By Ken Reed
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
Sports Forum Podcast
Episode #26 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: How Can We Fix Youth Sports? – John O’Sullivan is Founder and CEO of Changing the Game Project and author of “Changing the Game: The Parents Guide to Raising Happy, High Performing Athletes and Giving Youth Sports Back to Our Kids.” We discuss overzealous adults in youth sports, the dangers of sport specialization, youth sports entrepreneurs and the profit-at-all-costs mindset, and the growing socio-economic gap in youth sports.
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Episode #25 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Physical Education Should Be a Critical Component of K-12 School Design – Michael Horn is co-founder of the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation.
Episode #24 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Mental Health and Athletes: Ending the Stigma – Nathan Braaten and Taylor Ricci are the founders of Dam Worth It, a non-profit created to end the stigma around mental health at colleges and universities through sport, storytelling, and community creation.
Episode #23 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Olympian Benita Fitzgerald Mosley Talks Title IX, Youth Sports and the Olympics.
Episode #22 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Rethinking Sports Fandom with Author Craig Calcaterra – We discuss Calcaterra’s new book “Rethinking Fandom: How to Beat the Sports-Industrial Complex at Its Own Game” and explore new ways to be a fan.
Episode #21 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Chatting About a Broken Game With Baseball Writer Pedro Moura – Moura is a national baseball writer for Fox Sports. We discuss how and why the game of baseball is broken, what factors caused it, and offer a few thoughts on how to “fix” a great game.
Media"How We Can Save Sports" author Ken Reed appears on Fox & Friends to explain how there's "too much adult in youth sports."
Ken Reed appears on Mornings with Gail from KFKA Radio in Colorado to discuss bad parenting in youth athletics.
“Should College Athletes Be Paid?” Ken Reed on The Morning Show from Wisconsin Public Radio
Ken Reed appears on KGNU Community Radio in Colorado (at 02:30) to discuss equality in sports and Title IX.
Ken Reed appears on the Ralph Nader Radio Hour (at 38:35) to discuss his book The Sports Reformers: Working to Make the World of Sports a Better Place, and to talk about some current sports issues.
- League of Fans Sports Policy Director Ken Reed quoted in Washington Post column titled "What happened to P.E.? It’s losing ground in our push for academic improvement," by Jay Mathews
League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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