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T wo events inspired my c olumn this week: homecoming and a sports article making the front page of The Daily Pennsylvanian. More specifically, it was the comments regarding these that caused me to pause and reflect.

The comments went something like, “This is an Ivy League school, why should we care about sports?” Even worse was, “Dumb jocks. They’re only here because of scholarships. Plus they get special treatment from faculty.” I’m not quite sure where or why this line of thinking got started, but it needs to end.

The core tenet of the Ivy Group Agreement is that athletic scholarships are prohibited . I’ve had class with several athletes and have never borne witness to them receiving special treatment.

I played sports in high school but now stick to watching professional sports and officiating for the local women’s flat-track roller derby team. So before writing this column I reached out to a few of the student athletes to make sure my information was correct. Athletes are judged by the same guidelines as any University student. Not only are they governed by the rules and policies of the University, but by the NCAA as well. For example, if a student athlete falls below a 2.0 at any time, they are placed on academic probation and barred from participating in team events.

So what does being a student athlete involve? Think of it as an extracurricular. On average, 20 to 30 hours a week are dedicated to practice and games. This may include time spent in the early morning before classes, as well as time after classes are finished.

However, there is one thing that tends to separate athletics from other extracurriculars: risk of serious injury. I can think of few other extracurriculars where there is a real possibility of suffering injuries such as concussions, torn ligaments and broken bones, including the spine.

While Penn is a Division 1 school , the student athletes are not your typical D1 school athletes. Many of them aren’t here to go on to professional sports. When I asked one classmate why they play, their response was:

“If I were to find myself in a spot to continue playing ... professionally, I would take it in a heartbeat. ... However at this point I plan on enjoying my time with the team during the next four years, and then using my education to get me to the next phase in life.”

I think this mindset applies to many students at Penn. We join our clubs — be they interest, academic or athletic — because we enjoy the camaraderie, not necessarily because we expect them to forge a path in our future careers.

I feel that too often we relegate our sports -minded peers to the realm of apathy. A sense of school spirit, whilst active for more academic-oriented activities, seems to have faded when it comes to athletics. A comment I’ve seen from alumni is that stadiums, stands and arenas that once were filled with a sea of red and blue have now nothing more than a trickle.

Part of this has to do with promotion. Other student groups spend a lot of time promoting their groups through social media, flyers and other marketing. Yet besides the sports page in the DP, the athletics website and occasionally a few groups out on Locust, I don’t feel like the word is really getting out on when sports games are happening on campus. I understand that the athletes are busy, but unless they want to watch their teams go the way of the Ice Hockey program, they need to rally to have more awareness of events occurring at Penn.

While I don’t believe we should treat athletes as celebrities, I do think it is time we showed support to our classmates who are working every bit as hard as the non-athletes , if not more. It’s time opposing teams’ fans are drowned out by “The Red and Blue” or “Drink a Highball.” I hope to stand with you at a game, cheer on our team, then go home and study for that ne xt exam.

Shawn Kelley is an LPS sophomore studying Japanese and history. His email address is “A Vet-ted Mind” appears every other Monday.

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