Phi Beta Cons

NRO College-Sports Smackdown!

I honestly don’t know (or care) whether Kentucky’s basketball team should lose, but I do know that I agree with David French over Andrew Cline about the notion of “student-athletes.” As French writes:


[The NCAA advances a] (false) narrative: that its system works and that small bands of virtuous student-athletes can do anything (by golly!) when they band together and hustle hard enough. It’s that underdog triumph narrative that feeds March Madness, enriches one of the most exploitative institutions in America, and provides the financial backbone for the status quo.

Kentucky, by contrast, rebels against this exploitation by offering its athletes the best deal in college basketball — a premiere national showcase for their talents, training in a pro-style offense by a former NBA coach, and the opportunity to build a fan base even before they can sign their first endorsement deal. “One and done” [i.e. players are encouraged to play the mandatory one year in the NCAA before heading to the NBA, rather than staying in college until their degree is complete] is the rational decision of a kid who’ll make more money in his first two years as a pro than most college graduates will make in a lifetime.  You can hate on Kentucky all you want, Andrew Cline, but John Calipari will just go on living the Golden Rule. 

I don’t have a problem with sports counting toward college admissions in some way — just like marching band and other extracurriculars do. But when colleges are letting in clearly unqualified “student-athletes” to play on sports teams, those kids are taking up slots that should go to people who actually want to study. The quicker we can get these folks out of college, the better. Ideally, college admissions and big-money college sports would be 100 percent independent from each other — athletes could play on the team without being admitted into the school, eliminating the incentive to admit unqualified players to academic programs — and teams could compete for players by paying them.

It would be a terrible idea to follow Cline’s suggestion that we “put more pressure on the NCAA and the NBA to change the rules or the incentives, or both, so that players either cannot leave after their freshman year or have less incentive to do so.”


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