If anyone thinks the scandal surrounding Jim Tressel and Ohio State is limited - think again. The NCAA is all about M-O-N-E-Y! While most high school graduates go to college to achieve the necessary credentials to compete in our ultra-competitive global work force, others will go for no other reason than to develop their professional sports market value. No sport is immune either, but, Football and Basketball seem to lead the pack. I have always found it disturbing when it comes to the graduating rates among student-athletes and regular students at major college programs. I like to call it the Great Divide of the NCAA!
After all the hoopla surrounding Derek Rose's rapid ascent to the NBA's Big Time and winning an NBA MVP Trophy, we have all but forgotten the scandal surrounding his brief tenure at Memphis. If you recall, there were accusations of someone other than Derek Rose taking tests for him. Even though he was cleared of any wrong-doing, there has never been a doubt in my mind that what people alleged, had in fact occurred. Of course that is just my opinion, but whenever I have to endure another less than articulate press conference by Rose, it just leaves me shaking my head.
Now, I am not saying that Derek Rose is illiterate or unintelligent, but there is an impression one gets when someone open their mouths and speaks into a microphone. For better or worse, you get a good idea of what their education level is. Perhaps that is a snobbish view on things, but most people who have had to endure a job interview will tell you that articulation goes a long, long way on whether you are hired or not.
As for Derek Rose, or the countless other exceptional athletes who were lured to a major college program for no other reason than an institution's insane desire to win a National Championship, well, I do not begrudge the kids accepting the offers. That is just the way the system is set up, but shame on those programs just the same. The athletically talented will eventually be gobbled up in spite of their instant fame because of the lessons that went untaught.
Sadly, I see that sort of mentality on a daily basis at the high school level. Make no mistake about it, there are two kinds of student-athletes in high school and coaches play a very biased part in perpetuating the culture we see in the NCAA. Sadly, most high school coaches will do everything in their power to "keep their studs on the field of play," even if it means compromising the ideals of setting a good leadership example or being good mentors.
I have often wondered how some high school coaches can live with that contradiction, given that most are educators first and foremost. Well, it is still comes down to the need to win. After all, how else do you attract potential athletes that can make a difference if you are not showing some sort of success in your program? Let's face it, even exceptional prospective high school athletes are courted by coaches because of their athletic abilities.
Catholic high schools have often been singled out for that sort of behavior, but the reality is that even public schools recruit. Especially those that are designated as "all-city" or "charter" schools. It is no accident why some of these schools are more successful than others either. Take a look around if you don't believe me, it isn't very hard to miss the powerhouse programs who regularly get rewarded by some very big name sponsors. Of course, there are other ways to recruit too. How often do parents send their kids to "sports camps" for extra instruction? Nothing wrong with it on the surface, but, there are those who run some of these programs who also act as intermediaries or recruiters. Is there an ethical problem with that?
Some say yes and some say no.
I guess it all depends on what the motivation is by all parties concerned.
However, whenever I look at the bigger picture, it really bothers me sometimes. Especially the preferential treatment given to some over others. High school sports should be about team and school spirit. It is also needs to be an extension of what the institution's main mission is, which is to educate our children and reinforce that hard-work is rewarded, not just athleticism.
I have seen countless numbers of hard-working kids (both in and out of the classroom) who have been denied quality playing time in favor of those who are strictly there for the recognition that sports brings them and a desperate school program. But what about those kids who bust their tails day in and day out to be a "more complete student-athlete" who must back up those less inspired or "total team players?"
Personally, I think it sends the wrong message.
Now, I am not suggesting that all, or even most, coaches are like that. But we have all seen our fair share of them too. Perhaps the most galling thing to me is when star players are lightly disciplined to protect their eligibility for the next game, whereas other team members would be hard-pressed to be extended that same "in-school suspension" in a similar incident.
Yet, it happens. It is just too common place. Bending administrative rules such as using an "in-house suspension" so that a "stud" can still play the next game versus an outright suspension or expulsion is just downright wrong. I wonder if those coaches see the team dissension it causes? After all, most high school kids know the difference between right and wrong, especially when they see instances of bending the rules. I have to believe that those kids are left more than a bit confused.
As far as I am concerned, if a student violates the rules in an egregious manner, then that player must be removed from the team immediately. No exceptions! And if it hurts their college prospects down the line? Oh well, they should have thought about the consequences before they engaged in something blatant and/or stupid. There are rules, right?
But as it is, major college sports programs have an allure and as such have a huge impact on what occurs at the lower levels of the game. College coaches have an enormous reach, and yes, it does filter down. I have had more than a few coaches tell me about "special relationships" some high schools have with certain college programs. Even the lesser known college programs look for talent and are willing to offset tuition costs in exchange for a commitment from a prospect. Some people will say that there is nothing wrong with that and that it allows their kids to go to college when maybe they wouldn't be able to otherwise.
Okay, I understand the validity of that argument. But I still have a problem with it when parents and student-athletes use a program for the "short term" to
achieve a big paycheck. That is just way over the top as far as I am concerned.
That is why professional sports need to look at what their part is in the whole mess. How in the world does a professional team draft a player after one year of college sports anyhow? But hey, just as with everything else, it is about M-O-N-E-Y! Who cares if the player is a walking illiterate so long as they can play the game for a few years and fill the stands? What does it matter to them if those players will eventually lose all their monies because they are ill
prepared to deal with the unscrupulous agents and/or handlers? Not their problem?
So as I see another graduating class move on, I can already tell who will achieve a measure of future success, but I also see those whose dreams will be shattered before their collegiate careers are even over. Oh well, the cycle just continues. Student-Athletes are nothing but a commodity. Hopefully kids are getting smarter and take full advantage of the free rides they are getting by actually getting an education in addition to competing for their bigger dreams. As I see it, that is the only way to get the maximum payoff.
After all, the NCAA is just a business as Jim Tressel has so eloquently shown us all.
Well, that is just a thought to ponder as our kids get ready for another season and/or head to college, right?