Division I collegiate sports are a major source of entertainment for many Americans, myself included. D-I football and basketball are leagues in their own right, with viewership comparable to the top professional leagues in the United States.

However, the NCAA insists upon calling the players for these teams "student-athletes," acting as if an education at their school is worthy compensation for the millions of dollars (and yes, it is millions of dollars) that those athletes generate for their schools. These universities offer amateurism as their sole motivation, and claim that collegiate sports are about education, not money, asserting that any payment to student athletes is a moral wrong.

As Joe Nocera has eloquently pointed out in his column for The New York Times, the monopolization of sports by the powerful NCAA makes the theory of amateurism seem rather outdated. In the age of TV money, when both schools and NCAA authorities make an enormous profit off of the labor of student athletes, do top athletes not deserve more than a complementary education? Should they even be considered full-time students, expected to participate in every aspect of life at their D-I institutions?

But the debate over the merits of amateurism—especially the rigorous and cruelly enforced amateurism of the NCAA—has made me consider the role collegiate athletics should play at a school that is not making a large amount of money off of its athletic program, not offering athletic scholarships, and participating in Division III sports.

That is, what should the role of athletics be at Bowdoin?

Before I begin, some disclosure. I was a self-recruited athlete at Bowdoin, who had extensive contact with my team and its coaches, all in accordance with NCAA rules.

I was admitted Early Decision, and I am well aware that my admissions decision might have been different had I not had such a strong athletic career in high school.

College sports should be about the development and the education of the athletes, and the goal of Bowdoin's athletic programs should not be to give the College the best possible team in every sport. Rather, the goal must be to give Bowdoin students an athletic program of which they can be proud, and to create sports teams that reflect and represent Bowdoin, both athletically and academically.

Bowdoin's student body should be reflected in these teams, not the other way around.

Bowdoin is, first and foremost, an academic institution. Its primary goal should be the training of independent thinkers, and we should hope to create a student body of well-rounded, academically-qualified young adults.

Part of this growth, for a portion of the student body, should come from participation in intercollegiate athletics.

Talented athletes who are deeply committed to Bowdoin's academic goals and programs should find their time at the College complemented by a strong athletic program, with talented and dedicated coaches who will help make them into better men and women, on and off the field.

However, we must not alter the makeup of the student body to make sure that we have the best possible athletic program in every sport.

It is time to demand that all sports teams are comprised of Bowdoin students—individuals who are committed to their personal academic growth and to the intellectual community at Bowdoin. Coaches should see their primary goal as furthering the education of their students, with a secondary aim of advancing the College's athletic goals.

Athletics should compliment a Bowdoin education, but they should not define it, nor should they ever be the sole factor in admitting students.

When you choose to attend a Division III school, you choose to be a student first, and an athlete second.

Bowdoin therefore must choose its students on academic grounds first, and on athletic merits second.

We can of course celebrate the success of our teams, and we should encourage the athletics department to seek success. However, this should not be the guiding principle behind athletics at Bowdoin.

We should reward teams that produce student-athletes who contribute to the Bowdoin community on many levels and who truly embody the student-athlete ideal that few schools have the ability to cater to.

We are a strong enough school, in both regards, to attract talented athletes who are as eager about Bowdoin's curriculum as they are about our athletic program.

We must encourage coaches to actively pursue such athletes, and reward those who are able to bring these students to Bowdoin, and who enable and encourage student-athletes to participate in all aspects of Bowdoin's academic life. If teams are comprised of students who are not sufficiently engaged in Bowdoin's academic community, then we must ask questions of those coaches and teams.

We are Bowdoin, a small and academically rigorous school, with an admissions rate that suggests we may pick and choose among many talented students.

Let us pick only those talented student-athletes who are qualified to be here—the time has come to stop recruiting students who are not otherwise fully equipped academically.

Bowdoin is not a Division I school, and we should not pretend to be one.

Sean McElroy is a member of the Class of 2012.