Last week, Cardale Jones, a first-year student at Ohio State University, posted the following to Twitter: "Why should we have to go to class if we came here to play FOOTBALL, we ain't come to play SCHOOL, classes are POINTLESS." A short time after Jones' post, that tweet (and his account on Twitter) were removed. Jones was also suspended for last weekend's game against Nebraska. According to the Ohio State student directory, he is currently in the University's Exploration Program with a major in Management and Industry Exploration. Like a lot of first-year students, Jones is still trying to figure out his academic major. It's a typical experience.
A lot of news sources have written about how wrong it was for Jones to post that tweet and that it made Ohio State University look bad. Let me ask you this, have you ever watched a college football game? How often do the announcers (and/or anyone else affiliated with the game) talk about a player's academics? It's super rare to hear anyone speak about the student aspect of "student athlete." Cardale Jones was recruited to Ohio State so that he could play football. He most-likely wasn't recruited for his academic ability. The bio page for Jones on OSU's athletic site is all about his prowess on the field. His bio notes that he enrolled at Ohio State in January 2012. It's completely understandable that he's still in undecided mode when it comes to his academics. Having advised many student athletes myself, it's natural territory. I remember when one of my former advisees walked into my office and proceeded to tell me all about his sport. When I asked him what major he wanted to pursue, he told me that "he didn't care" and that he was "here to play *****." I promptly sent him over to the university's exploratory program so that he could work on figuring out what it meant to be a student athlete.
Suspending Cardale Jones from participating (even if he wasn't going to actually get to play) in a game sends a strong message: you work for us. And, it's not just Ohio State, this is happening at schools all over the United States. A student athlete posts something on Facebook or tweets something on Twitter and all of a sudden their accounts are shut down. A student who is on an academic scholarship at Ohio State who tweeted the same thing as Jones would never face this type of scrutiny. Big money collegiate sports are big brands. Schools will do anything to protect the image veil that covers their athletic institutions. I can't wait until we get some case law on this matter. Schools might be having their student athletes signing agreements about their social media use, but it seems far too Orwellian to me.
I have an Associate's, a Bachelor's, and a Master's degree. There have been classes throughout my academic experiences that I wasn't too fond of taking. When I was 18 and taking sociology, I probably would've tweeted out (had Twitter existed) some juicy 140 character missives about my dislike of that class. Cardale Jones tweeted out something raw, something honest. His words are so distasteful because he gave us insight into something that we would rather just ignore. Sure, Ohio State has a history of academically high-achieving football players, but that doesn't mean that there haven't also been those who came to Columbus to do anything but "play school."
Here's my hope: While the brand police (that includes you too Mr. Meyer) at Ohio State have punished Jones for his tweet, I hope that somewhere, someone in academic advising is chatting with him. Advising him about his future, his academic options, and mentoring him during what is most-likely a really difficult time in his young life. You see, I want to know what Cardale Jones is going to learn at Ohio State. I hope that he doesn't learn that it's best to keep your honest thoughts to yourself. I hope that he doesn't learn that his main priority is to protect the Buckeye brand. I hope that he learns that he has a massive opportunity to get a world class degree. While he might not like all of his classes, someday, all of the learning and experiences that he has off the field will be far more transformative and rewarding. Classes may seem "pointless" right now. Here's hoping that the awesome advisors and educators at Ohio State will work with Jones so that he sees the value of his educational opportunity. He came to Ohio State to play football, perhaps someday he will leave Buckeye Land with a college degree.
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