Monday, July 23, 2012

Demobbing our colleges

kw: sports, corruption

All day I've heard conversations up and down the hall where I work, people arguing over whether the NCAA sanctions on Penn State's football program were too tough, or not enough. I stayed out of it. I am no fan of "big money" school sports programs. They have become the tail wagging the dog (for decades already).

A lot of what is wrong with college sports programs could be solved with a single Federal statute: Admission tickets price capped at $5, and 75% of the money thus generated to go toward well focused scholarships. Oh, yeah: and make ticket scalping a capital offense.

In my college years (which were scattered throughout my 20s and 30s), every school I went to had a football program that begged money from the college almost every year, to upgrade or replace a stadium, or to increase salaries. They had the same arguments every time, about how much the alumni "demanded" it, and how much some of them gave, and how much money the program generated. But in every single damn case, the money that flowed into the sports program stayed there, and none ever flowed back out. The program was just a black hole-money sink.

I recently learned just how highly Mr. Paterno was paid. As great a coach as he was, his pay was obscene! Nobody is worth that kind of money. The amount of money that flows around college sports (I won't even get into pro sports!) simply invites corruption, begs for it, and almost demands it. The corruption comes. When the janitors at PSU knew what was going on, for years, but were afraid they'd lose their jobs if they told the police, you know evil is afoot at the highest levels. And I have no confidence that the new university administrators and sports staff are any better. Give 'em time…

And let's not hear any moaning about how many minority kids might not get a chance at an education if they don't get a sports scholarship. Only about a tenth of them even finish, at most schools. They get to play a year or two, then either slow down, or get hurt, or flunk a class because the coaches won't let them have sufficient study time. A very few youngsters get recruited by professional teams. Most of the rest are discarded. These sorts of practices are a subtle form of racism that needs to be exposed.

There are a very few schools that boast they actually graduate 80% or 90% or more of their athletes. Any school where athletes graduate at a rate less than the school average, ought to have the number of sports scholarships it offers slashed or eliminated.

To all my friends who are PSU alumni: I am sorry for you. You have been needlessly shamed.

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