Okay, America, I know I’m flying in the face of one of your favorite things: big time college sports. But it’s time for us to take a long, hard look at reality. Big time college sports should be seriously limited. I am convinced the only we are going to curtail this sad blight on our college students is for congress to hold open hearings and draw more attention to the matter. Here’s FIVE GOOD REASONS WHY:
1. Academic dishonesty. College coaches and athletic directors routinely pressure professors to give passing grades to athletes who do not deserve to pass. Why? To keep them eligible to play. We’re having enough trouble in America today with dishonesty. We used to say, “Honesty is the best policy,” and we need to start saying it again.
2. Sports rivalries promote the wrong ideas about colleges and universities. Fans of Penn State hate Syracuse, and fans of Syracuse hate Penn State. Texas hates Texas A+M and Texas A+M hates Texas. Georgia hates Auburn and Auburn hates Georgia. Hey, wake up! Stop! These are institutions of higher learning, where they do teaching, research and public service. The public needs to think of them that way and not as sports factories.
3. Previously honest alumni of colleges and universities take part in surreptitious, underhanded practices to lure athletes to their alma maters. NCAA rules “prohibit” athletes from being paid, but that doesn’t stop wealthy alumni when their alma mater’s football or basketball team’s championship chances are at stake! There are many ways of paying athletes –cars, credit cards, charge accounts – all carefully hidden. Let’s stop encouraging otherwise honest people from becoming crooks.
4. Athletes’ presence on campuses can be disruptive. Athletes know they’re there to play ball, and they know they have protection. Sometimes they are just impulsive and immature. Beatings and rapes are more common than we know, because they are covered up. The Penn State scandal is one recent example, but many other incidents – known and unknown – have cause needless disruption.
5. The athletes themselves are exploited! Yes, they are! Most of the athletes in major football and basketball programs get certificates of attendance, but no degree. Most of them do not get pro contacts. What they get is a handshake, a bad knee, hip or back, and an uncertain future.
What’s the alternative? The National Football League and the National Basketball Association should establish their own minor leagues. Players should be paid an honest, above-board salary, and should get health insurance and disability income insurance. And there should be funds set aside to help those who do not make the majors to get some training in another occupation, so that they are not thrown out into society with a sense of failure and no training. How could such a revolution take place? Only if you pressure your congressional reps to establish a national commission on sports to study the problem!