March 20, 2011
There is no sports columnist I read more regularly than Mike Lopresti, a national columnist for USA Today. That would probably be so even if Mike didn’t live right here in Richmond, Indiana; it would probably be so even if he didn’t occasionally grace the bleachers at Earlham basketball games. He loves sports; he also appreciates the right values in sports — and speaks out against the moral lapses that are all too frequent in NCAA Division I and professional sports.
Datelined yesterday, Mike has a column in which his focus is the NCAA itself. Here’s the opening salvo:
“Welcome to the new NCAA Tournament, where nothing — absolutely, positively nothing — ranks above profit.
“There is no way to diplomatically put this; the NCAA has become a cash flow addict, too far gone to exercise sound judgment, or common sense.”
He details a number of troubling scheduling decisions, and he chronicles the lengthening of games to accommodate extra commercials (and extra-long ones), noting that these poorly serve the interests of student athletes.
But he adds this, with which I disagree: “It’s a business. To think otherwise is naïve. Television calls the shots. It does in every major sport. The NCAA needs the money. Who doesn’t?”
The NCAA needs the money? Perhaps it does if you look at it as a for-profit entertainment goliath. But isn’t it supposed to be a not-for-profit organization organizing intercollegiate athletic competition among institutions of higher education? It doesn’t need billions of dollars to do that. Just last April, “The NCAA announced it has reached a 14-year, nearly $11 billion agreement with CBS and Turner Sports for the TV rights to a 68-team tournament.”
The NCAA is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Intercollegiate athletics will damage higher education with its mangled values so long as money, not education is the star the NCAA steers by.