An Air Ball in Academia
Published: Tuesday, February 4, 2014
Updated: Tuesday, February 4, 2014 01:02
Late last month, it became public knowledge that Georgetown’s transfer center Joshua Smith would be ineligible to play basketball at Georgetown for the rest of the 2013-2014 season for academic reasons. Many Georgetown supporters bemoaned the announcement’s impact on the team’s tournament chances. Still, others questioned why basketball was experiencing a second-straight year with academically challenged stars. Why can’t John Thompson III keep all his players on the court, and why can’t our prominent athletes stay eligible for the whole season? These questions may be difficult to answer without more information, but their importance is undeniable, and the university community ought to demand accountability for what may otherwise become a foreseeable regularity for high-profile Georgetown athletes.
Student-athletes face demanding burdens on the Hilltop. Those of us who struggle to succeed as students could never understand the difficulties of becoming a world-class athlete in the process. Nevertheless, whatever one’s view on the proper relationship between student-athletes and the universities they attend, no one can deny that the resources and attention devoted to the success of collegiate athletes represents an investment on behalf of the university community. Smith’s ineligibility was a disappointing setback to the basketball program, but this failure rests on many shoulders, not just Smith’s. Still, the investors in Georgetown and the varsity basketball program are justified in seeking recompense.
Every time a Georgetown athletic program fails to field a team with the most talented, hardest-working students available because a student is not academically competitive, athletic administrators ought to be disappointed. If we as a university are committed to maintaining a basketball program we can be proud of, we need to accept the obligation of assisting fellow students and helping educators succeed. There is simply no reason to spend money recruiting talented players if we can’t keep them eligible to play. Thompson should step up and explain how he and the rest of the Georgetown community can better support his student-athletes. The current culture of academic underperformance among our athletes should not be tolerated on the Hilltop, and everyone — athletes included — deserves better.