SI is right, but NCAA to blame

This week’s Sports Illustrated story on the Gophers basketball scandal, “The Passing Game,” brings up a good point that hasn’t been addressed enough: What about those sneaky professors?
Jan Gangelhoff, the former team tutor who allegedly wrote about 400 papers for 20 players over the years, is just one of many University conspirators, including Coach Haskins, to blame for the program’s now well-known corruption, the magazine states.
Indeed there are a lot of people to blame for this not-so-unique scandal, and it is thus a widely held thought that if it weren’t for those meddling “friendly faculty,” this whole scandal would have been stopped long ago.
But the root of the blame should stretch beyond the University of Minnesota … to the NCAA; the NCAA’s admittance and game eligibility requirements for athletes are not fair to the athletes, the programs or the school.
The NCAA is to blame for expecting all student athletes who gain college admittance to do well, or good enough in school to play. Division I athletes especially should have the option of enrolling in college courses in addition to participating in athletics.
When students first began to take up athletics in college (during the 1800s), athletics had an emphasis of recreation and enhancing one’s learning. Today, the NCAA fails to recognize that many student athletes and coaches — mostly those in revenue sports — consider college athletics the primary training step to a career in professional sports.
Hence, a “college degree” to these aspiring pro athletes is not what they need to succeed in their area of interest. How did a geography degree help Michael Jordan make it in the NBA? Jordan might tell young kids aspiring to be pro basketball players to stay in school because it helped him learn how to learn. But one doesn’t need to go to college for that. Think the game of Minnesota Timberwolf Kevin Garnett, who went directly from high school to the pros, would have benefited much from a few biology courses? Maybe Garnett would have learned that Darwin’s theory of “survival of the fittest” holds true today and pertains to him and basketball. But what Garnett already knew before college was that making it to the NBA is basically the survival of the best basketball players — so why not concentrate more on those hoops?
Many students who are not athletes complain that those star athletes who seem to concentrate too much on athletics get special treatment from instructors. Well, they should get special treatment, because a lot of them need it, and they deserve it.
Blame the NCAA.
These star athletes are brought to college to win and make money for their respective programs and colleges. What fruity good does it serve society to require and expect the athletes to get a college degree? After all, the colleges have to pay for the education of scholarship players. Do the colleges think that these athletes are going to be giving millions back to the school someday as a result of their classroom education?
College athletes unfairly have an extra obstacle that regular students don’t have in order to become a successful professional. Sure many non-athletes must work to pay for their education, but the college doesn’t require them to do so.
Colleges and universities should offer varsity sports as a major; athletes should have the option to study traditional disciplines like math and English, which should be considered additional majors — classroom-type majors.
Non-athlete students are not forced to take majors about which they know nothing or do not like, the NCAA must let student athletes have the same option.
Then we wouldn’t need to worry about our faculty being too “friendly.”
Nick Doty is the Daily sportseditor. He welcomes comments at [email protected]