Steve Cram, the chancellor of Sunderland University, has said that talented young sports people should be given the chance to go to university, even if their exam results are lower than expected.
The Olympian suggested that UK universities should be offering more sports scholarships.
In an interview with the Times Higher Education magazine, Mr Cram said the UK had caught up with the United States in terms of the sports facilities at its universities.
But he added:
"Where we maybe haven't caught up in the education sector is in accepting that there is nothing wrong with having a good sports programme."
"I think we should be offering more, we should be able to offer sports scholarships and yes, bend over a little bit if someone isn't quite, if the exams, the results, aren't quite what we want them to be," he said.
Mr Cram, who won silver in the 1,500m at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games, added that if these students "might have a chance of going to the Olympic Games in the rowing team or the athletics team, then help them out".
He also said it was important to raise the image of sport in higher education.
"We should be looking to try and encourage other establishments, and even going further down in the education sector, to say these are the really good places for young sports people to have the right environment in which to develop, carry on with their academic career while training."
"The danger is that everyone thinks if I'm not going to Loughborough or going to Bath, then I've got no chance of succeeding, and we don't want that.
"We want to have lots of other satellite places where we're still delivering the broad introduction but right through to high performance if we can."
Olympic stars Steve Cram and Daley Thompson have launched this year's Kielder Marathon in the North East.
The event takes place in October and is in its fourth year, now attracting an international following.
Organisers claim that the Kielder Marathon is one of the most scenic events in the sporting calendar, and with several different running and biking races organised to take place over two days, there is something for everyone to take part in.
Olympian and event organiser Steve Cram spoke to ITV News about what those taking part could expect from this year's event.