I have big issues with the NCAA. They pride themselves as a superior organization of college athletic programs, and constantly remind us how hard they're working to keep players focused on education first, sports second. Rules are amended, athletes punished, and teams stripped of their title, all in an effort to guide these young athletes toward a bright, beaming future, whether that future has to do with sports or not. To the NCAA, it's not about the politics, or the hefty paycheck that comes along with the booming business of college athletics; it's about education.
Well, obviously, I don't feel that way. And if you didn't gather that by now, please do me a favor and contact me in a private manner to let me know...because apparently I need to work on conveying messages via computer screen. The NCAA is a business. Period. And as good businessmen and women do, they ensure that above all else, they are painted in a favorable light to the masses; no matter how much deception or unethical decision making that entails. They preach the value of a college education, reiterating that above all else, the students under their legislature know good and well that they must abide by all NCAA rules and regulations before they're able to play. These noble soldiers of education claim their students must excel in the classroom before they're allowed to excel on the field (or court, or diamond...whatever).
Lebron James. Recently, the usually camera-shy celeb debuted in a PSA urging students to "stay in school." He rattles off some statistic about how many kids drop out of school each year (never clarifying what level of schooling he's referring to), and gives his own testimonial about how he himself could have been a drop-out, but miraculously defied the odds. (Bravo, King.) I hate to pick on such a good-natured person, but he is ironically a perfect example of the hypocrisy in the sports industry. I'm not sure what networks aired this commercial, but I saw it for the first time on ESPN. And my brain exploded....
The double standards the NCAA, ESPN, and many professional sports teams have for education and schooling, is absolutely ridiculous. Lebron preaches about the importance of education, urging students to "stay in school." Really, Lebron? This coming from the guy who has been getting handouts since he was merely 18, once even risking his high school eligibility after accepting several lucrative gifts? The same guy who went straight from high school to the NBA? Not a lick of college? I find it extremely hard to believe that had the NBA allowed high school students to enter the league before graduation, Lebron would have passed on the offer. Nowadays, there are age requirements on students entering into pro sports. The NBA requires athletes to be at least 19 years old at the time of the draft, and at least one full NBA season must have elapsed since the player's graduation. This rule, I believe, is in place so that the head honchos sleep a little more soundly at night, because requiring students to theoretically complete only one year of college, is the exact opposite of the NCAA's supposed standards.
(I promise, this rant is almost over)...the NCAA has their gun cocked and ready when it comes to punishing athletes for acting like pros. SMU is the best example I know: short version, they were given the "death penalty" and virtually the backbone of their program was indefinitely destroyed because the higher-ups at the school were caught giving high school recruits monetary compensation...in a big way. It's argued (by hubby) that this "kiss of death" was given to scare of the many other colleges engaging in such acts. SMU was made the example of what not to do, and the inevitable punishments for all schools who disobeyed. The message sent was that above all else, the NCAA would not tolerate amateur athletes accepting money or gifts based on their athletic abilities. And yet, March Madness is touted as one of the most-watched "programs" on ESPN; the BCS National Championship Bowl is hyped up all during college football season; the College World Series is broadcast on every major network in TV. Thousands of people and businesses make money off college sports, yet the only people who don't see a dime are the entertainers themselves. How can college basketball players, hell even high school players, be expected to turn away anything remotely related to a "gift," when all these big whigs are making bookoos off airing their games? How can high school athletes be expected to work toward a bachelor's degree and ignore the calls from the NBA or NFL, etc., when Lebron James, who went straight from high school graduation to the Cav's locker room, is making more money than some people with PhD's?! How can we demean these athletes who stay in college just long enough to be drafted, when the NCAA itself put the rule in place requiring them to make an extended appearance on a college campus before they're eligible to go pro?! I know if I had the choice between a college educationn at 19 years old, or a $7 million signing bonus, I sure wouldn't be shopping for college ruled notebooks.
It's almost pointless talking about this kind of thing, because it's not going to change. The NCAA and all it's cronies will continue to exalt their organization as a model of educated, amateur athletes. And they will continue to pull the puppet strings on the many athletes/coaches under their jurisdiction until the cash comes rolling in.