Sports fans love to designate certain games as "the greatest ever," "the match of the century," and so forth. Well, I would like to state that a piece in the October issue of The Atlantic, which was recently released online, may well be the most important article ever written about college sports. The author is Taylor Branch, best known for winning the Pulitzer Prize for his work on civil rights. In essentially eviscerating the National Collegiate Athletic Association, Mr. Branch provides ample evidence that our so-called "student-athletes" are themselves lacking in their rights as American citizens; they are, he says, the "heir(s) to Dred Scott."
The author calls the NCAA "a classic cartel." He writes that the contrived concept of "amateurism" is a "cynical hoax," and that the fact that college athletes make fortunes for their millionaire coaches and conscienceless universities is simply, "tragedy." For instance, he points out that the sweetheart term "student-athlete," which is thrown around so wantonly by the NCAA and its journalistic enablers, was essentially created not for educational reasons, but only as a smoke screen to keep players from being able to sue for workman's compensation if they were injured playing for dear old alma mater. It was crucial, for legal reasons, not to let athletes enjoy the status of other university employees; hence they must be "students," without the common rights of laborers.
Mr. Branch found evidence that the NCAA, which is allegedly a nonprofit, spent a million dollars chartering jets one year. At the same time, it appears to have spent less than one percent of its revenue trying to enforce its rule book. Not surprisingly, the real culprits - the big schools and their coaches - are virtually never severely punished. Instead, says the author, the NCAA goes after "powerless scapegoats," like the impoverished athletes themselves or honest professors who dare to volunteer how athletic departments cheat to keep their athletes academically eligible. Essentially, the NCAA is a bully.
In fact, Mr. Branch points out, the NCAA wouldn't dare harshly punish big-time offenders for fear that the major conferences will leave the NCAA and start their own basketball tournament. Only the television money paid by CBS to broadcast March Madness keeps the NCAA in clover. At the end of the day, the whole point of the NCAA - despite the sanctimonious educational claptrap it mealy-mouths - is to protect the unjust concept of amateurism so that its client athletic departments get free labor.
As Mr. Branch explains at length - as I have mentioned often before - all this may come crashing down, as law suits against the NCAA are finally approaching judgment. In the meantime, I commend to you this exceptional article in The Atlantic entitled, simply, "The Shame of College Sports" ... which begins with the disgrace of the hypocritical National Collegiate Athletic Association.
Honorable colleges ought to get out now.