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2012-366 Day 60 – College Sports

Well, originally I was going to do a post on today being Leap Day and how it was kind of the inspiration for this blog series (2012-365 just didn’t have the same ring to it, although Googling the phrase brings up the fact that many other people had the same idea and I think we may check some out in a future installment). That got derailed when I heard about a brewing UCLA scandal yesterday afternoon and then heard on the news last night that an article on a “scandal” in the UCLA men’s basketball program was coming out this morning.

It was. It did. It’s very bad.

In case you don’t have time to read the entire article, it boils down to this: a hands-off coach that coddles star players while leaving the players to make their own way in navigating the college mine field. The teams of the last three years have basically been divided between the conscientious players and the raging partiers, with no guidance from the top. I’m actually glad that Wooden passed away before this came out, because it is an absolute perversion of everything he stood for and an embarrassment to what he represented. Howland’s approach MIGHT work at the pro level, where the athletes are a little older and have an image (and earnings) to protect, but it is the absolute wrong way to run a college program. I am amazed that Ben Howland still has a job as of this moment, because, in general, it’s a pretty bad thing when Sports Illustrated can pull together such a damning article simply talking to your players from the last four years. I firmly believe he has to go and a much more involved coach needs to be brought in.

Sadly, as scandals go, this one was pretty tame compared to the rest of the college sports world. The fact that it happened in my favorite school, especially one with UCLA’s tradition, makes it hurt more, but it’s unlikely that any NCAA sanctions or the like will come out of it. In fact, if Howland isn’t fired, pretty much everyone of importance on this issue is essentially sweeping it under the rug. This all points to a larger problem in college sports, the making money off the work of college students who don’t really know better at this point in their lives.

I am hardly the first person to point this out, and I also understand the opponents who say that the scholarships are all the reimbursement a student requires. My opinion is that sports have taken entirely too much importance in the American University system. The fact that the same term (scholarship) is used for the money given the one-and-done basketball player and the class valedictorian (if they received any money at all) is a colossal joke. The influence of college sports is thrown further out of alignment here in Los Angeles, where the lack of a professional football team has made USC (and to a far lesser extent UCLA) the only game in town, with allegiances declared and an over-importance placed on the smallest actions of college aged kids. There’s a reason why USC has had so many money scandals tied to its football program, and that’s an organization that is pushing too hard to stay relevant and feels the only way it can do so is to bend (and break) the rules.

In all honesty I think amateur athletics at the college level needs to be separated from the schools. No other country does it the way we do, and that is reflected in our test scores and overall attitude towards schools. The fact that a school is both responsible for the academic progress of certain individuals and for the athletic molding of others at the same time while trying to apply the same criteria to both is ridiculous, and the source of so many of these scandals. If we cleanly broke the two apart schools would have much better graduation rates and pretty much every other metric they are measured by would improve, while the money that goes to propping up the non-money making sports (of which they are the majority, it’s why CSUN doesn’t have a football team anymore) could be put back into academics. Yes, certain schools’ reputations would suffer, but perhaps then alumni could donate to the programs that truly make a difference?

Now I’m not saying that every student-athlete is a drain on a University (perhaps I should have this earlier in the article). I have nothing but respect for those who complete their degrees and star on a college team. I’m saying it would be better for them to go to school and participate in a separate league where they can get appropriately paid for their services, and we can allow those people with no intention of working on their academics to progress directly to the pro leagues if they think they can make it.

I think I’ll cut my rant short here, as I can feel it starting to get a little rambly. Sadly I don’t anticipate any of this happening, too many people are getting paid too much money and none of them really care what is best for the academic side of the schools. Sadly some of the people not getting this money are the students who are actually doing all the work (and the ones who are getting the money are breaking the rules). While the system is the way it is, however, I will continue to root for the non-basketball teams at UCLA (until Howland is replaced) and our teams here at CSUN to do their best in the system they are stuck in. Just because the system is flawed doesn’t mean I can’t want the best for the people stuck in it.

Weight: 233.4 Max: 240 Min: 233.4 Body Fat %: 24.7
Yearly Mileage: 40.7 miles (+2 miles)
Current Belt: Purple – Next Belt: Orange – Next Test Date: 3/3/12
Fitocracy Level: 14 (21037 points, 1437/3250 to next level) – ID: disciplev1
Soccer – Last Game: L, 7-1 (Record: 0-1) Next Game: 3/4, 6:40 pm

Posted in Matt 2012-366, Matt General. Tagged with , , .

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  1. Tony Lewis said

    meant to comment on this last week but time got away from me. I would certainly agree with you (and others) the “investigation” and it’s fruit is really pretty much a tempest in a teapot. Shocked to find out that 18 – 22 year olds, living away from home in a university environment partake of alcohol an drugs? Really? Or that premiere athletes receiving preferential treatment from the coaches and staff. I would imagine it would be hard to find a major college basketball or football program where some of that doesn’t occur to some degree. Howland’s aloofness doesn’t necessarily mean it is a fault, only an example of his leadership style. Plenty of other coaches coach(ed) that way. And the players themselves have share a great burden of the guilt. They are adults, capable of making wise and foolish choices about what they do, how they spend their time and to what degree they want to use their abilities to further their academic goals (if they have any) As you said what causes this to be a “story” is that it took place in considerable shadow of John Wooden and his legacy. Wooden had his “skeleton” (Sam Gilbert) but that was another era and is obscured by the blinding light of his legacy, integrity and achievements. Add to that none of this would have mattered had Howland continued to get his teams to the Final Four as he first did. Winning makes everybody happy and cuts down on both the carping and scrutiny. Same with the Red Sox. Had they won in September, and made the post-season NOBODY would have cared about beer and chicken in the clubhouse. But they folded, Francona’s gone, Valentine’s in, and everybody’s up in arms, especially the Boston and national media. Others too share in some of this. I wonder how many coaches tolerated Reeves Nelson’ attitude and style of play before he came to UCLA? He admits he was wrong, but I can’t this just started in Westwood. Where were his HS coaches and others who developed his “game”? And the parents too. both is and others. But this is really not much more of a blip on the radar of college sports. No NCAA violations, or infranctions so there will be no sanctions. If Guerrero tries to save face (and his job) by making Howland an example I know of a private school just a few miles down the 10 that would LOVE to have him as coach. You want to talk scandal and infractions? Now as sad as it is for my Cardinal & Gold blood to admit, what happened in Westwood the past few years pales in comparison to what happened at USC in both their football and basketball programs. Throw in Miami, Memphis, Ohio State, Oregon and others and UCLA’s “scandal” hardly amounts to anything

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