What came first, the student or the athlete?

By Colin Phan - Super Phan



It's tough being a student athlete – especially when you're expected to be a student before an athlete.

I had first-hand experience with this when I was in high school playing football. Balancing school and football was a very difficult thing, and having to make sure I had a grade point average that met the school's quota didn't help.

The same thing is true here at Highline. There is an expectation that academics are the No. 1 priority for athletes.

After talking with Highline Athletic Director John Dunn, it was very clear that Highline puts education above all. So much so that their standards academic standards are higher than the league requirements.

"Our participants [in the athletics programs] are students first and athletes second," Dunn said. "We have study hall requirements for all freshmen, we have mandatory personal tutors for those who need extra time. We have higher academic standards than the league for our scholarship recipients, and we are constantly monitoring each student athlete."

I laud Highline athletic for having such academic integrity. Too often in the world of college sports, athletics programs recruit stellar athletes and cover up their academic deficiencies.

For instance, look at the University of North Carolina. It had one of the biggest academic fraud scandals in the history of college sports.

UNC was creating dozens of fake classes that enabled multiple athletes, who'd otherwise be academically ineligible, to play. Clearly UNC valued the success of the athletic program over the young men and women in it.

It's laughable that other college programs are so wrapped up in the pursuit of trophies and banners that they'd neglect the real needs of their players. By falsifying classes and grades, colleges aren't even properly compensating athletes with what the NCAA deems fair payment for their services – an education.

Highline on the other hand, has much more practical idea of what they want to do with their student athletes. Dunn said that there is a broader focus than just winning or academic success for the athletic program.

"Our goals are the same every year. We want to take young boys and girls and develop, mentor, and educate them so that when they leave, they will be young men and women that our campus and community can be proud of," Dunn said. "Winning, though very important, is only a by-product of the aforementioned goals for each program."

It's been working out great for Highline so far, the men's and women's soccer teams just won NWAC championships this fall. Tackling an education seriously is important, and Highline's value in that has paid off thus far.

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