THE SHAM AND THE SHAME (CONT.)
Regarding John Underwood's article on the student-athlete hoax (Special Report: The Writing Is on the Wall, May 19), it is amazing to me that although much has been written on this subject, little is being done to stop corruption in college athletics.
I am a graduate of a major Southwestern university, and I know firsthand of some of the excesses that occur when it comes to achieving "the winning spirit." I took classes that are described as "Mickey Mouse" and, indeed, many of them were—not because their content was not academic or useful, but because those "taught" by coaches were often farces. Of course, there were coaches who were very competent teachers, but some never showed up in class (an assistant did the teaching) and others required us students to "help out" at meets or games. The athletes in the "major" sports always seemed to get A's. These kinds of practices have obviously been going on for years, as I graduated in 1967.
The point is that good courses in the theory and practice of coaching are needed so that the next generation doesn't have the idea that winning is everything.
Whenever I give money to my alma mater, I always specify that it go to the library. This way I can be assured that the athletic department won't get its hands on it, and athletes who don't belong in the university will certainly not benefit, because the library is one place you'll never find them.
I'm black, 6'10" tall and from Los Angeles. I attended four high schools in three years in pursuit of my dearest and biggest dream—becoming a professional athlete. I have just participated in four years of basketball competition at the NCAA Division I level, yet the dream will not come true.
After reading your article by John Underwood, I wondered: Am I to comprehend what was written? Do I actually have the ability to write this letter? According to your article, I have less than a 50% chance. My situation was no different than that of anyone else you spoke of in that article concerning the classroom. I just thought I'd let you know.
Boise State University
In my 12 years as a secondary-school teacher, I have seen many of our young people fall prey to the student-athlete hoax. We teachers try so hard to get our athletes to see some of the pitfalls mentioned in your article, but they don't believe us. I pray they will believe you. I am preserving my copy of the article, and I plan to use it as a teaching aid in my high school and university classes.
JOLENE E. WALLACE
John Underwood's article should be mandatory reading for all school administrators and coaches at all grade levels!
John Underwood presents a bleak and incriminating picture of academic misconduct and exploitation of athletes by a segment of the nation's college coaches and university officials. As a college football coach for 12 years (at four major universities), I resent the implication that the coaching profession has no regard for the athlete except for his playing ability. The sports public should know that the nation's colleges and universities have hundreds of coaches, in all sports, who are committed to the present and future welfare of the youngsters they coach.
The academic welfare of college athletes has become more and more of a problem as public educational standards have declined and the value structure of our society has been drastically altered. Even so, with sound planning, reliable counseling, assistance from existing university sources and encouragement from coaches, a young athlete can overcome a poor academic background and establish a foundation for a productive future. College athletics has its faults, which can be corrected, but it can also take pride in the thousands of educated, successful men in our society who were college athletes.
Assistant Football Coach
Wichita State University
Were you listening to what Billy Harris said about you? "We were ranked 20th and got featured in SPORTS ILLUSTRATED." You feed the myth that Harris so avidly believed.
Many colleges—Division III schools especially—conform to standards even more rigorous than those John Underwood proposes. However, their unranked teams won't sell out 100,000-seat stadiums or national magazines even if their athletes do graduate and go on to professional and graduate schools.
USAF Academy, Colo.
There is really only one cause: TV money. When millions of dollars are being dangled in front of winning teams, it's absurdly idealistic to believe that winning will be subordinated to morality.
While I agreed with John Underwood's analysis of the prevalence of deceit and exploitation in sports, I was concerned that he did not acknowledge the success black colleges historically have had in providing black and white athletes educational opportunities and in graduating large numbers of them. This story remains to be told.
LEONARD L. HAYNES III
Office for the Advancement of Public Negro Colleges
Those of us associated with college athletics know there have been problems related to academic goals and athletic eligibility, but until this year few of us knew cheating was so extensive. It makes one wonder what collegiate sport is all about. Yet everyone knows the problem has to do with winning. Fewer and fewer coaches, administrators, alumni or fans really care how it is accomplished, as long as the bottom line is victory.
However, until the NCAA makes radical changes in its enforcement and penalty systems, the problems will continue to escalate. Coaches must respect the underlying principles of the NCAA if they are to follow its rules. Few coaches do respect them. Most of us feel that those who make NCAA rules and policies do not give enough consideration to the protection of the participation rights of athletes. In its justifiable and understandable determination to force coaches to follow its rules, the NCAA has lost track of the fact that participation in sports by students is the primary reason for the existence of the NCAA, and too many innocent athletes are being punished along with the guilty ones.
The NCAA's major concern seems to be formulating rules to control those who cheat. Unfortunately, the NCAA practice of penalizing the institution for the infractions of sometimes only a few people in its athletic program too often results in the punishment of more innocent athletes than guilty ones. Meanwhile, the guilty coaches get their wrists slapped but seldom receive punishment that fits the severity of their crime. Moreover, student-athletes proved guilty will be given an opportunity to appeal, but there is no avenue through which innocent student-athletes can appeal blanket penalties placed on them by the NCAA. To me this is a crime.
University of Kansas
Many of the academic problems pointed out in John Underwood's fine article could be reduced by these rules changes:
1) Replace the "normal progress" rule with a requirement that any student must meet the academic degree requirements of a particular class before that year of athletic eligibility is used, e.g., a student must qualify as a junior in a specific academic degree program before using the junior year of eligibility, etc.
2) Base the number of scholarships to be granted each year on the percentage of scholarship athletes graduating relative to the overall graduation rate for that university.
The question remains as to the desire of the NCAA to place the correct emphasis on the students' education versus the financial rewards of an athletic program.
CARL C. MOORE, PH.D.
Professor of Management
University of South Alabama
The only fault I can find with the article is that John Underwood neglected to point the finger at the real culprits in this catastrophe: the alumni. They are the ones who are demanding the winning teams and calling for the heads of losing coaches.
Your proposals should be adopted by all institutions of higher education. And to further remove college football from its "farm system" position, there should be a return to one-platoon football, which could lead to more time spent on creative coaching and less time spent on creative recruiting.
Salt Lake City
John Underwood's fine exposition posed many serious questions regarding the deception and abuse of athletes by many of our colleges and universities. But isn't an entire university compromised when intercollegiate sports have an impact on its administrative priorities and community focus? What business does a university have operating a sports-entertainment industry, much less farm teams for the NFL or NBA?
WILLIAM R. MASON
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