Saturday, January 20, 2007

College sports

I love sports, love watching competitions, used to participate in sports. However, at the college level, sports have been ruined by a variety of corrupt practices all spinning around the huge amounts of money made from them. This is especially true in the major college sports of football and basketball. Colleges have provided a free farm system for the NFL and NBA. Professional baseball teams have to develop their talent through a farm system of minor leagues that they pay for -- but not football and basketball. This needs to be changed.

I know how to correct the mess of college sports. However, what I propose will never happen in a zillion years. But here are the steps anyway:

  • Ban all scholarships in all college sports. Don't pay anyone anything to come to college to play a game. This does several things: it immediately divorces college sports as a farm system for professional sports. It re-establishes the focus on higher education, which is what colleges should be about. It introduces what smaller colleges know, and in fact most NCAA athletes know, that sports can be and should be about other things than training for a professional sports career. Those who want to turn pro will be left in the dark -- but not for long because this will force the NFL and NBA to develop their own farm systems and minor leagues in which to develop their jocks, rather than getting a free ride from the colleges. What about all the lost revenue to the colleges from TV rights and other things? Tough. Live with it. Colleges are not about sports as a business. Colleges are about sports as recreation for students.

  • Redefine league play locally, the way high schools do. Don't travel 3000 miles in order to play a game when you can play a game with the college across town. Big school, little school, who cares? Make sports more about recreation than about winning -- at the college level. Create healthy cross-town rivalries where none exist because neighbor schools are in different leagues. Define leagues locally.

  • Make an equal plane for all sports. Colleges should support tennis as much as football, crew as much as basketball, and with no scholarships and no free farm system for the major sports, the entire stresses on the sports budget change. Student-athletes gain equality, one recreational activity as good as another.

  • Pay coaches no more than you pay other "professors" who teach a subject. Teaching football is not more valuable than teaching history or literature or mathematics or home economics or engineering or water coloring or marketing.

Let professional sports solve their own problems. Why should colleges give the NFL and NBA a free ride, a free farm system for developing their future jocks? What I propose will never happen. But what can happen is for the colleges to demand that the NFL and NBA pay for this farm system they provide. Let the pro teams, not the colleges, pay for the scholarships.

Make education about education, the way it was 100+ years ago when the biggest football game of the year was Harvard against Yale. Now that's what sports is about. Harvard against Yale. Cal Tech against Whittier (a rivalry in which I participated). Put the right perspective on college sports again.

Dream on, Deemer, dream on.

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