(WTNH)–March Madness is one of the most anticipated sports events in the country, aside from the Super Bowl and (maybe) the World Series.
Division I college basketball is played on the biggest stage in sports. Duke, Syracuse, UConn, UCLA, Florida…these programs all demand the highest-caliber athletes to play at the highest level.
As a result, it seems that there are so many shades of grey when it comes to recruiting. So, where is the line drawn? Institutions throughout the country do whatever it takes to convince these young, high school boys to play for them.
This is not old news by any means.
Flash back to 1955, when Wilt Chamberlain was being chased by two hundred universities (that’s not a typo). When he flew in to Kansas for a tour, he was picked up in a Cadillac, his girlfriend was already in the back seat, and he was paid cash.
Fast forward 60 years. The media exploded with reports from Louisville about sex parties dating back to 2010 for basketball recruits. Graduate assistant coach Andre McGee organized these on-campus events with former escort Katina Powell, who supplied dancers who did not attend the university and “side events.” One of the recruits, who ultimately opted to play elsewhere, said, “I knew they weren’t college girls. It was crazy. It was like I was in a strip club.”
Three days ago, USA Today released a story about a sex scandal developing at the University of Notre Dame. While it does not necessarily pertain to recruits, various student-athletes came forth about a female academic coach who coerced them to have sex with her daughter, according to the lawsuit in an Indiana court last Friday. The lawsuit also cited that the faculty member arranged these “encounters” in exchange for academic favors.
High school kids are not prepared to experience such behavior, and they shouldn’t have to be.
Recruiting is a business, and the recruits are its employees. If the players perform better, the institution sells more tickets and attracts more viewers. Like an employee, when a recruit applies somewhere they want to know if it’s a place where they can develop skills and evolve into something greater. Money, girls, and nice cars can only take a college athlete so far. After college, it becomes a mystery. At least the program picked up a few wins during those years (Louisville won the 2013 national championship).
The identity of the student-athlete has been lost. Several college athletes aim to go pro as soon as possible and put aside the idea of graduating with a degree.
In 2011, quarterback Andrew Luck was a strong candidate to be selected first overall in the NFL draft. Instead, Luck opted to stay at Stanford and finish his degree is architectural design. “Call him old school,” said his father Oliver. “He comes from a faction of people who believe you go to college to pursue your degree.”
Young athletes have always been taught that the books come first. Who knows, maybe if there were more pro athletes with college degrees, we wouldn’t see as many stories about athletes involved with drugs, domestic violence charges, and DUIs.
Going to class is far from a waste of time.