A Strange New Student-Athlete Trend When It Comes to the Classroom
The Company At The Front and Center of This Privacy Concern in College Athletics.
Being a collegiate student-athlete is no easy task.
Between early lifts, study hall, meetings, rehab, practice, travel, and games there isn’t much free time.
Going to class is often the last thing you want to do.
You’ll often hear athletes say “I didn’t come here for school”.
The athletic scholarship (and now NIL) is what colleges dangle over the heads of these young, unpaid athletes.
Getting them to attend class is becoming harder each year.
But there’s a software a few athletic departments have been implementing, despite the privacy concerns.
The Solution to Get Athletes in Class
A little over 10 years ago the University of North Carolina went through the academic-athlete scandal where they had “paper classes” that didn't require students to attend, so they could meet standards set by academic accrediting agencies and the NCAA.
In 2019, UNC implemented a pilot program to better track whether students, mostly athletes, showed up for class.
This was done through a mobile app called SpotterEDU.
The company is advertised as "automated attendance monitoring" used by schools and professors. It uses sensors in classrooms to detect when a phone with the app is present.
It allows professors to easily take attendance and college coaches to make sure their players are going to class.
Sound idea in concept, but definitely some concerns.
Privacy, Privacy, Privacy
Richard Carter, the CEO of SpotterEDU, says that the app knows when a phone is near a particular sensor, but it can't follow students outside the classroom.
He’s a former college basketball coach at Michigan State who developed this app to help hold students accountable.
College coaches will often do classroom checks throughout the semester.
When I played at Boston University, one of the GA’s would do a classroom check every month.
There was always someone who skipped or showed up late and the punishment was a treadmill run - which are no fun.
I got caught skipping an elective class my freshman year and never missed again after that 11 speed, 11 incline, 11 minute run.
Being a student-athlete is a grind most people don’t understand.
Most college athletes know their location is being tracked through their phone.
A lot willingly opt in to it.
But when it comes to class attendance, I can guarantee you that 95% of student-athletes would opt out of it.
The problem is that at many institutions coaches get rewarded for their players academic performance.
At BU, one of the bonus incentives for coaches was based around our grades.
The higher our team GPA, the larger their checks.
So while the players want some trust from the coaches that they’ll go to class, the coaches have external incentives to make sure they do.
Which is why an app like this exists.
So what’s the solution?
College athletics is very dynamic, so solutions aren’t able to be blanketed as a whole.
For example, at Division 3 schools class attendance isn’t a problem.
don’t get an athletic scholarship
willingly sign up for their sport
don’t bring the school revenue
are true student-athletes
But at large state universities, like UNC, you can see why scandals and tracking apps become a thing.
The athletes, especially football and men’s basketball, are there for their sport with the dream of going pro. Academics is often far down their list of priorities.
Personally, I like what Ole Miss is doing.
They are rewarding athletes monetarily for good academic performance.
My only concern with this are the secondary actions that this program could lead to, such as cheating, in the name of good grades and getting rewarded in cash.
Right now the college sports world is juggling a bunch of different trends.
NIL has brought about student-athlete-entrepreneurs.
Being a student is falling farther down the list…it’s going to be interesting to see how this all plays out.