November 2011

The Shame of College Athletics

by Pitt Griffin on November 30, 2011 · 0 comments

in School

College sports are a great American institution; celebratedin prose and song. Where in legend hearty student athletes strode across the sporting fields bringing honor and joy to the ivied halls of higher learning.

The fanatasy: Yale football 1900s

But the reality of college sports is not romantic. Consider the players. Once student athletes, many are now athletes who cannot find the classrooms.

There are quality programs such as the military academies and premier schools like Stanford, Duke, Notre Dame and Wake Forest. There are exceptional individuals as well, for example Myron Rolle strong safety for the University of Florida and a Rhodes Scholar. And analysis shows that graduation rates for student athletes are now the same as the general population.

But these statistics hide the snake in the grass. Included in the athletic graduation rates are the minor sports where graduation rates are high and statistics for the Ivy League and other schools that do not offer scholarships were added. The picture is less rosy for major sports at major sports colleges.

Graduation rates for football and basketball players are lower and in some cases dismal. The Connecticut men’s basketball team has a graduation rate of 25%. Some entire schools are little better Alabama graduates 44%, Minnesota 44%, Georgia 41%, Texas 40% and Arizona 39%.

And it is all due to money.

In 2009 Penn State’s football program generated profits of $50 million on revenues of $70 million or a profit of $568,235 per football scholarship after factoring in the cost of the athlete’s room and board and education (?).

The PAC-10 has a 12 year TV contract worth $3 billion.

This monsoon of money has created a casual relationship with ethics. Penn State has become the poster child of expediency in the face of its dismal handling of its child raping coach, Jerry Sandusky. Money so blinded the hierarchy of the school that no one demanded that the police be called to protect innocent boys.

Thankfully scandals like these, while a bitter condemnation of the ethics of college sports, are rare.

What is not so rare is the professionalism of amateur sports. Colleges recruit blue ribbon basketball players they cynically know have no interest in the classroom. They are only playing out their mandatory college year before entering the NBA.

The reality - Tiger Stadium LSU. Try and find a GPA in the player guide.

Top rank football players cannot enter the NFL draft for three years after graduation from high-school; which is beneficially for both the NFL and major colleges. The NFL gets three years of minor league instruction for its players at no cost and colleges make money off the playerswithout having to pay them.

College athletics has provided free or subsidized education for many athletes who have used it to embark on successful careers. But
consider the 32 athletes selected in the first round of the NFL draft only 12
of them had at least four years at college (and that includes years at junior colleges).

Athletes in minor sports live in the general population. In the majors they live in athletic dormitories. In the minor sports they take courses in career building disciplines, in the majors they take courses to maintain eligibility. In the minors the coaching staff holds little sway in academic decisions. In the majors it takes a strong willed academic to derail the gravy train.

At its top level college sports is played by mercenaries who pick the schools that will best launch a professional career not because of any academic qualities. Coaches will pay lip service to graduation, but no coach in the history of the major programs has ever been fired for a substandard graduation  rate.

It is a cynical exercise.



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