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Opinion: Grads Prove College Athletics Still Worthwhile

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Copyright 2017 Spokane Spokesman-Review

Spokesman Review (Spokane, WA)

 

 

TAMPA, Fla. - Deshaun Watson wanted to be first.

We're not talking about anything he's done on the football field.

The Clemson quarterback may be going for a national championship Monday night, but he's already scored one of the biggest victories of his life.

In just three years, Watson became the first member of his family to graduate from a four-year college. He walked across the stage a couple of weeks ago, wearing a cap and tassel rather than a helmet, to claim his degree in communications.

"No one can take that away from me," Watson said. "I put the time and the work in, and knowledge is something you can't take away from a person."

For all the well-documented abuses in college athletics, from players getting someone else to do their schoolwork to the massive academic fraud carried out by North Carolina, there are plenty of guys who do things the right way.

Many of them will be on the field in Tampa, suiting up for both teams.

They're all deserving of a shout-out.

Jonathan Allen , Alabama's star defensive lineman, returned to college for his senior season - time spent not only boosting his stock in the upcoming NFL draft but earning his diploma in financial planning.

Even if Allen goes on to have a long, successful career in the pros, he figures that having a degree will come in handy when he's done.

"There's no telling what I'll want to do after my football career," he said. "Just having that degree opens up way more doors."

Of course, there's no denying that plenty of athletes - especially in big-time football and basketball programs that are really nothing more than farm systems for the pros - have no concern about actually learning anything while in college.

Often, they are directed into so-called clusters - courses of study populated with star athletes, many of them largely intent on making academics as easy as possible so they can stay academically eligible just long enough to get started on their NFL or NBA careers.

But Watson's mother Deann, who battled cancer while raising Deshaun and his siblings on her own, had no intention of letting her son go down that path.

She stressed all along that he was at Clemson to not only play football, but to get his degree.

Watson graduated early from high school so he could enroll at Clemson in January 2014. He took on a massive workload during the 2015-16 school year, completing 37 academic hours so he would have a light class load for his last semester in college.

The entire family was on hand to celebrate when he got his degree.

Watson's influence wore off on his teammates. His top receiver, Artavis Scott, also graduated in three years with a communications degree.

College athletics has a lot of problems.

But sometimes they get it right.

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January 8, 2017
 
 
 

 

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