Covering University of Colorado sports, mostly basketball, since 2010

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Derrick Jackson is fooling himself

It seems like every year, around Tournament time, someone comes along to write an article about graduation rates in the scope of the Tournament. It's always some blather in the realm of, "Where has the "student" in student athlete gone?" Specifically, this article in the Boston Globe caught my eye this year. Columnist Derrick Jackson makes some very good points, in a very good article. Kentucky Coach John Calipari does recruit some questionable "students", and Kentucky's graduation rate for it's black players is truly abysmal. However, just because an argument is well written and justly made doesn't mean it isn't stupid.

(Would you buy Snake Oil from this man? Good coach though...)

Realistically, the idea of the "student athlete" in the two major collegiate sports is antiquated. College Football and Men's Basketball are big money entities now (and will be for the foreseeable future), and where there is money the rules get thrown out the window. The NBA and the NFL need their player factory, and the NCAA is more than happy to oblige, damn the implications. Any expectation to the contrary, and you're just fooling yourself.

("You're fooling yourself....)

Does that mean that I'm happy with the system? Hell no! But that doesn't mean that I get in a huff when I see results that I've come to expect from the NCAA and its member institutions. Going back to Jackson's article, he notes that there is no penalty when a player turns pro early while still in good academic standing.
"This is particularly outrageous as the NCAA no longer penalizes schools in graduation-rate reports for players who leave early for the pros, as long as they were in good academic standing. Between that statistical adjustment and the schools that on their own elevated their game in the classroom, renegade programs are more exposed than ever."
What does he expect? I'm just happy they went to class in the first place. (Such as it is... I don't think that Michael Beasley was exactly taking advanced trig during his semester and a half at JuCo St. Same goes for every one and done prospect.)

("Student" Athlete..... nope, not buying it)

I firmly believe that every player has the right to leave school early. If the money's there, I can't honestly expect a kid to put it on hold, and possibly risk his stock falling in the mean time. And if the kid expects to leave school early, its naive to think that he will take his collegiate experience at face value... where's the incentive? Talking to a 19 year old kid, who's been told he's the next LeBron James since he was 9 years old, about what he'll be doing after his playing days are over, is like trying to convince a brick wall that it needs to move to the right by about 3 feet. It's a waste of time.

Of course the system is broken, you just noticed this? But it's not the fault of Kentucky, Maryland, UNLV or Texas for playing within the system presented to them. It's been well established that the Sun will set every late afternoon. Running around complaining that you would rather it just stay up is just as idiotic as running around bemoaning the state of the "student athlete" concept.

I, personally, am far more concerned with the exploitation of the athletes for financial gain. The NCAA makes billions off of these guys, and they essentially get vastly underpaid. Their likenesses and performances are used for marketing purposes with no residuals returned, and they work their asses off on and off the field (sometimes... I'm looking at you Beasley...) for relatively little pay. As Ed O'Bannon has said, performers are entitled to fair compensation; and, no, an "educational opportunity" is not priceless.

In the end, the NCAA needs to do one of three things:
  1. Crack down on the system. Make it legitimately academic focused, take the marketing out of the game, and essentially throw away that giant pile of money they've been making for themselves. (Knowing old white men, I highly doubt this will happen)
  2. Rework the system. Give up on the notion of "Student athletes" that everyone one outside of the NCAA knows is a joke, and turn it into a mega-hype machine. Start sharing revenues with the players (man do collegiate athletes need a strong player's union) and embrace the business side of things (Knowing old white men, I highly doubt this will happen)
  3. Continue as is. Keep counting that cash and exploiting and selling the lie that these guys are amateur student athletes. (Yep, that's the one the old white men will go for)
Expecting anything other than #3, and the current standard of results, is just fooling yourself.

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