This is going to be a little controversial, but it’s something I have been thinking about for a while, especially the last couple weeks as March Madness has been in full effect.

The last two nights as we watched the Duke and UConn celebrate their great wins, have any of you wondered how they did on that math test or their history test or even when they might have been studying? Or when did they even go to class in the last couple weeks? You probably haven’t thought about that. But with a month left at school, they have likely missed 2 weeks of classes – how do you make that time up?

The last few years the term “student-athlete” has stirred great debate. Should they get a stipend for their time or shouldn’t they? There have been many that scream about their “free education” and others (me included) that scream about their “free labor” making the universities they represent millions upon millions of dollars.

Yet, I don’t recall anyone saying anything about majoring in your sport. Yeah, that’s right, a bachelors degree in your sport.

Before you get all uppity and say how stupid that is, let’s talk about music majors as a comparison. Hear me out before you make a judgment on this.

First of all, if you haven’t played a sport in college at the D1 level, then you already are at a disadvantage because you don’t understand the time commitment that goes into preparing for a game. (I haven’t played, but my son has and I know what his schedule was like).

It’s not just practice, it’s film study and meetings as well. They have to know the playcalls, the concepts, understand the competition…oh and yeah, in their “free time” study for that econ test and do all the same work the other students are doing, but I digress.

For the sake of this post, I ONLY am looking at top music schools that also have D1 football programs (I’m using football here because that’s my world but same can be said for basketball or other sports). We will look at USC, Indiana University and University of Michigan.

For each of those music programs, you have to audition before you are accepted. Compare that to recruiting and essentially auditioning for a spot on a team, similar, right? Not everyone can major in music. Not everyone can play on a football team. Or a basketball team.

Now let’s look at degree requirements.

Each of the 3 schools had general education requirements for music majors. I looked at performance, string, and jazz degrees – one at each school. And all of them had performance classes that had to be taken each semester. They also had classes related to the specific major. So, voice, for example, you would take your performance class (3 cr) and voice training (3-6 cr ) each semester. Same for string. You have your performance 3 credits each semester and then your practice/instruction credit hours. Jazz was a little different but requires 38 credits of jazz courses related to history, music theory, and keyboards and singing. Then jazz also had some limited general education requirements in writing, math and language arts (e.g. speaking a foreign language).

So, let’s apply that to a sport. If you are required to take the gen ed classes that every bachelor’s degree requires – 6 credits in English/writing, 6 credits in math, 6 credits in a history and 6 in a science (generally speaking, these are the core classes, yes?) then why can’t performance be equal to game time? Why can’t film study be equal to voice training or individual instruction (coaching) just like the voice major?

I’ve heard people say, “What besides a gym credit would work for a sport?”

Look, the time issue is a problem. It really is. And paying players a stipend will help make them feel better, but in reality, the problem is time and money won’t solve that. Sure, I can hear the doubters come back to me with, “But what kind of job would majoring in their sport lead to?”

Well, coaching for one. Obviously, most players want to play in the NFL and not all will. But that doesn’t mean their degree is worthless. A college degree is better than no degree.

Besides, how many times have you heard of people not working in the field in which they got their bachelors degree (and I am one of them)?

And how many of you have heard employers say they like to hire athletes because they understand team work and they are dedicated – they don’t often say they hire student athletes because they majored in……I don’t know…political science (what does that even mean, anyway?)

And if you compare that to the music major – their goal is to get a job in a symphony orchestra, on Broadway, as a singer, or as a dancer/performer. There are limited opportunities for that and you must be in the top of your specific focus. So, again, how is this much different from being a high level athlete?

For those student-athletes who want to major in something besides their sport, I think they could, why not? There are minors in music, and there could be minors in a sport.

But for those athletes who really want to become the best at their sport, have the talent to do it, why make them major in…I don’t know….business, only to take classes they aren’t interested in and have no time for and then hold them to an academic standard that is damn near impossible without that time factor.

Yes, I know many of you will argue that student-athletes are getting good grades. Some of them are, yes. Still, there are a lot of scandals around academics. If you asked the student-athletes, I bet they would say if they had more “time” they would do better.

This argument here isn’t just about grade,s but more about the comparison.

If “performance” is a major for others at the University and they can hone their craft and study to get better at what they are “performing” and that’s supported – why isn’t that same idea supported for athletes who want to get better at their “performance?”

So………….what do you all think?


Here are links to the degree requirements for the 3 music schools mentioned, just in case you would like to peruse for yourself:

Indiana University – Bachelor of Arts, Voice:

University of Michigan – Undergraduate Core Curriculum:

USC Bachelor of Music – Jazz Studies: