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Celebrating the Student-Athlete

Preparation of the Arthur Ashe Jr. sports edition typically coincides with March Madness, arguably the most celebrated time of year in college sports. That means a month of sports writing and editing as well as watching exciting college basketball. It’s clear that college sports provide a wealth of entertainment for Americans whose support of them enables colleges and universities with competitive football and basketball programs to enjoy lucrative television contracts and other sources of revenue.

Though college sports, which include many competitive activities other than men’s basketball and football, are said not to completely pay their way, the system has given rise to a powerful gatekeeper, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), to ensure that student-athletes maintain their amateur status. 

In this edition, assistant editor Kendra Hamilton unveils the details of the NCAA’s academic reforms, which are designed to improve the graduation rates of student-athletes. From some of the numbers cited in her story, it’s evident that many football and basketball programs will struggle mightily to keep from being hit with sanctions once the reforms take effect later this year. Increasing the number of college graduates from among the thousands of student-athletes in American institutions will prove beneficial to the individuals who give so much of themselves to their sport, especially to those in the money-making basketball and football programs.  

In double duty coverage, senior writer Ronald Roach takes on the issue of commercialism in the lives of American children. His Noteworthy News feature on the fourth annual summit of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood examines how prominent scholars are organizing to seek limits on marketing aimed at children. Held at Howard University last month, the summit included speakers who presented strong evidence that the marketing of unhealthy foods, inappropriate toys and games, and status symbol apparel is linked to rising childhood obesity, increased anxiety/stress in children and increased risk for violent behavior by children. In “Crying Foul,” Ronald takes a look at the marketing of sports merchandise, which includes popular shoe brands and athletic apparel.

I think you will agree that this year’s Arthur Ashe Jr. Sports Scholar awardees, Sharonda Latrice Johnson and Chris Hill, represent in true fashion exemplars of the scholar-athlete tradition. It’s not easy balancing academics and a demanding practice schedule — especially for four years. I enjoy editing the awardee profiles given that their accomplishments inevitably make me feel immense pride in their achievement. And finally, reporter Patrick Harris catches up with legendary college basketball coach Nolan Richardson, who despite an NCAA national title, three Final Four appearances and 500 wins, was fired in 2002 from the head coaching position at the University of Arkansas after 17 years in the job. Seems the University of Arkansas community soured on Richardson after he expressed some frustration over fan expectations. Three years later, Richardson continues to search for a top college coaching job and considers the NBA as an option. 

Hilary Hurd Anyaso

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