Jewish World Review April 24, 2001 / 2 Iyar, 5761
3 new rules to give colleges
ALL over the United States, coaches of college
basketball teams are said to be depressed.
The reason, according to sports-page reports, is
that their players are leaving school early in
record numbers in the hopes of playing in the
Sophomores and even freshmen who recently completed the college season
are announcing that they now intend to try for the NBA. The young men
invariably refer to this as "going to the next level."
And some of the coaches -- who worked hard to recruit these young men out
of high school -- say with sadness that this is bad for the college teams the
players leave behind, and bad for the players who are not yet truly ready for
But it's not the college coaches who should be feeling sad -- or angry.
It's the colleges and universities as a whole -- their administrations and
faculties, their students, their alumni.
They should not be sad or angry that the young men are leaving their teams to
go to the pros.
They should be angry -- and embarrassed -- for what suckers the universities
have become. And the universities have done it willingly, with their eyes wide
They lavish precious scholarships on young men who they know have no real
interest in what the universities can offer a student, beyond a platform to show
off basketball skills to NBA scouts. Many college basketball players refer to
where they are enrolled not as a school or a university, but as a "program." A
The young men accept the scholarships, hoping they end up attending the
university as briefly as possible. They see it as a steppingstone -- a platform
on which to audition for the pros.
You may be asking: Is there anything wrong with this? Are the top players not
just pursuing career goals, the same as engineering or law students?
Yes, they are -- but the engineering and law (and medical and English
literature and music) students prepare for their careers with every intention of
staying in school the whole way, and earning a degree.
The real insult here -- the genuine injustice -- is to all the high school students,
especially those from low-income areas, who believe us when we tell them
that the way to success in life is to study hard and work diligently to earn
good grades. They can change the world if they do that, they are told. Then
many of them find they do not have the financial resources to attend a
Those same students, who would give anything to be able to attend a good
university, hear about basketball players who are deluged on a daily basis
with Federal Express envelopes from colleges that are slobbering over
themselves, all but begging the basketball players to deign to accept free
tuition, room and board at their schools.
The Federal Express envelopes don't arrive at the homes of the students who
can't shoot baskets, but who are working to do brilliantly in chemistry or
And then the talented basketball players who accept the scholarships leave
college at the age of 19 or 20, without a look back.
Can anything be done about this? Here are a few suggestions:
- Require high school athletes who accept university scholarships to sign
contracts saying that if they should leave college early, not only will they be
required to refund every cent the university has spent on them -- but also to
provide the university with a percentage of their pro salaries earned for the
years they would have been in school.
- Require universities to provide, for every scholarship given to an athlete,
another scholarship for a non-athlete at the same high school, and perhaps
one more scholarship for a non-athlete at another school.
- Require agents who represent college athletes who leave college early for
the pros to sign over their entire commissions to the universities from which
they have removed the athletes, during the years the athletes would have been
in school. The agents' commissions would go to the general scholarship fund
-- and the resulting scholarships would be required to go to deserving
Will this ever happen? Probably not. Meanwhile, the universities -- the
"programs" -- will be played for
JWR contributor Bob Greene is a novelist and columnist. Send your comments to him by clicking here.
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