one that is hotly debated not only at Colgate but throughout college campuses around the country. Many consider the two words to be completely separate entities, with student referring to college kids in the classroom while athlete refers to college kids on the athletic field. While Colgate places an emphasis on the student part of student-athlete, it is important to note the recent change that has occurred

in athletics.

As recently as the Class of 2017, Colgate has begun to offer scholarships for football players, something that was previously prohibited by the Patriot League. The Fordham Rams began to offer players scholarships earlier than was initially agreed upon. As a result, Fordham was declared ineligible for last season’s Patriot League title, despite holding the best record in the League. 

With this change, former Colgate Head Coach Dick Biddle noted the new ability it gave him and his staff in searching for players. 

“We were fortunate to be able to grant scholarships based on athletic merit, and that opened up the pool for the kind of player we were able to get this year,” Biddle said. He also noted that while the scholarships are new, “they still have to be great students. It’s always going to be that way at Colgate.”

Biddle’s sentiments were shared by current Head Coach Dan Hunt as he secured the Class of 2018 for the football program. Securing 20 players from 11 different states, Hunt immediately noted the difference that scholarships had on the Raiders’ recruiting strategy.

While Colgate has switched over to football scholarships after previously offering scholarships in many other sports such as basketball, soccer, volleyball and hockey, the switch in football is noteworthy. As participants in Division I-AA and with the Patriot League previously holding a strict policy against scholarships, the change has benefitted not just the Raiders but many of the other teams in the league. The ability of the players, that Colgate as well as other Patriot League teams, are able to now go after is significant compared to the pool of players previously.

The question that remains, however, is if and how the term “student-athlete” will change with the introduction of even more scholarships. With just one year of statistics to work off of, no trends can yet  be determined; however, we are able to see a downward trend that may begin to raise red flags if it continues.

Working off the Academic Progress Rate standards that the NCAA releases annually, we see a slight decline for Colgate. While each of the 2013-14 athletic teams did pass the standards, Colgate saw a decline in the number of perfect scores. After the 2012-13 year saw 21 Colgate teams receive a perfect score, only 12 teams received this perfect score the following year. Whether this downward trend continues remains to be seen, regardless of the NCAA standards, it is clear that Colgate should and will continue to emphasize the student-athlete.