Hypocrisy in College Sports

Again.

The Curmudgeon has had a few choices words in the past about college sports. When you come right down to it, he doesn’t think there should even be intercollegiate sports, or at least not in the form we know it today.

One of his issues with college sports – not a major issue but an issue nonetheless – is how poorly the players are treated. By “players,” of course, he means students. If you followed the NCAA basketball tournament, for example, you may have wondered how many classes all those kids were missing so they could play basketball and make money for their schools. The Curmudgeon has written about that, too.

And speaking of money, these kids are money-making machines for their schools yet they don’t get to share in any of those profits. Yes, they get a free college education, which many of them apparently are uninterested in – The Curmudgeon has written about this, too – yet it appears that for many (most?) of them, even if they are interested in the education, the compensation for their exploits on the field of play may be nowhere near commensurate with the contribution they make to filling their schools’ bank accounts.

Recently, though, a few unrelated events reinforced the idea that college sports is filled with hypocrisy and unfairness.

A basketball player at the University of Michigan missed an entire season of play because of an injury, and even though he’s going to graduate – congratulations, young man, you’ve earned a degree from a very fine school – he still has one year of playing eligibility left (although for the life of him The Curmudgeon does not understand why someone who is no longer a student at a school, and who is now a college graduate, should be permitted to play a sport for any college). The problem is that the University of Michigan no longer wants the young man: the team has found other players to take his place. He is free to find another school to take him for one year but he is no longer a member of the University of Michigan’s basketball team.

When you come right down to it, they kicked him off the team.

And here it gets nasty. According to the rules made by the people who run college sports, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), college students – players – who transfer schools during their careers must sit out a year before playing for their new school. There is no earthly reason for such a rule, but it’s there anyway. Why? Mostly, so that grown-ups can exercise authority over young people. If the school the student/athlete is leaving wishes to do so, however, it can grant a waiver that frees the departing student to begin playing right away. The practice of granting such waivers is not very common but is much more common when it comes to students/players who have graduated from college.

But the University of Michigan said “Nuts to that.” Its concern: that the young man would transfer to a rival school. They didn’t want him, but they also didn’t want anyone else to have him, either.

When this information made the news, public reaction was swift and virtually unanimous in its support for the student and its opposition to the school. Knowing when it was licked, the University of Michigan reluctantly relented and granted the waiver.

For this one young man. The obnoxious rule, though, remains, with colleges retaining their authority to treat their students like common chattel.

The Curmudgeon read about this kerfuffle – there he goes again with that word – in the New York Times on April 1 and put a link to the article in his folder of ideas for future blog entries because the whole thing bothered him and he thought he might write about it. Then, though, he received a gift from the bloggers’ gods: two weeks later he read on the ESPN web site of a man who had signed a contract to coach the basketball team at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas less than three weeks earlier but had changed his mind, abandoned UNLV, and signed a contract to coach Texas Tech University instead.

He reneged on his contract and left one school for another.

And unlike the kid, he didn’t need to sit out a year.

In this particular case, the parties involved don’t seem all that exercised about it. The coach apparently had a long-standing relationship with Texas Tech and the UNLV people said they understood his desire to return there once the opportunity arose.

So that’s not the problem.

The problem is the principle, and the hypocrisy.

Why is it perfectly acceptable for a coach to renege on a contract and jump from one school to another but not acceptable for a student to do the same?

Why the double standard?

There are many legitimate reasons for student/athletes to seek to transfer. In the situation described above, the school told the young man it didn’t want him anymore but still wanted to prevent him from going to the school of his choice. Sometimes, students don’t like the school. Sometimes, the coach and the player don’t get along. Sometimes, the people who recruited them made promises they didn’t keep. Sometimes, the people who recruited them left the school – like the coach who jumped from UNLV to Texas Tech (by the way: his sixth job in five years. Anyone who believes a word that comes out of this guy’s mouth should be prohibited from attending college at all because he’s just too stupid and no amount of education will change that).

What you have here, The Curmudgeon believes, is a rigged system:   a system that doesn’t operate in the interest of the students it’s supposed to serve and a system that favors adults over kids every time.

It’s hypocritical and it stinks.

It’s the NCAA.

And it’s yet another reason why intercollegiate sports is a terrible thing.

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