This morning’s paper set me off again. The sports section featured an article about a former college basketball player testifying at the NCAA antitrust lawsuit. He stated, on oath mind you, that he was a professional athlete masquerading as a college student. He added that he was a dedicated basketball player and an indifferent student and that he really couldn’t have cared less about his grades at his college.
The Commonwealth of Kentucky (no, Kentucky is not a state, it is one of the few commonwealths left in the US) lives and eats and breathes and sleeps University of Kentucky basketball. I knew this was the case (and it confirmed my loathing of basketball in all manifestations) when the priest at Mass one Sunday announced that he was cancelling the 11am service the next week because he had basketball tickets. Oooof.
A good friend was a professor at UK while I lived in Lexington. She had, in one remedial class, 3 of the star players on the UK basketball team. They were reading at approximately a 3rd-grade level. She offered them tutoring, special extra-credit projects, late-night counselling sessions, anything she could. The 3 kids did not come to class, did no assignments, took no exams and did not avail themselves of the extra assistance offered to scholarship (the term athletic scholarship is an insult) players. She announced that she was going to flunk the lot of them (which, shudder, would have meant the end of their eligibility to play). She received visits from the Dean, and from the head of the alumni association, informing her that she could do no such thing.
They painstakingly explained to her that revenue from television rights of UK men’s basketball funds the entire Kentucky university system for the year (that’s not including ticket sales, accessories, memorabilia or anything else, just tv revenue). And that there was no way that she was going to fail the three star players. My friend promptly resigned.
Athletic scholarships are a farce. They are a waste of class space, and misuse of the time and attention of professors that could be devoted to students who actual deserve to be in the class. The NCAA should step down off its high horse and admit that “college athletes” are, in fact, professionals in student clothing. There is nothing amateur about college football and basketball players. The pro teams use the college sports as a convenient and cheap recruiting ground; unlike baseball, the pro teams don’t have to subsidize a farm league to bring on baby pros – the colleges do it for them.
Providing all-expenses educations for aspiring professional athletes is a criminal waste of resources. If the youth has the brains and the intellect to go to college, fine. If he’s there to prepare for a career in professional sports, he needs to find another route, and the NCAA should stop subsidizing this.
Thanks for letting me get this off my chest!! Comments appreciated.