A) Put most of your time and energy into your education (the NCAA has strict requirements about maintaining good grades);
B) Pay for it yourself with a part-time job;
C) Treat athletics as the most important thing in your life, or be cut from the program.
If you don't risk paralysis at least once a season, why even bother going to school?
This is, for many student-athletes, physically impossible. And both schools and the NCAA fucking well know it. Something has to give. And usually, that something is academics.
Understand, student-athletes rarely see scholarships (maybe 2 percent receive athletic scholarships). They're then asked to devote stupidly long hours to the sport (as our football source describes it, a typical morning includes "film, workouts, practice, meetings, and more film, from 4:45 to 11:10 a.m." -- that's before classes even start). That's in addition to juggling a full class schedule and probably making room for a part-time job to pay the living expenses that loans and financial aid won't cover. So how is your average 19-year-old supposed to pull that off in a 24-hour day?
Well, according to our sources, the solution is simple: either find a way to game the system, or cheat your ass off.
For instance, there's what our football source (and many other student-athletes) did: something called "clustering," where students will intentionally take easier majors and pick out electives with the lightest workloads ... then make sure teammates all take the same classes. Then, "[we] find ways to divide the workload between us." Hey, at least they're learning teamwork.
Theo Wargo/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images