Telling a kid "if you get bad grades I'm pulling you off the team", without first having put forth the time and effort to help him/her establish good academic habits, is very short sighted. Often times, during high school years, it ends up being sports that motivates the student to focus on academics, in order to meet the minimal academic standard to compete in high school sports, and many wouldn't even want to attend college, much less strive for academic excellence, if not for sports. So kicking a kid off of a youth team can hurt his her development in the sport, and make it less likely that they will be skilled enough to be a successful athlete at the high school and/or college levels. It makes a lot more sense to curb use of the phone, video games, television, and other distractions, and focus on the student; paying attention and behaving in class, asking questions and seeking help when needed, studying, doing homework, etc... In this age of technology, checking on a student's academic progress is just a few mouse clicks away, as most schools offer multiple means for parents to check their student's progress online.
Being able to afford the college is one thing, but being accepted for admittance into the college is another. Colleges have minimal academic standards for admittance, and although some schools can make exceptions, it is not wise to bank on that.
The objective should be for the child to at least have mastered the elementary school curriculum before entering middle school, to master the middle school curriculum prior to high school, and to have done a great job in the high school classes, as well as get high scores on the SAT and ACT tests, to have an academic record that will be appealing to a lot of colleges.
If that has been accomplished, and assuming that due diligence was done to contact colleges and otherwise give the student/athlete the needed exposure to colleges that are a good fit, a family where the athlete is a very good student will have a lot more options at their disposal than a family where the athlete has similar talent but is not a good student. It then becomes a matter of doing your best to pick a school that is a good fit.