Integrating university athletics into whole-person education through academic eligibility

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Integrating university athletics into whole-person education through academic eligibility

On December 15 at the 74th Koshien Bowl, held at Koshien Stadium in Nishinomiya, Hyogo, the Kwansei Gakuin University Fighters—the West Japan representative—faced the Waseda University Big Bears—the East Japan representative—to decide the national collegiate American football champion. Led by head coach Hideaki Toriuchi in his final Koshien Bowl before retirement, the Fighters triumphed over the Big Bears, 38-28, becoming national champions for the second straight year and marking their 30th championship in total.

Sports such as American football and rugby have been growing in popularity in Japan, and the looming Tokyo Olympics could boost their popularity even further. If college sports continue to increase in popularity, they could possibly be a lucrative new revenue stream for institutions of higher education, and help to build brand awareness for schools with strong athletic programs. As a result, the Japanese government has encouraged the creation of a Japanese version of the NCAA to promote college sports as an industry. However, Kwansei Gakuin University has always chosen to avoid a strong focus on the success of its athletic programs in terms of commercializing them in a bid to increase school name recognition.

In keeping with the university’s view of sports as an aspect of extracurricular education, athletes are expected to devote themselves to their studies. All athletes must meet a certain credit threshold to play in officially sanctioned games—which is very unusual for a Japanese university—based on a voluntary agreement signed between the Organization for Student Activity Support and the athletics association at KGU. The system was put in place so that there would be a structure to encourage athletes in all sports to aspire towards academic and athletic excellence. As the Olympics approach, Kwansei Gakuin University will continue to use sports as an avenue to facilitate the development of students into well-rounded individuals.