Even if the system stays completely broken and unfair, schools at very least owe it to athletes to make education a priority. They shouldn’t get special treatment that allows them to skirt by. And their sports-related schedules aren’t about to get less demanding. But if all schools made a point of offering athletes courses and curriculum tailored to their needs, it would not only make their lives easier—it would also reinforce the notion that education matters, and provide the opportunity to make life-after-sports into a reality, even an opportunity.
Athletes should be held to the same standard as everyone else for their own good; schools owe it to them to put them in a positon to succeed. And they need to recognize that in many cases, getting athletes to take an interest in their classes is an uphill battle. That’s on the schools, not the athlete, to address and fix. Maybe it’s a question of character or ego and thus not the school’s problem. Again, though, if universities and colleges won’t pay their athletes, they very least they can do is help guide them and help them thinks responsibly and realistically about their futures.
Full disclosure, I’ve worked in a tutoring capacity with athletes at two major universities so this isn’t idle conjecture.