Editorial: University athletic departments cannot over-distinguish athletes

By The Pitt News Editorial Board

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The pending sanctions Oklahoma State will soon receive from the NCAA shed light on the continuing separation universities have with their athletic programs.

Oklahoma State University’s Orange Pride, an organization dedicated to recruiting football prospects out of high school, is under scrutiny for its actions to attract football recruits to play under one of the nation’s most renowned football programs. Some female members of the organization act as “hostesses,” tasked with the responsibility of ensuring football recruits have a worthwhile time at Oklahoma State during recruiting visits.

The intentions of the program are seemingly genuine: Oklahoma State, in an effort to advertise themselves thoroughly as the perfect setting for prospects to enroll and play football, want to make their school stand out as much as possible. However, the hostesses play a larger role than just showing students around campus. They also reportedly “answer questions” and “provide entertainment” after hours for players.

Athletic programs at major universities have been no stranger to such a practice. The continuing marketing trend of appealing to male teenagers by employing attractive female students to accompany them for a weekend is disgusting. Apart from this nationwide epidemic of demeaning the status of women on college campuses, this highlights a larger problem.

College athletes, specifically those who play Division I football, are susceptible to special treatment from the department they play under and the name of the college sewn into the jerseys they wear on game day.

For institutions to spend superfluously on players, investing excessive time and effort to see they are fully comfortable relative to the average student establishes a social separation from the university. No longer are athletes considered to be student-athletes and members of the student body. They are treated as part of an elevated class of individuals who seem to play by a different set of rules, privileged with opportunities the average student has little access to.

Colleges nationwide and the NCAA both need to put an end to this trend immediately.

Athletes have special talents, and this is why they play sports at the highest, most competitive level college sports has to offer. Yet, it does not mean they should be treated as if they are part of some elevated class among the student body. The isolation and special treatment athletes receive during their college career does not promote the goals of a university, but the university instead profits from giving top-performing athletes a scholarship to wear the colors of that school.

If that’s the goal, prominent college football programs are on the right track. But somehow we know this isn’t the goal of going to college. Athletes are students, too, and institutions have an obligation to treat them as such.

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