By Ken Reed

Sweet Sixteen.

The NCAA hoops tourney is one of my favorite entertainment extravaganzas of the year. But when the NCAA pooh-bahs start talking about the educational experience of “our student athletes,” my stomach begins to turn.

The only education taking place is a lesson in exploitation and hypocrisy. The NCAA is masterful in its ability to annually present a March case study in economic injustice and the denial of basic civil rights to athletes.

The system is inherently wrong. It can’t ever work. When you try to merge a big-time business with higher education what results is the Jim Boeheim mess at Syracuse, and the long-running academic scandal at North Carolina (widely-perceived as one of our best public universities).

Trying to put a multi-billion dollar enterprise on college campuses under the same non-profit umbrella as the biology department is doomed to fail, especially when you have college chancellors and presidents trying to run both the biology department and the multi-billion dollar sports entertainment business.

Big-time college athletes are professionals in every way except when it comes to their economic and civil rights. These rights are withheld by the NCAA so that coaches, athletic administrators, television executives and game announcers can rake in the dough created by the athletes down on the football field and basketball floor.

It’s a problem that can’t be fixed either, because it’s not just about people cheating, it’s about a system that at its core is untenable. The scandals and injustices will continue as long as the charade of trying to marry academics with the entertainment business continues. College athletic programs need to move back to the Division III model, true students playing sports as part of their college experience. Or, they need to be restructured as for-profit endeavors, which allow the athletes to have the same basic economic and civil rights the rest of us enjoy.

What we have today in the Power Five conferences is a huge sports entertainment industry that also serves as a free minor league system for the National Football League, National Basketball Association, and Major League Baseball. The mission of big-time athletic programs playing in big-time athletic conferences certainly isn’t higher education. The mission is the same as the NFL, NBA and MLB: revenue generation.

Let’s work to end this charade, if for no other reason than so we can all be spared the nauseating sight of Jim Boeheim and Roy Williams behind microphones trying to pass on the blame for the academic fraud that’s run rampant in their own programs.

Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans


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