It’s the Big Dance. It’s the Final Four. It’s March Madness. It’s . . . could there be a better time to discuss the NCAA and the nagging issue of paying the so-called student-athletes? So, here we go again.
This is the author’s third article in this series following an article on March 1, 1999 titled “On Student-Athletes.” The first article (May 2, 2003) was titled “On Paying Student-Athletes.” The second and most recent article appeared five months ago and was titled “On Paying Student-Athletes II.” It would be reasonable to ask: Why the need for another article? Well, there is a need because of both the interest of the basketball community and the rapidly changing landscape on this subject. Here is a recap and some brief introductory material.
One phrase comes to mind when referring to the NCAA and it involves the present state of the NCAA. One need only refer to the classic statement of Lord Acton (John Emerich Edward Dalbery): “Power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely.” I wonder if the good Lord was thinking of the NCAA when he first uttered these words. There is also a companion statement to the above: “Unlimited power is apt to corrupt the minds of those who possess it.”
The present role of the NCAA? It depends on whom you talk to. The NCAA would have you believe that they are God’s gift to both college sports and their so-called “student-athlete,” (SA). But there are many, including your author, who aren’t buying it. I described the NCAA earlier as “a corrupt organization that has perpetrated one of the biggest scams on an unsuspecting public.” In addition, in his book Unsportsmanlike Conduct: Exploiting College Athletes, former NCAA President Walter Byers describes the NCAA’s operation in the following manner. “Today the NCAA Presidents Commission is preoccupied with tightening a few loose bolts in a worn machine, firmly committed to the neo-plantation belief that the enormous proceeds from college games belong to overseers (administrators) and supervisors (coaches). The plantation workers performing in the arena may only receive those benefits authorized by the overseers.” WOW!!! And this from a former NCAA President who ought to know what’s going on. Today, the NCAA is standing firm: no pay for student-athletes.
It was Bill Bradley who once commented during an interview that “professional basketball is not a sport in the traditional sense – it is entertainment.” And entertainment is directly tied to business. And business is often tied to corruption. The games need to be entertaining and that usually requires competitive games. Blowouts are a no-no for attendance and (more importantly) TV ratings. And unfortunately, all the above has filtered down to the NCAA. Bottom line: The NCAA is in the business of making money – not improving the educational system or paying those individuals who deserve to be paid. Those who believe otherwise . . . well, I have a bridge to sell them.
It is fair to state that the main objectives of athletics is the development of not only the body but also the mind, heart, and soul. Higher institutions of learning may therefore be viewed as a participant in this development business. On the surface, much can be gained from college/university athletics. Unfortunately, the original principle of the Olympians has eroded over time, leaving in its wake a development business that is primarily in the business of making money; in effect, it has destroyed or at least tainted the earlier concept of athletics. Thus, one concludes that college/university athletics have become an integral part of an institution’s inner workings, and in particular, its bottom line. Schools have become hostages to athletics as the NCAA has evolved into a multi-billion dollar business. And, as we all have come to appreciate, with this kind of money comes the aforementioned corruption. Unfortunately, the NCAA has embraced this corruption.
And then there is the recent (2014) findings at the University of North Carolina regarding fake classes for approximately 1500 so-called SAs over a twenty-year period. Terms like “inflated grades,” “bogus classes,” and “shadow curriculum” were tossed around. As columnist Jon Wagner recently put it, “we are somehow outraged, even when we know all too well that winning and money often trump things like learning and the earning of degrees for top college athletics.” But, overall, there was shock to many in the media. Really? This is standard practice at most Division I schools, and when the president, athletic director, coach, assistant coaches, etc., all claim they didn’t know, they are either lying or deserve to be fired for ignorance and stupidity. Face facts: many of these SAs read and write at or below 6th grade level.
