Restoring ethics to college athletics

Give me an E . . . give me a T . . . give me an H . . . give me an I . . . give me a CAL -- ETHICAL. A weak student -- but exceptionally strong athlete -- is recruited by a college coach. He (less often a she) is provided every possible comfort and conditioning. Course requirements are as unrigorous as possible; adequate financing is assured.

The athlete, let us pose, does well his first and second years and helps his college have a winning team. Then comes an injury, and his (her) usefulness to the institution crumbles.

Financial support probably drops off and academic requirements stiffen. Our hypothetical student must drop out, unable to continue an athletic career and without the academic training to enter a profession. He's used as well as used up.

Another example: a weak student, but exceptionally strong athlete, is recruited by a college coach, and not only makes the varsity but is credited with much of its success.

In every way possible the college allows this student, particularly during the season of play, to take academically undemanding courses. But what happens post graduation when the final whistle blows to signal the end of the last varsity game for this athlete? Unless he (or she) is one of the rare few to make it into professional sports, we have a finely tuned athlete suffering from poorly tuned academics.

It can be argued that the college or university which is so used these athletes physically has abused them mentally.

What have the students learned? At best, they have learned that ethical academic standards fall before athletic prowess.

At worst, they have been manipulated and shown, by those whom they would trust, how to "beat the system." Also, they will have received passing grades for work undone or poorly done. They will have been rewarded for cheating.

It's a sorry picture. But is it a typical one? do most colleges and universities, determined to have winning athletic teams, buy and sell players and coaches blatantly breaking ethical standards?

Probably not, yet. . . .

But the problem has gotten so bad and the bad publicity so persistent that the American Council on Education has formed a Committee on Collegiate Athletics to study the problem -- to "encourage the maintenance of ethical collegiate athletic practices."

If colleges and universities would play by the rules and be scrupulously ethical about it, there is a way to put all schools at the same advantage (or disadvantage, if you will). Eliminate all athletic scholarships. But what to do with those high- schoolers who aren't college material -- academically -- but are excellent athletes? For them there should be semiprofessional clubs, teams, and leagues in every US community.

It may, at first, be necessary for the colleges and universities to help the communities in which they reside to mount such league competitions. Facilities and coaches, for example, might serve both the in-school and on-the-job athletic youths.

Certainly a town-by-town set of leagues and semiprofessional teams would provide needed participation and spectator sports activity, freeing colleges and universities to select their athletes only from those who want, and are qualified to have, a college education.

Give me an E . . . give me a T . . . give me. . . .

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