Players on Division I football teams spend an average of more than 40 hours a week on their sport. That does not leave a lot of time for academics.
This can lead to athletes being steered to easier courses or courses taught by faculty members who give them a special break. From time to time, grade-changing scandals have erupted from a zeal to keep some star player eligible to play.
In ways large and small, star athletes in big-time college sports learn early in life the cynical message that rules apply to other people. This special treatment can be found even in the Ivy League, where sports are not supposed to be as big a deal as in the Big Ten.
Perhaps the wonder is not that a number of stars in professional football and basketball develop an attitude that they are above the rules, and even above the law, but that others do not.
Special treatment for anybody, in any walk of life, for whatever reason, is a double-edged sword that can end up cutting against them as well as for them. For professional athletes, especially those who have risen out of poverty to wealth and fame, to plunge themselves back into the depths seems a special tragedy to them and to impressionable young people who look up to them as role models.