Friday, May 29, 2009

The Derek Rose "Controversy"

Yesterday the "revelation" that Derek Rose had his SAT taken for him and a grade changed when the colleges would check his transcripts from a D to a C, thus making him eligible to play college basketball... is this really a surprise?

In my senior year of high school I remember a basketball player from Mt. Prospect (a suburb of Chicago) telling the Sun Times that he was "happy" he got a 13 on his ACT because it allowed him to play basketball in college if proposition 48 passed. It didn't for another year. Never mind that if you answer "B" and sign your name in the right blank you get a 12. Not only did he not go very far in college, but he never played basketball after his freshman year due to academic difficulties.

Another instance was Marcus Liberty of the "Flying Illini" got an 11 on his ACT. The same day his score was announced (this is before proposition 48 requiring a higher score in order to play) I received an "un-accepted" letter from the University of Illinois saying that my 31 was "not strong enough" for pre-med students. Huh? For the record, the U of I killed their swimming programs after my freshman year. My guess is that they knew then that they would start to enforce Title IX. Good for women is sport. Bad for "non-revenue" men's sports and Olympic sports.

Mr. Rose is not the only person to have a test taken for him. A grade changed. Professors and administration look the other way while academic rules be dammed. Doug Smith, former Dallas Mavericks player, was rarely seen in class at Missouri. As were other superstar basketball players. The NCAA basketball and football schedules make it very difficult for these athletes to attend class. They are athletes first and students second. This is how ESPN can give you "Big Monday" or "Tough Tuesday". The kids pay for it in sweat. Notre Dame and Indiana basketball start times were changed to 6:30 pm (from 7 or 7:30 pm) so students could go from dinner to the basketball game and then back to study. The reward for this? They lost out on TV contracts bringing money into the school.

Let's talk facts.

1) NCAA Division I sports are big money.
2) Nobody cares about the athletes. They only care about the gravy train of money.
3) It is a meat market. If you fail, I've got someone else behind you who can jump higher, swim faster, run longer. When I was swimming Div. I, we called the big championship meets "swimming for dollars". Your scholarship and how much money you got depended on how fast you swam.

When ESPN, or any other "news" outlet speaks about the "shock" of something like this Rose situation I want to scream. If it was really a concern, then make the academic rules tougher to stay eligible. Oh, wait, we can't do that because it will make some guys ineligible to complete. (Never mind the discrimination issues of the guys from the inner city and other "poorer" areas generally get a worse education due to funding their schools.) Is it fair? Hell no.

So until the NCAA, ESPN/ABC (owned by the "family" organization The Walt Disney Company by the way) -actually expose and fight to make changes in the academic rules; please don't act like this is a big deal. It is a daily transaction as common as going to the ATM. Lest we forget to mention that the Olympic sports get shelved when not in an Olympic year by ABC and ESPN in order to make room for "popular sports". Which came first the sport or the popularity? Swimming, gymnastics, soccer, and triathlon are thriving with virtually zero coverage on ABC and ESPN.

NCAA athletes are abused for their scholarships, which we were grateful for, but it is a hard way to earn an education. If you actually get one.

Don't get upset at Mr. Rose, get mad at the system who perpetuates it.

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