Don’t let the game play you

How misconceptions of college athletics makes professional sports morally superior

I am a city person and when you live in a city, you tend to favor professional sports teams. Why would you spend your time obsessing over 18-20 year olds when you can watch the best athletes in the world? However not everyone has my clarity of vision and I now realize that college sports are a big fucking deal to many people. Now I’m not against watching college sports. I cheer for my alma mater Saint Louis Billikens whenever they’re on TV. I’m always engaged during March Madness and Bowl Season, but that’s about it. What shocks me about college fans is that they insist college sports are superior to pro sports. Their argument isn’t a judgment of skill, rather it’s that college sports are a “purer” form of the game.

“College athletes play for the love of the game, not the money” is the main argument I usually hear. And to an extent, they’re right. The overwhelming majority of college athletes participate knowing they won’t get fortune or fame, but those aren’t the athletes that you watch on TV saturday afternoons. Football and basketball athletes at major universities are the workhorses of a multi-billion dollar business that they only see the dregs off. As a result, we’ve seen the quality of collegiate competition diminish rapidly because the athletes now realize that they need to get theirs, just like everyone else. If you want to see people playing for the “love of the game” go to your local YMCA because the athletes on TV aren’t.

So let me give you some examples college sports aren’t as “pure” as people think. In my opinion, these reasons make professional sports a morally superior brand. At least in the pros, athletes are somewhat valued at their worth. If you disagree, write a comment below but remember, I’m talking about the sports everyone watches on TV like football and basketball. I doubt that you’re tuning into the NCAA Track and Field Championships, like me.


REASON 1: College athletes are focused on leaving as soon as possible

About 10 years ago, the NBA forced all high school seniors to spend one year out of high school before they could declare for the NBA draft. What has ensued is a college basketball system that is very similar to NBA free agency (except for the part when the athletes get paid). Each year, coaches try to find talented high school recruits that they can plug into their system for a couple of months. Hopefully that freshman will be the missing temporary piece that helps them win a championship. Some coaches, like John Calipari in Kentucky, have even gone so far as to recruit a new group of 2-3 NBA-bound recruits each year and try to win on pure talent alone. He’s been pretty successful with that model with 4 Final Fours since 2011 and a championship in 2012.

What’s wrong with this is that athletes have no loyalty to their school or team. Whatever happens during the season, doesn’t matter because they know that they are going to be going off to the NBA by the end March. Why bother to go to class then? Why bother to give it a 100% effort if an injury during that year will prevent you from making millions in the future? The same thing happens in football with the NFL’s 3 year ban on high school players entering the league. Today when a highly-sought after NFL prospect’s team doesn’t have a chance to win a championship, they’ll sit out their bowl game in order to protect their future worth. The college stars that you see on TV aren’t playing for the love of the game, they’re just trying to last long enough to see a payday.

REASON 2: Oh yeah, I guess college athletes are students too

When it comes to major conference basketball and football, one of the most ironic words out there is student-athlete. By putting the word student first, you make it seem like sports and scholastics are given equal priority by the NCAA. I’ll just say it direct, the NCAA doesn’t care about their revenue-generating athletes getting an education. Actions speak louder than words, so let’s look at their actions.

In basketball, teams typically play 2 games a week, once on the weekend and once during the week. That means that for at least half of the weeks from November to March, basketball players are going to miss a couple of days of school in order to travel. On the football side, it’s a little better because most teams play on Saturday. But some smaller conferences like the MAC regularly schedule games on Tuesday and Thursday and Friday in hopes of getting more notoriety. Thus talking away more class time.

If being away from campus wasn’t bad enough, athletes barely have time to go to class when they ARE on campus. Between early morning film/weightlifting sessions and afternoon/evening practices, athletes have a small window to attend class. While the NCAA limits coaches to only 20 hours of “athletically related activity” that doesn’t mean much when you realize that travel, training room activities, and promotional events AREN’T included in those 20 hours. Also. the NCAA counts a competition as taking only 3 hours of time regardless of the length of the event (track meets last all day). Even if a student wanted to push themselves academically, the constant absence from class and the sport-related time constrains makes pursuing a rigorous academic track, like say pre-Med, extremely difficult. So much for getting a quality education.

REASON 3: Athletes get punished for earning money

The reason for all of my arguments begins and ends with money. The NCAA has set up a system where in exchange for waiving some students’ tuition, colleges can receive millions of dollars in gross revenue and free advertisement. The NCAA and media companies like ESPN and CBS Sports are getting billions from this same system. And what are the athletes getting? Nothing, except the free tuition that, as I outlined earlier, many won’t be able to take full advantage of.

The hypocritical part about this is that the NCAA will then reprimand athletes that try to use their fame to benefit themselves. Take the Ohio State football players that tried to sell their school memorabilia in exchange for money and tattoos. The NCAA hit the school with fines and a ban on post-season play. So you’re telling me that a college can sell a program featuring an athlete’s photos for $20 but if the athlete wanted to exchange their autograph for $5, THE ATHLETE is the one in the wrong?

REASON 4: These coaches ain’t loyal

The only group that is less loyal than professional athletes are college coaches. Take the career of Ohio State University’s football coach Urban Meyer. Every school he’s been at has improved tremendously under his leadership. Bowling Green increased by 6 more wins his first year there. That number was 5 for Utah and 6 again at Ohio State. While he is clearly a good coach, I hope you realized that he’s bounced around quite a bit. That’s because most college coaches, will just abandon their contractual obligations with a school the second a more high profile position is offered. At both Bowling Green and Utah, he only stayed for TWO years before he was off to the next opportunity.

While coaches have every right to move on, don’t forget about what they are leaving behind. A big part of recruiting high school athletes is the coach promising to take care of them on and off the playing field. Don’t you think it’s a little hypocritical that a coach can recruit an athlete using the concepts of loyalty, trust and honor and then just abandon them less than a year into their college experience? And Urban is the best case scenario, University of Kentucky basketball coach John Calapari, who I mentioned earlier, left UMass and Memphis for better opportunities while leaving both schools behind with a slew of NCAA recruiting violations and punishments.

And even if a coach has one of those 10 or so “premier” college coaching positions, they are still not immune from jumping ship. Nick Saban, Rick Pitino, Jimmy Johnson, Billy Donovan, Pete Carroll, Larry Brown, and Steve Spurrier are all examples of championship winning college coaches that left their schools to coach in the pros. So even if you’re the most sought after recruit in the nation who has his or her pick of the schools you want to go to, you still have to worry about your coach abandoning you for greener pastures before you even step on campus.


So if you’re a college athlete this your situation. You’re barely getting an education because of your predetermined schedule. You’re not getting a piece of the billion-dollar pie that pays your coach’s million-dollar salary. You’re coach can leave at any time for more money somewhere else. If you try to get some money you’ll get punished and if you get hurt, you’ll miss out on potentially millions in future earnings. So what do you do in a situation like this? You get out as soon as possible.

And that’s how you play the game.


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