Stalled, March Madness, and Balancing on Unstable Surfaces

I’m stalled. Work is stalled, the blog is stalled, my plans for world domination in some areas is stalled. A car stalls when the engine is overloaded. My stall is not an overloaded engine; it’s a lack of vision, an absence of what’s next? In times like theses, I  watch basketball; it’s March Madness and time for NCAA college basketball – upsets, buzzer shots, over times and victories. For many players, this is it. They aren’t going  to play professional ball; this is the pinnacle of their basketball careers.Are these players treated fairly?

More than 20 years ago, on a date, we worked out a plan for compensating college athletes. There is no way to carry a full load, study and play sports; the athletes should be compensated. After all, it’s the athletic programs, with TV contracts, tickets sales, etc that bring in billions- six billion. The power five conferences bought in 6 billion on 2015 according to ESPN. All of that revenue comes predominately from two men’s sports, football and basketball. The questions still remains, what about the athletes? I heard the debate again on NPR this morning with Gene Demby.

So most of the players in the money sports, in football and basketball at the Power Five schools, are black. So 56 percent of the basketball players – men’s basketball players – are black. Fifty-five percent of the football players are black. But 2.4 percent of the students at these schools are black men.

Only 2.4 percent. I know. That was shocking to us, too. But there’s this weird paradox that happens, right? So you have black men on these campuses who are basically invisible in the classrooms. But at any given time and during any given academic year, the most high-profile undergraduate at one of these universities is likely to be a black basketball phenom or a black football star.

Demby went on to point out, less than half of these students graduate. “…they’re not graduating from college, and part of that is because the incentive structure is set up for the schools to value them as athletes before they value them as students.” As I watch the TV cameras shift between the payers and fans, I see the statistics in living color. It’s painful to concede my favorite time in sports in tainted with unfulfilled promises. Maybe the true Madness in March is the outright refusal to address the issue. How should the athletes be compensated? For players stalled in their athletic careers, who will not play sports at a professional level, can they continue with their education after the playing is done? In a world all about rules and regulations, can fairness and fulfillment of the pursuit of a college education be part of the game?


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