I’ve had a few people ask me what I think about Taylor Branch’s impressively researched article in the Atlantic Monthly about college sports. My response is that no piece like that gives a complete picture of the problem without seriously acknowledging the understandable passivity of the NBA and NFL with regard to creating a professional alternative to big boy college athletics.
Why should they, of course, is the valid response. The pro leagues get a free pass on the risk and expense of training. They also benefit from the free marketing of new stars. It’s a fabulous deal for them.
It’s not so great for athletes who don’t want to be student-athletes, though. The thing is, I have a hard time placing all the blame for their situation on those on the college end. It seems to me that the NCAA is well within its rights as an organization to insist on certain rules and regulations that it expects its members and its student-athletes to adhere to.
The problem is that the NCAA and the schools are a little bit pregnant themselves.
It’s one thing to say to a student-athlete that he or she cannot be allowed to profit from his or her name to preserve some sort of amateurism standard. It’s quite another to take financial advantage of that name while simultaneously denying the same opportunity to the player. You can argue whether that may or may not be corrupt, but it certainly corrupts the very standard those academic institutions claim to uphold.
All of which is my long-winded way of seconding Dan Shanoff’s excellent, elegant solution to the mess college sports has gotten itself into:
… The easiest solution is to simply create a true minor-league for pro football that takes the best potential-pro players out of the college system and puts them in a paid training program, leaving everyone else comfortable with the deal they are getting.
That being said, if it were truly easy, somebody would have already done it. That’s one reason I’m amused by Mark Cuban’s bluster about a college football playoff – if you’ve got the money to do something big that bypasses the BCS, why not go for the whole enchilada and set up your own pro league and playoff? Could it be that as the owner of an NBA team, there’s only so far you’re willing to go?