COLLEGIATE ATHLETICS….Eugene Volokh has a good post about collegiate sports that I quite agree with:
I’m not wild about collegiate sports, in part because I think that the pressure to get a good sports team, especially in the profitable sports, compromises academic standards (both just by overtly lowering them, and by encouraging cheating even as to the lowered standards). But if we step back a bit from that common objection, we see a more basic question: Why should we be demanding that athletes who are getting an education in athletics pass muster under academic standards, or for that matter engage in academics at all?
His point is well taken: why should good athletes be denied the opportunity to develop their skills simply because they’re not very good at math/English/history/etc.?
Of course, the reality is that this doesn’t happen. I doubt there are any good athletes who don’t end up in a university program one way or another, it’s just that most of them don’t graduate. So we pretend they’re student-athletes, when in fact they are just revenue generators for the university.
Eugene’s proposed solution is to let academically unqualified athletes play for one university (say, UCLA) while attending classes somewhere else (perhaps a trade school). As Eugene suggests (go read the whole post for details), this is a win-win-win ? but unfortunately it exposes the fundamental dishonesty that bubbles just barely below the surface of collegiate athletics today: if college athletes take classes somewhere else, it becomes too hard to ignore the reality that their only purpose is to generate money for the university. And if that’s the case, then why aren’t they paid for it?
As things stand, major collegiate sports are simply free farm teams for the pros. Universities like it because it generates revenues and keeps the alumni happy, and professional sports teams like it because it saves them the trouble of running minor league teams. The only ones who get screwed are the athletes themselves, most of whom never become pros, never get a diploma, and never get a dollar out of the whole thing.
The more you think about how these kids are treated, the harder it is not to feel faintly disgusted. It’s about time we put a stop to it.