Unheralded student athletes

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Photo courtesy The Daily Texan

Over the last century, popularity surrounding collegiate athletics has grown at an incredible rate. Today, college sports are among the most watched sporting events on an annual basis.

School sponsored teams made up of amateur athletes draw huge, even record-setting crowds. Earlier this year, more than 150,000 people gathered to watch when Virginia Tech took on the University of Tennessee on the gridiron at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Tens of thousands gather every year to cheer on their favorite teams in the annual basketball tournaments. In recent years hockey games have occasionally drawn upwards of 100,000 spectators. Not to mention the millions of dollars in TV contracts and sponsorship deals revolving around these sports every season.

However, with all the attention that is focused in the direction of the few big-time money-making sports, not much is left for all the other teams out there.

There are thousands of student athletes who may rise to the pinnacle of their respective sports and yet will likely never be interviewed on SportsCenter or featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated because of the sport they’re in. Many of these athletes are on athletic scholarship, and have been through the same recruiting process. They also had to go through the same eligibility clearing procedures as their attention garnering counterparts in different sports. For every Jameis Winston, Steven Strasburg or Breanna Stewart, there are hundreds of athletes whose names we will never hear. That doesn’t mean they aren’t working as hard in school and in practice. They are simply participants in less popular sports.

The NCAA officially endorses dozens of team and individual sports including beach volleyball, bowling, fencing, rifle shooting, rowing and skiing. Even the championship events of these sports don’t make it on primetime TV and typically receive only a brief token tribute. Some may even deem it patronizing, as they appear on one of the final segments on sports news shows.

Admittedly, the lower profile sports are less popular for a reason. I won’t pretend to argue that a fencing contest rivals the excitement of a football game featuring two prominent squads, but that mindset misses the mark.

Student athletes in any sport spend countless hours perfecting their skill while simultaneously putting in the work to maintain their grades. These athletes deserve to be recognized for their hard work with support and coverage. There aren’t enough hours in the week for every athlete in every sport to receive their one shining moment on the Sunday night TV slot, but students and alumni owe it to the athletes representing their school to be in the stands on game day and to cheer them on via social media.