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OPINION - College sports farce

by Chris Conley

NEWS BLOG (WSAU) Yes, I'm disappointed that the Badgers didnt win.

Badgers aside, this year's college basketball championship represents a new low for the NCAA. One team, the UConn Huskies, was barred from post-season play a year ago. The other team, the Kentucky Wildcats, has a starting line-up of five freshmen who have no intentions of graduating and are planning to declare for the NCAA draft. Never has the claim of student athlete been so laughable.

Attending class is merely a fig-leaf, keeping the student-athlete model slightly plausible. Even the Badgers, after winning the west regional in California and then headed for North Texas, spent only three days out of ten in class.

I'm opposed to allowing college athletes the right to unionize. They're not employees. But I also find the NCAA despicable. Every pitch they make about student-athletes and sportsmanship is hollow. To state the obvious: college sports is about money, and the NCAA is the conduit through which the money flows to its member schools.

Turn back the clock to the 1965 and see how far we've come. Fifty years ago the college football season was ten games long. Today schools schedule 12 or 13 games, plus the possibility of a conference championship game and a bowl game. Next year the new playoff system will add one more game for the elite teams. In 65 there were 6 bowl games. Now there are 38. A college basketball team in '65 would play regional opponents, travelling to their games by bus; a season consisted of 18 to 20 games, followed by an NCAA tournament that consisted of 24 teams. Today the champion UConn Huskies played 40 games before emerging from a 64-team tournament field. Even their women's team will play it's 40th game of the season tonight when they bid for their championship.

There are no pretenses that athletes are academically-qualified to attend the schools that offer them scholarships. Half of today's college basketball or football players are not interested in classes; attendance in the classroom is merely a requirement to play. Tutors nurse the players academically the way a trainer nurses an athletes bum knee. Major universities have bestowed diplomas on athletes who are functionally illiterate.

The NCAA sells jerseys and team gear with student-athletes names and numbers on the back, and licenses video games with players names and stats. At the end of the basketball season, the court the game is played on is cut into pieces and sold as mementos to the fans of the winning team. An athlete who is injured finds they have thin health coverage and can lose their scholarship and be forced to leave school if they can no longer play.

The unionizing of college athletics is wrong because the facts. The orgy of greed and money surrounding the sport is obvious on its face. One step beneath the games themselves, everything about college athletics is unseemly.

Mercifully, the season has ended. I can't find anyone worth cheering for.

Chris Conley


Image: UConn basketball byRAY STUBBLEBINE/REUTERS via wsau.com