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Beyda: Why to choose a school for its sports

Should you choose a school for its sports? If you’re a ProFro, that’s a question you might be asking yourself this weekend. And if you’re the kind of ProFro I was three years ago — I may or may not have ducked out of one night of my Admit Weekend to go to a Sharks playoff game — the answer is yes.

I actually might not have grown so interested in Stanford if not for its athletics; that’s what 18 years of Cardinal basketball and football games did to me (and thank god for that).

I know I’m at an extreme. But in my view, athletics should factor into everyone’s college decision, whether sports aren’t really your cup of tea or whether a Big Gulp’s worth is an integral part of your life already.

Going to a school with a major athletics program fundamentally changes your college experience. Of course, there’s the clichéd camaraderie of a crammed student body screaming in unison from the end zone, of tailgates and touchdown celebrations, cheerleaders and chest paint. We’ve had that here in spades for four-plus years.

But at Stanford — or any other top-tier athletic school, for that matter — college sports will also permeate your life in meaningful ways that you hardly notice.

It’s a powerful moment, the first time you realize that you’re living down the hall from an athlete you’ve seen on TV or that you’re sitting in class next to someone with a red backpack and a green Gatorade bottle. And then you’ll get to talking with that student-athlete, and you’ll realize that even with all the hours they spend maintaining an almost impossible lifestyle, they’re still, at the end of the day, just a person. You’ll never again see Richard Sherman the same way — and you’ll never again doubt how much is out there to be accomplished.

Even more importantly, sports find a way to capture the identity and emotions of a school.

From an outward point of view, I’ve seen at least two athletes — the impeccable Andrew Luck my freshman year and the vivacious Chiney Ogwumike this year — become a name and face for this student body to proudly rally behind. But from an inward one, I’ve also seen Jordan Williamson’s story shake and then uplift this campus. As much as people still like to crack jokes about field goals around here, there’s not a person who follows Cardinal football that didn’t learn a thing or two about perseverance from number 19.

So when you’re choosing a school, make sure to give athletics its due. You’re not indulging some guilty pleasure; you’re considering a factor that will have a significant impact on the next four years of your life, not to mention the many more years of fanhood that will hopefully follow.

I’m happy to be one of the many people who will tell you this weekend that there’s no one right choice when picking a college. And I’m also happy to remind you that 19 Directors’ Cups don’t lie.

Joseph Beyda has been a Stanford Cardinal fan for longer than most of the prospective freshmen on this campus have been alive. Call him out on his bias by shooting him an email at jbeyda ‘at’ stanford.edu.

About Joseph Beyda

Joseph Beyda is the executive editor of The Stanford Daily. Previously he has worked as the football editor, a sports desk editor, the paper's summer managing editor and a beat reporter for football, baseball and women's soccer. He co-authored The Daily's recent football book, "Rags to Roses," and covered the soccer team's national title run for the New York Times. Joseph is a senior from Cupertino, Calif. majoring in Electrical Engineering. To contact him, please email jbeyda "at" stanford.edu.
  • Candid One

    JB, Stanford is deceptively accomplished as a sports Mecca. It’s minimum annual NCAA Championship for the past 36 years has been accomplished without football. Its 19 NACDA Director’s Cups, consecutively, were mostly accomplished without a prominent football program. Stanford happens to have the most varsity sport teams in the nation, 36, which is phenomenal as the smallest school in its conference. Also, you forgot to mention that Andrew Luck and Chiney Ogwumike were rarely noticed on campus, even Chelsea Clinton was hardly noticed. This is a large campus and the Stanford Duck syndrome has a myopic aspect. So much to do, so little time, and there are probably apps for that.