Last week the news came out that American Idol winner and ACM award winning artist Scotty McCreery would be attending NC State University. While many people, including myself, couldn’t pick Scott out of a crowd, he is apparently a very big deal with a certain subset of society, many of whom are current college students. A quick search on ‘Scotty McCreery’ produces dozens of sites all talking about his attending NC State and while this is great publicity for the University, it begs the question as to how much we should be drooling over the acceptance of a future student.
The story isn’t just one of a random American Idol singer wanting to attend NC State; this is a story involving the son of an alumni who is a very outspoken fan of NC State, including wearing their NC State apparel on national TV during their American Idol appearance, decided that rather then living a life off of his musical abilities, he would rather apply to college (four colleges) and attend NC State. And why shouldn’t he? He’s already performed the national anthem several times at NC State events and thrown out a first pitch during NC State baseball games. Scotty bleeds NC State red. Hell, if you’re going to celebrate anyone coming to NC State, this kid is probably a perfect example.
THE ATHLETIC CONNECTION
All of this makes me wonder about the buzz surrounding our athletes. For what use to be months and has not become years, fans of various collegiate programs reacted to every yawn and sneeze these 16, 17, and 18 year old kids make to eagerly see which program they will attend. To be fair, the buzz is obviously not surrounding their academic career and their inclusion into NC State’s student body is going to have near-immediate pay-offs when you consider how long you might be waiting for the next Edison to graduate from your institution.
But should it be any different? For sports fans, maybe; but for alumni, should we really be gawking over where Amile Jefferson wants to “attend school” then we should be Scotty McCreery? When someone asks where I went to school or I am mentoring some of the youth in my community, it’s nice to be able to say you had a Philip Rivers go to your school, but it’s just as nice to be able to say you had a Secretary of Press like Robert Gibbs or a Chairmen for the Joint Chiefs of Staff like General Henry Shelton.
The prestige of the university is undeniably linked to athletic success, but athletic success is just one facet of things. Like it or not, not everyone is a sports fan. Actually, Price Waterhouse Coopers estimates that only about 40% of the population is a ‘fan’ of sports. If that’s the case, NC State should be thrilled to received ‘new recruits’ for NC State in areas other than just athletics the same way it is thrilled to land a CJ Leslie.
Over the last couple of decades, the university has face and unfortunate string of apathetic administrators and ineffective branding. Athletics has been a part of this, but let’s not fool ourselves into thinking that the athletic department is where the problem ends. NC State needs to be branded not just to a subset of society, but to all of society that is interested in making an impact on more than just a court or a field. What NC State needs is more Abdurrahim El-keib-s (current interim prime minister of Lybia), more Zach Galifianakis-s (comedian), and maybe a few more Scotty McCreery-s. As the athletics program takes a quicker turn for the better, these are the individuals that will help raise the prestige of what NC State can produce to ‘the other 60%’.