Guess what happened after the above UNC allegations surfaced: if you guessed – nothing – you would be right. Where is the university in all of this? Where is Roy Williams in all of this? Where is the Athletic Director in all of this? Where is the President in all of this? Where is the spokesperson for Dean Smith? Where are all the other coaches? And, where is the media in all of this? The key question I would ask: how could something like this not receive more attention in the media? They made a federal case out of a kid accepting a free burger. The answer is that there is simply too much money involved to upset the applecart. At this point in time, nobody knows who the guilty individuals are and exactly what Roy William’s role was.
And if it happened in Chapel Hill, it no doubt also happened in Durham. And in Syracuse. And in Gainesville. And in … after all, who’s kidding who? These coaches and their program/associates/accomplices are almost certainly guilty and complicit. As noted above, I have a bridge to sell those in the reading audience who don’t believe this statement is true.
Here is the latest on this SA academic integrity activity. The head of NCAA enforcement says academic misconduct has been on the rise in college athletics and his department is handling twenty open investigations. The cases involve both prospective and incoming athletes trying to become eligible for college competition, and enrolled athletes receiving impermissible assistance from university and athletic department personnel. Eighteen of the cases involve Division 1 schools. As Claude Rains once put it, “I’m shocked ….” Shocked? Given the NCAA policies, many of my colleagues in the basketball community have argued that institutions that don’t cheat are doing a disservice to their institution.
You want more? Syracuse University and Jim Boeheim had a case pending before NCAA Committee on Infractions regarding academics, drug policy, and improperly allowing certain players to practice. The penalty was severe and included a nine game suspension and the loss of twelve scholarships over four years. Boeheim graciously commented that “the universe is doing the right thing by acknowledging that past mistakes occurred.” The reader can be virtually certain they are still occurring at not only Syracuse but also at most other major programs.
Why is all of this still occurring when everybody knows about it? There is a simple answer to the question: there is so much money involved with so many people making so much money that no one wants to lose their piece of the pie, jeopardize their present position, and reduce/eliminate even future gains. The end result is that many presidents, ADs, coaches, media personnel, etc., sit idly by and allow it to occur. Simply put, for coaches, almost all – if not all – are cheating to some degree.
Who’s to blame now becomes the question. Most of the SAs are in 17-22 age range. Think back to that time in your life. If it happened to the author or the reader, no one would be surprised. After all, these SAs were no doubt told that they were part of a system that one could view this conduct as a “tradition.”
Face it. This sort of conduct has become a way of life in big-time programs. Everybody, and I mean everybody, has bought into this behavior where the SA is not paid his fair share. They are all complicit. Who is the responsible individual? One will have trouble trying to track down who this person is. It is just like what has happened and is happening at the federal level of government with the lies along with manipulative and deceitful behavior.
Can this conduct, particularly that of not paying SAs, be corrected? I believe that everybody should be held accountable. This includes the aforementioned coach, assistant coaches, AD, president, board members, players, secretaries, etc. The rule or policy should be that the complicit individual(s) are fired and/or dismissed.
In the meantime, the dance goes on . . . at least for now. But there will be a changing of partners in the near future. That is a given.
P.S. There was an interesting twist to this year’s NCAA Tournaments. Yale University (you can check their record) was as competitive as some of the teams that received at-large bids for March Madness and as competitive as nearly all of teams that reserved at-large bids for the NIT tournament. Yet, they weren’t selected even though they definitely deserved to be selected. Why? Some will say this is speculation but I firmly believe that it was based on Yale’s team consisting of legitimate student-athletes (SAs) while many of the aforementioned teams were primarily manned by athletes. Remember that Yale only played on weekends so that the games would not interfere with the players’ academic program. I believe the Yale team and its players are unquestionably an embarrassment to the NCAA. I therefore can’t blame the NCAA for not providing an opportunity for Yale student-athletes to complete against the athletes in the other programs; it would serve as another reminder that the NCAA is continuing to perpetrate the scam on the public of its student-athlete fantasy.
NEXT POSTINGS: (tentative)
MAY 1: On School Taxes
JUNE 1: On Barack Hussein Obama IV