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January 11, 2004

Remove the Charade

This excerpt is from the 8th in a 10 part series in the Dallas News on regaining control of college athletics, by Kevin Blackistone.

It was a common practice at the turn of the century to stack college football teams with paid non-students. Imagine that. College players being reimbursed to play football but not go to class.

This practice was never institutionalized. The NCAA and individual conferences drew up rules to protect what they called amateurism. Ever since, colleges have had to sweep aside overwhelming evidence that their purported reason for participating in intercollegiate sports is nothing but a charade.

1950s Sports Illustrated cover boy Bob Cox told the St. Paul Pioneer Press that the only reason he transferred to Minnesota was for more pay to play. "I didn’t make any bones about it when I went to college," said Cox, who died in October. "I said, ’What do you pay?’ That was pretty much how I approached my college opportunities – who would pay the best deal?"

This year, college athletics had the Maurice Clarett saga. Clarett didn’t want to go to college; he just wanted to go from his prom to the pros. But the NFL doesn’t allow it. So someone at Ohio State went out of their way to keep the otherwise-uninterested Clarett academically eligible. The Buckeyes won the national championship.

"We’re serving the semi-pros and not the regular student body," charged Univ. of Denver professor Linda Bensel-Meyers, who leads the radical group of college faculty called the Drake Group.

What if big-time college football and basketball just legitimized themselves as minor league developmental systems for the pros? What if they made football and basketball players employees of the university and allowed them, if they wished, to enroll in classes and pursue degrees just like other campus workers? Who would care?

That way nobody gets used. Everybody gets paid. And hypocrisy and pretense would no longer apply.  (Dallas News 12-17-03)