Let me start by saying I don’t have any magical answers to what has become the corrupt world of college basketball.
But I know why it may never change.
Who wants to kill the golden goose?
Who out there wants to stop the flow of the millions of dollars benefitting all aspects of the sport?
Millions may be an understatement.
You name it, huge money is what it’s all about.
It all begins with the dream of an extremely talented player to be an NBA star and make big money. The dream is the beginning, the brass ring is at the end.
How does he get there?
He hones his skills at a big-time college, probably for one year if he’s that talented, at the most two, but likely only one.
What college doesn’t want that player?
What school doesn’t want that player to help then win, win big, and hopefully win a national championship?
For the school it means packed-houses, conference domination, top-seeds in the NCAA tournament and high TV exposure.
What does it all mean for the school?
Lots of money.
Probably enough money to pay for virtually the entire athletic department and then some.
That’s why college administrators look the other way when the head coach, looking himself to increase his reputation and his pocketbook, will cheat.
This is not an indictment of all.
Just enough to spoil a great sport.
So a head coach makes a quiet deal with an agent, himself looking to raise his reputation and increase his pocketbook, to deliver a blue-chip athlete to the school.
There have been so many answers out there. But none hold water.
The biggest answer is that it’s time to pay players for their performances.
They help bring in so much money to the institution, why shouldn’t they get a cut?
But no one really believes that paying athletes will halt the greed.
Whatever they are receiving, somebody will try to get them more.
How about the criticism constantly leveled at the NCAA, the governing body of college sports?
There is no question that the NCAA has flaws.
But to me, it’s a matter of passing the buck.
The fact is, there are coaches who cheat. Those who follow the game know who they are.
Look, I appreciate watching the finest basketball players perform, just as you do.
I appreciate watching the good teams.
But now, college basketball on many levels, is all about the one-and-done practice of the big stars.
Play one year in college, likely not attending classes, and begin their NBA dream.
I won’t get into those who are convinced by agents that they are better than they are. Those who leave school after one year, get decent first-year money, then fall by the wayside when they fail to stick in the pros.
Was I overjoyed when Carmelo Anthony led my Syracuse Orange to their only NCAA championship?
You bet I was! Did I understand that Anthony had to move on and was ready for the NBA? Yes.
Do I understand why John Calipari has made a practice of recruiting pro prospects, many for one year, to give Kentucky a real shot at going far in the tournament? I sure do.
Even almighty Duke, the pillar of academic and sports excellence, has fallen to the world of one-and-done.
I feel if a person has great ability in anything to advance professionally, there should be no obstacle. A 16-year old cellist should not have to wait if there’s a demand by the Boston Pops.
Lebron James jumped from high school to the NBA. Others have as well.
James has been unquestionably the most successful by far.
So, I do understand why there’s been a change in college basketball.
Do I like what we’ve seen?
Not at all!
I respect more the move of a Lebron James, than I do the cheating that goes on to get a prospect to play for a college for one year.
Even Duke’s legendary head coach Mike Krzyzewski has voiced the feeling he wouldn’t object to players simply skipping college ball altogether.
I agree with him.
But this is where an athlete has to realistically put his talents into perspective.
A wrong decision could affect his life.
I’m not being old-fashioned when I say this, but I still enjoy the game of college basketball as played by the Ivy League, which offers no athletic scholarships, and smaller schools who simply have the sport as just another part of its athletic program.
I remember when it was a more pure sport…based on execution of plays, and not so much relying on the 3-point shot.
I realize it doesn’t necessarily bring in the bright lights and thrills of the NCAA basketball championship, but least I don’t have to wonder what illegal means brought many of the stars I am watching, to their schools.
I have no answer to the problem college basketball faces.
I only know there’s too much money involved for too many people.
No one will kill the golden goose.
Bill Bradley 1965 Princeton
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