At the University of Alabama, you can major in one of more than 80 subjects, from accounting to theater, as an undergraduate.
That alphabetical alpha and omega of possibility shows the range of degree programs available, and not all of them are strict academic disciplines such as chemistry or history.
You can major in theater, dance, music performance and other areas not based on reading, writing or ‘rithmetic. You also can major in athletic training, exercise and sport science and physical education.
Funny thing, though. The one thing you can’t major in at Alabama, despite its reputation as a football factory, is football.
One question: Why not?
Why don’t major college football programs offer a major in football? Or major college basketball programs offer one in hoops? Wouldn’t allowing young men who already spent most of their time on a college campus focusing on their sport be better served if they could apply that time toward a college degree?
OK, that’s more than one question, but you get the point.
There are a lot of football jobs beyond playing the game for a living. A football major could take classes in education to allow him to become a high school coach and teacher. He could take classes in finance to allow him to better manage his money in the NFL or become an agent.
He could take classes in communications to represent the university in the best possible light when he interviews on ESPN, and it also would help prepare him beyond his playing days to work for ESPN.
The possibilities are endless and endlessly practical.
Colleges and universities, especially in the Power 5 conferences, still like to pretend that you can be a full-time athlete and a full-time student and succeed at the highest level in both. It is possible, as former Alabama All-American (in academics and football) Barrett Jones demonstrated, but why not acknowledge the more common reality?
The most important subject to a lot of college football players isn’t English or biology. It’s football.
Witness the Ed O’Bannon trial testimony so far of former Alabama wide receiver Tyrone Prothro and former Vanderbilt linebacker Chase Garnham. Both said they devoted significantly more time to football than academics during their college careers.
Garnham said Friday that Vanderbilt players couldn’t schedule any classes from 3-7 p.m. every day but Monday. Why not? They had football responsibilities.
Garnham majored in human and organizational development, in part, because other football players did and were able to balance its requirements with their football duties. Prothro said he majored in general studies in Human and Environmental Sciences at Alabama, in part, because academic advisers suggested it.
“I don’t think they’ve done me wrong in any kind of way,” Prothro said in an interview after his testimony.
It’s not wrong to suggest a major that’s manageable for a major college football player given the incredible time demands of his sport. It is wrong that football players can’t major in the subject that interests them most.
That’s also true for major college basketball players such as O’Bannon, whose name is on the lawsuit that’s now at trial with only the NCAA left as a defendant.
“I was an athlete masquerading as a student,” O’Bannon said on the witness stand of his time at UCLA.
It’s too late to support the NCAA’s outdated argument in that case that the student-athlete teeter-totter is in balance, but it’s not too late to stop the masquerade. A lot of college football and basketball players spend a lot of time studying their sport. It’s about time they got credit for it. Real college credit.