"You Gotta Be Kidding!"
by Mickey Charles CEO, sportsnetwork.com
Huntingdon Valley, Pa (Sports Network) -
At least that is the way the accepted adage plays out. And, for the most part, things do change. But not always for the better. As often as they improve the world around us we also long for the "good old days" before change created chaos, confusion, disunion and an unsystematic imbroglio that could not be epitomized in better fashion than the collegiate world of sports.
It is March Madness time, with the meaning of madness characterized and depicted as excitement, passion for the sport, electrifying and galvanizing without the excessive and choreographed outbursts from Dick Vitale. It is a time of the year when the hypocrisies of the NCAA are swept under the carpet and put on a back shelf in favor of the intoxication filling arenas from coast to coast as preparations are made for crowning this year's college basketball champion.
Yet, that is the very point that highlights the mental and financial ambidexterity that is truly March Madness Mendacity. While the NCAA is signing billion dollar media contracts, and there is no denying that college sports has become as much of a pure business as the NBA, NHL, NFL and MLB, the powers that be operate in CIA/KGB fashion to condemn and penalize athletes for calling home from the athletic office, obtaining a complimentary ticket for their girl friend, mother or father to watch them play and, most recently, for furthering their education thanks to some outstanding Samaritan gesture.
St. Johns Erick Barkley was first suspended by the NCAA for driving a car that wasn't his, and then suspended for alleged financial violations.
Madness is an apt description.
The NCAA and its member schools look the other way and adapt one proposition after another that permits athletes to walk the halls of universities, ivy covered or not, advantage scholarships and use their God-given talents to fill the coffers of the schools they attend while their own educational advancement revolves around scoring titles, conference championships and TV contracts that will give them as much exposure as Billy Joel or Barbra Streisand on a concert tour. When it comes to hoops and being on display, most of the standouts in the bastions of higher learning do not have their eyes on any diplomas or careers. The collegiate circuit is the same as taking a Broadway show on the road with the prize being the potential of a first or second round draft pick in the NBA before they finish their sophomore or junior year.
Colleges are the real minor leagues for the NBA. The showcase is on full display this week. The NCAA is licking its chops over the monetary gains and each conference savors the checks that each of the networks, in turn, send along not to mention the revenue from a myriad of other sources in and out of the arenas. No one has ever heard anyone from David Stern's office, he that is lord and master of round balls on display, encourage an athlete to go back to college and learn to speak, read and write. If he can go to his left, sign here and put this hat on for the cameras while we hold up the jersey of your new team. What a guy! In one of the most educated countries in the world when it comes to our children, one that also happens to be the richest, instead of having our kids enter the mainstream of society with some degree of intelligence, we limit that education, for many athletes, to points, rebounds, assists and blocked shots. That is the measuring stick.
Auburn All-American Chris Porter put his Mother's welfare ahead of his own career and was punished by the NCAA.
The difference between our sweatshops and those where Kathy Lee Gifford had clothes made is that the kids working in ours can buy the ones where the kids weaving and spinning hers were employed.
In the midst of all this, with dollars raining down upon them from everywhere, the NCAA wishes to divert attention from their mercenary, disingenuous and sanctimonious approach to things by questioning whether an athlete at the college level, by definition an amateur, was able to advantage or earn some monies to further his education (shock of all shocks!!!) or save his mother from being evicted and tossed out into the street.
College sports are big business. Every office in the nation has an NCAA bracket pool this week. Nike created a town called Bracketville. ESPN is spending a small fortune promoting their selection game. CBS has followed suit. We have one on our site. Wagering - shhhhhhhhhh - will be enormous in the sports books of Nevada for the next two weeks, as well as among the offshore communities and on the phone lines of bookmakers from coast to coast. TV and radio commentators will indicate the favorites for the games and by how great a point spread. Newspapers will publish NCAA game statistics right next to the early line.
It has been said that power corrupts and the NCAA has taken the traditional follow on sentence for that and converted it to "absolute power is kind of neat." They have become the ushers of the sports world that is collegiate. They were anointed with pants that carry a stripe down the side and a flashlight that allows them to tell you where to sit, what to eat, when and how loud to talk. It works in the movies for the comfort of those around you. When abused, as it is by the NCAA, it tends to destroy the sport and those associated with it.
Instead of concentrating on education, making a letter of intent a four-year commitment, forcing classes and selected academic curriculum necessities that go beyond Basket Weaving 101, Social Issues 35 and Sports Management 202, they worry about an isolated phone call with a value of about $1.35 to an athlete's home to say, "Hi, Mom!" And then suspend his participation in the sport or a number of games because of it.
Sports in college are big business. Everyone in the country seems to know it and recognize it - media, schools, athletes, students, coaches, college presidents, SIDs, administrative directors - except the NCAA hierarchy. But this is the week when nothing else matters except the game. Nothing at all. That is the whole point.
Change is inevitable. For most of us. Usually, to better our lives. As for the NCAA, you gotta be kidding!