Cooperstown Crier - Your Source for Hometown News - Cooperstown, Baseball Hall of Fame

Book Notes

July 5, 2012

Book Notes: Book exposes exploitation of ‘student-athletes’

This year the University of Kentucky, a school with a storied tradition, won the NCAA men’s basketball championship. Although the national title may have enhanced the status of UK’s athletic program it did little for its academic reputation. All five starting players, three freshmen and two sophomores, announced they were turning pro.

These so-called “studentathletes” probably never had any intention of getting their college degrees. They were in college for one or two years to hone their skills before moving on to play in the National Basketball Association (NBA).

The only reason most of them didn’t go straight into the pros from high school is because the NBA adopted a rule where you have to be at least 19 and one year removed from your graduating class.

The whole system is a travesty.

Why do “distinguished” universities give scholarships to athletes who have no interest in education and can’t handle the classwork anyway? Why do coaches recruit athletes they know will be around only one year? And why should athletes be forced to wait a year before they can turn pro?

Universities admit these “one-and-done” basketball players because it brings in money to the school, increases athletic prestige, and excites the alumni (which in turn brings in even more money). But in doing so these “institutions of higher learning” are sacrificing their academic souls. Giving an athletic scholarship to a basketball player who never attends class and bolts after one year robs a less-gifted athlete (that truly wants an education) of the opportunity to attend the same school.

Coaches don’t mind recruiting the one-and-done athletes because they figure they will probably win instantly and then simply reload with another stellar class of one-and-dones who have no real interest in college. These coaches don’t care if the athlete gets an education. They’re selling the basketball program, not the university.

The NBA likes the oneand- done rule because then they don’t have to send their scouts to high school basketball games. It can use the college game as a minor league and it doesn’t cost the NBA a dime.

The system may work for the colleges, coaches, athletes and the NBA, but there is something unseemly about it. Most often the athlete couldn’t qualify for admission to the school based on his academic records or test scores.

He is housed separately from the rest of the students, and enrolled in Mickey Mouse courses he probably doesn’t even attend. He really isn’t part of the student body at all. The coaches don’t care about the athletes as students.

They can rationalize bringing them in for one year and blowing off their education because they figure they’re simply preparing them for their multi-million-dollar pro careers. If the idea of college is to prepare you for life then the coaches figure they’re fulfilling that obligation.

The universities are the ones that really should be embarrassed. You can’t blame the athlete because he is taking the best avenue to the pros. You can’t blame the coaches because they’re paid to win first and foremost. But the universities are sacrificing their integrity admitting and giving scholarships to athletes who simply aren’t students.

Obviously the answer is to allow basketball players to turn pro right out of high school. Baseball players have the option of signing a professional contract directly out of high school but otherwise have to wait at least three years. At least in that case the athlete has the choice of whether to pursue an education if he really wants one.

If the basketball situation isn’t bad enough, college football is even worse. At least the problem in basketball is transparent and has a possible solution (even though it will probably never happen). College football players have to wait at least 3 years after high school before they are eligible to play in the National Football League (NFL), in part because their bodies haven’t developed enough at 18 to deal with the rigors of pro football. However, keeping them in college for three years can lead to all sorts of abuse.

A new book has just arrived on the scene that discusses the whole sordid underworld of college football. Former agent Josh Luchs has written a tell-all book, Illegal Procedure: a Sports Agent Comes Clean on the Dirty Business of College Football, that exposes the exploitation of and illegal payoffs to “student-athletes.” It isn’t pretty.

Agents act like predators preying on the young and unsuspecting athletes. By buddying up to them and giving them money they hope that these college football players will feel a sense of “loyalty” and sign with them as their representatives when it comes time to turn pro. Some players wise up to the process and suck money out of agents without any intention of signing with them.

Loyalty, even the illegal kind, is not necessarily a two-way street.

