When it comes to college sports the participants are called "student-athletes."
There's a very good reason why the "student" portion of the label comes first. It's because academics, at least in a perfect world, is the more-important part of the equation.
In this blogger's considerably lengthy lifetime the equation has been turned upside down. But, that has always been at the sport's higher level, the so-called high-major level, where the need to produce revenue, to get public exposure via TV appearances, to advance in post-season tournaments, etc., has become so important that athletic teams very nearly operate like professional franchises.
The good thing about the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference is that almost none of that has filtered down to the mid-major level. In this conference, for the most part, athletes remain students first.
Which leads us to recent developments at conference member Marist College, which announced earlier this week, that freshman guard Sam Prescott, who had been averaging 7.5 points and 2.1 rebounds per game, was declared academically ineligible for failing to meet NCAA academic standards and will miss the remainder of the 2009-10 season.
It's just more bad news for a program that is struggling on the court, too, with a 1-17 overall record.
Prescott becomes the program's third academic casualty of the current season. Sophomore guard R.J. Hall missed the first semester for academic reasons and 6-foot-10 center Casiem Drummond, a transfer from Villanova (where he was in good standing academically) was declared academically ineligible for the current semester.
Hall's grades improved enough for him to return to the court for the current semester.
Drummond, who sat out two semesters to satisfy transfer requirements before his academic suspension, subsequently left the program after his academic suspension to transfer to an NAIA school recently.
Still, that's three academic suspensions out of the mandatory 13 scholarship players. or about 24 percent of the program's players.
Your blogger has been covering the conference in one form or another since 1989 and can't remember there ever being this many academic suspensions within one MAAC basketball program in a single season.
The school's hometown newspaper, the Poughkeepsie Journal, has taken a to-be-applauded stance on the issue in an opinion piece available on line (link below) done by Mike Benischek.
In the piece, Benischek writes: "Right now, losing three players over the course of the season for academic reasons is a bigger error than the team's 17 losses."
Of course, each situation stands on its own and is not necessarily an indictment of the program as a whole. Still, it's a reminder that colleges are in business to educate students moreso than to prepare individuals to succeed in athletics.
That philosophy particularly needs to be fulfilled at this level of college sports.
Here's a link to Benischek's opinion piece on the topic: