Local view: Let’s return integrity to corrupt college sportsWhatever happened to the idea of a student-athlete? And that the lessons learned on the athletic field would carry over into later life, the lessons from preparation, discipline, teamwork, hard knocks, winning and losing, and more?
By: Thomas B. Wheeler, for the News Tribune
Time magazine announced on a September cover, “It’s Time to Pay College Athletes.”
I may be naïve, but that would be nuts. Whatever happened to the idea of a student-athlete? And that the lessons learned on the athletic field would carry over into later life, the lessons from preparation, discipline, teamwork, hard knocks, winning and losing, and more?
Certainly the present college sports environment is in need of attention. Illegal recruiting, under-the-table payments, drugs and sex, all outlined by Sports Illustrated, also in September, coupled with low graduation rates make a mockery of the once-cherished tradition of the student-athlete.
Unfortunately, it all seems to be about money. TV revenue, ticket sales, paraphernalia sales, alumni donations and more all bring in ridiculous amounts of cash. And coaches make big bucks, often much more than their college or university president.
Doesn’t this all sound somewhat strange? What happened to basic education, to principles, to values, to integrity? Where is the NCAA in all this? Where are the college administrators? Looking the other way? Maybe I am naïve.
Is there not value in a free education and in the opportunity at the same time to compete with and against your peers?
Yes, some students get injured and there are bad coaches, but can there not be consequences as there are in real life? If injured, a student-athlete on scholarship should have his or her scholarship continued and not revoked. Wayward coaches should be fired and unable to continue coaching. How much of the revenue produced by major college sports actually goes back to the schools as a whole? Or are the major sports there just to subsidize non-revenue-producing sports? Is such information even available? Shouldn’t it be, given how many schools are state-
supported, public institutions?
With college tuition soaring — and student debt with it — how much of the money generated by college sports is used to offset the price of going to school? Maybe I am naïve.
I played college sports. Actually, I was a “cover boy” for the 1968 NCAA Hockey Rulebook. No, I did not get paid for it. But it did help lead to four years of playing professionally in Europe. I learned from playing college sports. I also received an excellent education (incidentally no athletic scholarships are offered at my alma mater), giving me something to fall back on. As a history major, I had to learn to write; to spot trends and patterns; and to think critically, seeing both sides of issues — all excellent tools for my subsequent successful career in business. I learned time management. And I learned to adjust and adapt to changing situations and circumstances.
Later, I raised six children, five of whom also played college sports; four of them were captains of their respective teams. They, too, were student-athletes and are today all successful; financially independent; and responsible, contributing members of society. Shouldn’t that be the desired outcome for all college student-
Is it too hard to enforce existing regulations, to penalize schools for abuses and to have consequences? Or are we simply going to set aside values and principles, overlook integrity, and give in to money and greed? Will we strive to win at all costs? Maybe I am naïve.
Thomas B. Wheeler of Duluth started playing hockey at the age of 4 at the Congdon rink. He is president now of an independent, family-owned employee-benefit and financial-planning firm and is a regular contributor to the News Tribune Opinion page.