An interesting little nugget came across the newswire yesterday, when it was announced by THE Ohio State University that over the next two years, they plan on outfitting every student-athlete at the school with an iPad. The initiative, a part of the Digital First program, will start by giving out 500 this fall, and should expand to all 1,100 student-athletes by the start of next school year.
Dr. David Graham, OSU’s assistant provost for student-athlete success (which sounds like a made-up title, by the way) had this to say about the program:
“The use of iPads will allow us to find creative and innovative ways to enhance our tutoring and mentoring services for student-athletes. The iPads will be preloaded with athletics department materials currently provided to student-athletes in paper or book form and will be available to students throughout their academic careers.”
First, let me start by saying that this is an incredibly cool, and unique way for Ohio State to spend part of the massive surplus that comes with running one of the largest athletic departments in the country.
As Graham hinted, the way we collect and consume our information is constantly changing, and credit the Ohio State athletic department with seeing that vision, and equipping their students with the tools needed to succeed. I can only imagine how much easier it’ll be for tutors and academic support people to help these kids- especially when they’re traveling for road games- thanks to the iPad technology, and I have to assume it’ll help the kids, who’ll no longer have to travel with a bunch of books, notepads and other academic materials as well. All they’ll need now is an iPad and a charger, and they should be ready to rock and roll. I also have to imagine that the excuse of “The dog ate my homework” won’t fly nearly as easily now as it once might’ve.
Of course because this is Ohio State, as soon as this announcement was made, people expressed some, ahem, concern about what may become of these iPads. After all, it was less than two years ago that Terrelle Pryor and other football players were caught trading Ohio State paraphernalia, rings, trophies and other things for free tattoos in local Columbus area tattoo shops.
Well, for all of the amateur comedians who thought you were funny cracking jokes on Twitter yesterday, please stop. First off, all indications seem to point out that these iPads will be heavily monitored by the athletic department (I’m sure the extra workload just thrills the compliance department, by the way). This isn’t some toy that’s being given away, but an academic tool, and given the expense that it’s going to cost to buy and program all these iPads, I suspect that Ohio State’s athletes will have no choice but to treat them as such. Sure, a football, baseball or tennis player might be able to sneak in a game of “Angry Birds” or two on a long road trip; you can’t monitor that. But the idea that every athlete is going to just take the iPad and give it away to the highest bidder is stupid. I’m not saying it can’t happen in a few isolated incidents. At the same time if it does, I suspect Ohio State will find out pretty quickly, and that athlete probably won’t be on campus much longer.
Really, there are only two real complaints being raised about this initiative, and really, both ring kind of hollow.
The first could potentially come from competing schools, upset that they don’t have the resources to give their athletes such luxuries. Except well, that is the curse of college athletics right now: Certain schools have certain luxuries that others don’t, and on top of everyone else, there are 4-5 schools who literally have so much cash they don’t know what do with it all (you know, since college athletic departments are non-profit and all). There aren’t many schools that have that “problem,” but Ohio State is one.
I also expect many other folks to start chirping about the cost of the iPad, and how maybe the money could’ve been better used by just giving it to the athletes instead. I get that, and believe me, it’s an argument I’ve seen time and time again, especially during the postseason, when every bowl game hands out extravagant- and at times, over the top- gift packages to these kids.
At the same time, while the cash would be nice, who’s really going to complain? We are talking about a freakin’ FREE iPad here!
The best part? Nobody even had to send money to a Nigerian prince to get it.
For all his insight, analysis and articles on college football and beyond, be sure to follow Aaron on Twitter @Aaron_Torres.