Friday, September 23, 2011

The fiction of the big-time student-athlete

The Atlantic has a good piece exploring "The Shame of College Sports." Big time college athletics (by this, I mean Division I men’s football and basketball) is the biggest sham this side of that other so-called non-profit: the Olympic “movement.” No one believes the purity the NCAA tries to peddle.

What should happen is that the NFL and NBA should create minor leagues and return college athletics to their original intent as extracurricular activites rather than replacing-curricular activities. But absent that, these athletes are earning mega bucks for the universities' coffers and deserve to be paid for it.

And don’t give me that nonsense about how they get a college education. Even those big time football and basketball players who actually do want a good education aren’t really permitted to maximize it due to the exigencies of travel. For example, just ask how many gridiron and hoops games are available on your TV screen during mid-week and ask how many classes the away team's players are attending that week. Give these athletes the equivalent of four years tuition and see how many of them actually spend it on a degree.

Yes, I do enjoy watching big college football games and March Madness, but I do so eyes wide open, fully aware that it's minor league sports. I'm under no illusion that the participants in this meat market bear any resemblance to the typical college student or even the true student-athlete, far more prevalent in Division III. Yet the NCAA insists on maintaining the fantasy pretense that no one buys anyway.

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