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The Tentacle


August 5, 2011

Keeping Score

Derek Shackelford

Intercollegiate athletics is big business. It’s time to stop acting like money does not play a significant role in collegiate sports.

 

Just look what has taken place recently with these three institutions in particular – Ohio State University, the University of Southern California and the University of North Carolina. These football factories err – universities – have been penalized by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), imposed sanctions on themselves, or are being investigated for alleged rule infractions. All of this under the guise of attempting to develop some sort of advantage.

 

This comes at the expense of breaking some rules or overlooking intentional infractions that are deemed alright because wins are more important than losses.

 

Did I mention wins?

 

When the football team is victorious, the university benefits. The school gets exposure, the seats are filled, and boosters give more financially; thus, the school benefits by increased dollars.

 

Did I mention money?

 

All one has to do is look at the financial packages of the coaches to see how much these universities believe in their football programs. At some of these institutions, the football coach is the highest paid employee, and this is without including the outside compensation that is received beyond the university salary.

 

This is not a knock on whether a football coach is overpaid – it may be more of an indictment on how much importance the university places on Saturday afternoons and evenings. Just consider how much the broadcast networks have paid to carry these games on a weekly basis. Fans clamor to watch their favorite team while wearing their school colors. Let’s face it, intercollegiate athletics is big business.

 

As a former collegiate student-athlete, sports certainly do have some lasting benefits. I will continually say that I learned some valuable and enriching lessons on the basketball court that I would never have learned in any classroom situation.

 

Lessons such as healthy competition, confidence, courage, perseverance and teamwork were learned during my athletic career. Also, the benefits of relationships that have been instrumental in my personal growth as a person were a result of being part of an intercollegiate athletic team.

 

Yes, there are some significant advantages of intercollegiate athletics, but they are overshadowed because the emphasis on W’s equates to dollars for the university.

 

Just take a look at how many coaches are fired because losses are more than wins. Never mind that coaches graduate their players and walk with integrity. These are taking a back seat at the expense of a few more wins; or, better yet, a lot more wins.

 

Graduation rates can take a back seat if the players are performing on the field. Although these universities espouse academic integrity – the universities previously mentioned have had their issues with regards to the student-athlete connotation. The athlete-student moniker may be more appropriate as many of these athletes spend more time on playing fields than they actually do on academics.

 

The Ohio State University, University of Southern California and the University of North Carolina are currently undergoing the investigation process by the NCAA to ascertain the severity of the penalty for their respective violations. All three have already admitted to a lack of institutional control and administered self-imposed penalties in the hope that the NCAA will be lenient because these universities have acknowledged their wrongdoing before they were actually caught.

 

Huh? If these universities were not openly caught would they be as eager to impose penalties on themselves. That question has already been answered. The cover-ups, the oversights, the wink-winks, and don’t say anything until you are caught has been part of the ingrained philosophy. Coaches are paid million dollar contracts to win games and – if rule breaking is necessary – then don’t get caught.

 

This is not meant to cast a wide net of dispersion on all athletic programs and coaches. No all of them circumvents the rules. There are universities and coaches who play by the rules and the winning takes care of itself.

 

It would be easy to say that if OSU, USC and UNC had just reported the violations when they occurred, then possibly coaching jobs wouldn’t have been lost, players may not have been isolated and revenue streams may not have dried up.

 

In retrospect what is worse – the violation or the cover up? At the end of the day, winning is really all that matters, because if it wasn’t, they wouldn’t keep score.

 



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