Somebody asked me what I think of the schism in the N.C.A.A. and I replied, “Not much.”
Frankly, big-time college sports lost me years ago. I had to cover it, moralize about it, until I stopped writing a regular column for the Times.
At that point, I didn’t have to write, or watch, or think. So much else to do in life.
From what I read of Thursday’s developments, the breakup of the N.C.A.A. is the logical extension of what I have been witnessing for decades.
I saw major universities bolt from traditional, regional rivalries in established conferences to pursue more television money. It’s all about the networks – and why should they care? If they have programming, that is their mission.
Education was supposed to be the mission of colleges, even the ones that are spinning off into a dog-in-the-manger Big Five. But I have never heard a valid argument linking education and big-time sports. The closest presidents and other apologists could come up with was that it got wealthy boosters on campus in September.
Possibly, some athletes in the new elite group will get paid more, have better health care, as they prepare for a professional career that few of them will achieve. I can assure you that the demands will be higher, also. What do you mean you have an afternoon lab? Go lift weights.
I don’t know what will happen to the leftovers in Division I. I saw my alma mater, Hofstra University, give up football a few years ago because of seven-digit losses every year. I ache for my friends who played football – and got educations – decades ago; their hearts were broken. Nowadays, students wouldn’t walk from their dorms to watch a second-tier football program. They’d rather watch Alabama or USC. on the tube.
Maybe more schools will be encouraged to give up football, to back off rogue basketball programs. The way I see it, the University of Chicago and New York University are doing fine since they took a big step back from professionalism.
My athlete friends got educations while playing sports at Hofstra back in the late 50’s and 60’s. I am in touch with some – a few teachers and entrepreneurs, a poet, a writer, a dentist, a few television executives, a major-league ball player.
They had teachers who would flunk them if they didn’t do the work. I don’t believe that is the remotely the case at big-time schools. I am always stunned when I hear that somebody got a degree while playing football or basketball, and I am impressed when an athlete shows signs of having opened his eyes and ears on a college campus. It’s been heading that way for decades.
The N.C.A.A. has been found out – not as universally sordid as FIFA, the world soccer body, but hypocritical on a domestic level. I was creeped out listening to the newest president, Mark Emmert, on his visit to the Times a few years ago: he was obviously a front man for networks and boosters.
One nice thing about retirement is that I can ignore college football and basketball. My sports more or less rotate from baseball in the warm months to soccer in the winter. More than enough. It is nice not to care. That's what I think.
8/7/2014 03:06:28 pm
Amen! Now we will have two pro-basketball playoffs, I prefer the college version at present and wonder if it will go downhill as the NBA has.
8/8/2014 12:12:26 am
Oh, Georgio--Nice, nice and nice, The truth feels so good and smells so good and tastes so good...bravo. You just blew the stink out of so many locker rooms and Presidents' offices and faux classrooms, it must feel exhilarating. Of course, a corrupt and fragmenting sports culture--as well as the culture at large--will continue careening toward collapse, but we don't have to sit on the bus, do we?
8/8/2014 02:11:46 am
GV - I seem to recall stories of an age before my time ... maybe even before yours, where college football and basketball programs achieved reputations that were the envy of crooked boxing promoters and used car salesmen. As turgid and soulless as the NCAA has been in the past 50 years, it did offer some improvement to the process of policing colleges and student-athletes. I'm not a fan of the one-size-fits-all mentality of the organization, but at its best it helped deflect the influence of the gambling industry. That Big Universities, through their conferences, can now call their own shots isn't news - it was always that way, to a degree. Majority will still rule, except that in our Citizens United version of democracy it will mean one dollar - one vote. Personally, I'll take the NCAA over ESPN any day.
8/8/2014 05:26:05 pm
Well looky here, this abomination of so-called big time college sports has three feet. The good federal judge in Oakland just dropped the third shoe, right on the heads of these NCAA tycoon monopolists. I'll buy a beer for every college president who removes his school from the NCAA and from the potential of decades of lawsuits.
8/12/2014 05:48:22 am
George, my dad keeps asking me what I think of the new developments with the NCAA and I've been at a loss for a real answer because I think I just don't care enough. Like you, I kind of prefer to stick with the pros. But it has reminded me of the road not often taken. I attended Oberlin College, where (much, much earlier) John Heisman first coached college football. Oberlin declined to join what became the Big 10 when it first formed out a suspicion even a century ago about the corrupting influence of big time college sports. When I attended in the early 80s, the big sporting event of the year was the OMIT (Oberlin Mellow Invitational Tournament), a weekend of ultimate frisbee competition among Oberlin and quite a few teams from Big 10 schools. (I didn't play or attend, but it was really the only significant sports event of the year.) Scores were not kept, and instead of marching bands there was Grateful Dead all day long on some loudspeakers. We had regular varsity sports, and even some good teams in some sports, but it was just one aspect of campus culture and not a big one.
8/12/2014 06:14:08 am
Basketball should be made a national game, NCAA.
8/21/2014 04:39:15 am
NPR had an interview with former President Clinton’s Secretary of labor Robert Reich at the beginning of the financial crisis in 2008. It indicated that it was a matter of “greed vs risk”. The more risk free the toxic financial products became, the greater the industry profits became.
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“I don’t think people understand how Covid affects older Americans,” Mr. Caretti said with frustration. “In 2020, there was this all-in-this-together vibe, and it’s been annihilated. People just need to care about other people, man. That’s my soapbox.”
---Vic Caretti, 47, whose father recently died of Covid at 85.
---From an article by Paula Span, who covers old age for the NYT, which currently has 2646 comments, the majority criticizing the American public – and public officials – for acting as if the pandemic is “over.”
Classic wishful thinking, at a lethal level.