The Ross Story
One of the most prominent and well known cases of an illiterate athlete is that of Kevin Ross. Ross graduated from high school in 1979 and was a functioning illiterate. Only being able to read his name and school name on his diploma, he was accepted into Creighton University to play basketball. Following three unsuccessful seasons and receiving no formal education, Ross, at 23, dropped out of school and returned to elementary school. Ross, like many others I'm sure, felt like those in Gere's work. "They did not think of themselves as writers because teachers had taught them that they could not write," (Gere pg 277). Often times this occurs directly because the student is simply not given the chance to apply their own work. Linked in the button below is a 2002 feature on Ross' story done by ESPN's Outside the Line Series. Marva Collin's had the opportunity to teach Kevin after he returned to elementary school. At 4:07 she mentions that the absolute sad part about teaching Kevin was that he was very bright; she just provided the opportunity for him that previous schools were not willing to do. His talent as a player trumped his need for the opportunity to grow his mind. At 2:09 he discusses how the school hired a secretary to complete all of his homework, and his tests were completed before he even went to classes, all he had to do was fill in his name on the exam. This process continued on through three injury plagued seasons, and after his senior season, his passing grades stopped, and he was forced to leave school. Ross' story gained national headlines, and even led to the foundation of organizations such as Grade Check. Ross today works as a custodian at the high school where he played basketball. However, that still does not stop him from looking forward to a new dream. He has had the opportunity to be a substitute teacher and hopes to finish his degree to become a full-time teacher. He looks to strive towards something; to be successful and have the ability to use his story and life experiences to make a difference for future generations, and for his beliefs and passions to pave new dreams, including his own.
Ross' story led to national out cries and a demand for changes in the ways college students were taught and handled. Ross is the reason that the NCAA established the NCAA Eligibility Center. The center has the purpose to help set students on paths to succeed as students and athletes, with education being a primary focus. One thing they have done to establish this focus is to encourage colleges to offer six year degree programs. They also are currently trying to establish the 50% rule which would require a university to graduate at least 50% of its student athletes to be eligible for postseason tournaments. However, is the assessment of graduation enough? If schools, like in Ross' case, are already willing to push a student through three years, will that last year make a difference? In more recent years, professional sports have also established sanctions to help try and encourage further education of student athletes. In 2006, the NFL implemented a rule that stated no player is eligible for the NFL draft until three years after they have graduated from high school. This generally means college enrollment for three years instead of the standard one year in other sports like basketball or it means playing in an independent league. It has become clear to many that life outside of sports for athletes often times does not live up to their lives in sports. "Sports Illustrated estimated in 2009 that 78 percent of NFL players are bankrupt or facing serious financial stress within two years of ending their playing careers and that 60 percent of NBA players are broke within five years of retiring from the game." (Wiles) If individuals were given the opportunities in school, they could learn about financial management, among other things, to help build and establish a fixed foundation of which they can hold themselves upon.