Luchs is not necessarily the best spokesman for exposing the seamy side of college football because he was basically blacklisted and had no career left there. But there is little doubt that what he is saying is true. Enough of his former clients admit to payoffs to give him credibility. He also cites a number of documented cases of abuse to confirm that college football is not a clean sport.

Will college football and basketball ever clean up their acts? Not likely. With literally billions of dollars to be made by the schools and their umbrella organization, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), it’s easier to look the other way and make token attempts at reform. For the concerned alumnus that actually cares about integrity and the true student-athlete.

1
Text Only
Book Notes
  • 'Moneyball' author tackles Wall Street with 'Flash Boys' Have you ever read a book that feels like it's in a foreign language? It covers a subject you know is important and figure at some point it will all make sense. What do you do when that doesn't happen? Obviously, the easiest solution is to toss the book aside. But what if the underlying message is something you "get" and don't want to give up on? I faced that dilemma recently.

    July 17, 2014

  • MacNeil reading highlights novels Several weeks ago I had the good fortune to attend a talk by Robert MacNeil at the Guilderland Public Library. MacNeil is best known as the former co-host of the MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour on PBS. He retired in 1995 but has continued to write both fiction and non-fiction. His talk at Guilderland focused on two of his novels, "Burden of Desire" written in 1992, and its sequel, "Portrait of Julia," which was published last year.

    July 10, 2014

  • 'The Monuments Men' shows important history World War II continues to hold a special place in the hearts of readers and movie goers. The reasons are many but much of it can be traced to the endless number of storylines from that conflict. There is literally a treasure trove of material that keeps emerging. The latest example is the movie, “The Monuments Men.â€�

    July 3, 2014

  • Authors not afraid to think like freaks Conventional wisdom is something we automatically take for granted. It can be something as simple as assuming there is no cure for the common cold or political polls being a good indicator of who will win an election. Common assumptions of course can be wrong but we usually just accept them as fact. However, in many cases it would be much better to think "outside the box" and consider an alternative way of looking at the world.

    June 26, 2014

  • Book goes further into Armstrong's lies There hasn't been a shortage of elite athletes that have fallen from grace in recent years. Most of them have been baseball players who have been caught using performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) and then lying about it. Golfer Tiger Woods fell from his pedestal because of extra-marital affairs. He has yet to regain his previous aura and perhaps never will. But the loudest crash of all came from cyclist Lance Armstrong who was not only a liar and a cheat but ruined other people's lives in the process.

    June 19, 2014

  • Documentary proves Butch, Sundance still enchant "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" is one of the most popular films of all-time. The 1969 Western is based on the real life exploits of two infamous outlaws whose specialty was robbing trains. They became folk heroes because they supposedly never shot anyone.

    June 12, 2014

  • Pohl's call-up reminds me of Feinstein book We recently learned that Cooperstown native and professional baseball player Phillip Pohl was promoted to the AAA farm team of the Oakland Athletics where he played for nearly a month. For those that don't know, AAA is the highest minor league before reaching the major leagues.

    June 5, 2014

  • Movie gives clues into real Disney Everyone has heard of Walt Disney. How can you not when Disneyland and Disney World are the most popular family vacation spots around. Add in his historic cartoons and animated features and you have a Hollywood legend. But how many people know what the man himself was like?

    May 29, 2014

  • Wooden bio by Davis feels definitive Any long-time observer of college basketball knows that one school and one coach stand out above all others. In the 1960s and 1970s the John Wooden-led UCLA Bruins won ten championships in twelve seasons. Their level of achievement is so remarkable that it will probably never be equaled. Forty years after his last championship the ghost of John Wooden still reverberates at the university.

    May 22, 2014

  • Finding gems in e-book selection For those of us hooked on e-books it's not easy to get a best seller through the Download Zone. Those titles are hot commodities. But just because we have to wait doesn't mean that good books aren't available. I've had plenty of luck finding a "diamond in the rough" when I'm going on vacation and don't want to lug a heavy book around.

    May 15, 2014