NFL player turned professor Michael Oriard wants the nerd to get the girl.
In a Friday afternoon lecture to a crowd of about 300, Oriard said society has reverted back to the images of the jock and cheerleader, and that the value of education to a student-athlete has taken a backseat to universities looking to capitalize on athletic teams.
Since the 1950s, the importance of education in college athletics has declined, he said during his Forum Speaker Series presentation.
Oriard played football for the University of Notre Dame and the Kansas City Chiefs. He also wrote seven books about his experiences.
He began as a walk-on at the University of Notre Dame and ended his college football career as an offensive captain, Penn State President Graham Spanier said during his introduction. Oriard played four years with the Kansas City Chiefs while pursuing his Ph.D. in British and American literature at Stanford University.
“Rumor had it that he had to hide his books in the locker room,” Spanier said.
Oriard is now an English professor and the associate dean of the College of Liberal Arts at Oregon State University.
Oriard showed the audience charts of college football revenues, with the top 10 percent earning between $51 million and $87.5 million in one year. He said these revenues create a problem because students cannot capitalize on their own athletic prowess through jersey and memorabilia sales.
“It’s all about money, of course,” he said.
Oriard said he’s not sure student athlete compensation is sufficient because while coaches and athletic coordinators have had an income increase, students have not been given any kind of raise for their efforts.
A focus on revenue is also detrimental because student athletes are not given the same level of education they were in the 1950s because athletes have to spend significantly more time in practice, Oriard said.
“I got the best education the institution offered,” he said, adding that the same education was available for everyone in his generation.
Oriard also commented on the role of football in the culture of higher education.
“We’re in a time when football as we know it is short-lived,” he said.
Since its beginnings, he said, football was a “game to be watched more so than played” and became so popular because it made a shift from an “extra-curricular to a popular spectacle of the media.”
Football has also been a portrayal of class conflict in the past, he said.
Alex Gilliland (freshman-journalism) said he enjoyed Oriard’s presentation because it combined ideas of old and new football culture in America.
“I’m big into sports, and the culture of football is really interesting,” he said.