College Athletics is big business, at least at the major universities. Players are recruited energetically as if they were being recruited for the big leagues. Sports coaches and athletic directors routinely make million dollar salaries. Also there are big television contracts to be considered. Schools often look the other way with respect to academics. The completion rate nationwide of college athletes is rather low.
Yes there is too much emphasis on the players ability to play and not enough on academics. What happens if that student can't get into the pros he or she has wasted Four plus years in College. They don't get a degree and then they are sitting there like I was planning on playing for the professional level.
College athletes celebrate touchdowns, turnovers, 3-pointers and hitting a home run. No one does a jig on the field when they discover a student-athlete got an A on a test. Of course there is too much emphasis on playing because that's what a fan and a booster sees--they see the performance in public view. The average citizen doesn't see the hard work that goes on behind-the-scenes of a student-athlete's grades in class.
Recent investigations have shown that college athletes have an easier time through college because of access to academic counselors and other things that help the player go through the system, and make it to the professional system. Many coaches have said that the college athletic model has better competition than many minor league pro models, and the NCAA is a billion dollar business. To me this is all the evidence I need to see that yes the focus is completely on athletics, but thats because the NCAA made it that way and made cheating valuable.