Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Another season of scandals--and now what?

Intercollegiate sports are played all year round--except for a couple of those "summer" months where there are no official contests--but it's always around September, or probably more accurately, mid-August, that the talk of misdeeds among college athletics comes to the fore. Why? Because it's football season.
So we get to hear about the suspensions issued at the end of last season or in the off-season (a la the Ohio State) and then whatever findings were made during off-season investigations into various programs (a la Miami). That is what stays the same--the perpetual/annual misdoings.
Here's what seems to be different. And note that I am not a longtime close observer of college football--I'm more of a foul weather observe; like a tornado chaser--but less thrilling, more disgust-inducing. So I might not be the best person the make these observations. But here's what I think I have seen.
There is more widespread attention to the athletic programs as a whole and to the institutional structures as well when scandals occur. This is in contrast to the attention paid and the wrist-slappings given to individual offenders, i.e. the student-athletes. On one hand it is good that there is recognition that these individuals do not act in a vacuum. But what seems to be happening over on the other hand though is that these scandals--assessed in the aggregate--are being used as fairly convincing fodder that student-athletes should be paid. Because, the argument goes, corporations are paying universities billions of dollars every year to be associated with a school's athletic department and an athletic department is only marketable because it has successful programs, and successful programs are created by successful coaches who recruit successful athletes. Took a long time to get down to the athletes, no? Which is part of the problem. Also, the bigger problem is that educational institutions will lose their tax-exempt status if they start paying athletes. Despite the people who claim it is Title IX and us feminists who will prevent the play-for-pay athlete, I don't why it. Losing tax-exempt status because you want to pay a student to play a game for you so you can get Nike to give you lots of money has pretty large implications--financial, moral, and philosophical.
Some of these issues are discussed in the latest cover story (also a change from the past--very credible, non-sport centered major publications are running feature pieces about these issues) in The Atlantic. I've only gotten through a third of it at this point, but it's pretty interesting and the online version includes videos with the writer about what he learned while investigating and writing the story.

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