Essay, Research Paper: College Athletes Support

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With millions of dollars in merchandising and television contracts at stake,
colleges have a lot of money riding on the recruitment, education, and
performance—both on and off the field-- of college athletes. Colleges lure the
athletes to their school, and make sure they meet the eligibility requirements
when there. In order for athletes to be eligible to play in college they must
attain a minimum of a 2.0 GPA in 11 designated courses, and earn a combined 700
on the SAT’s. Athletes must also meet the schools requirements, normally a 2.0
GPA. With so much at stake, some colleges often go too far, by providing players
with personal tutors, who often do work for the players, and pressuring teachers
and administrators to look the other way when athletes fail. The NCAA also bars
players from receiving any compensation, except scholarships for their play.
However, there are many incidences of players receiving other sorts of
compensation. There are many violations of athletic department officials and
trustees giving players money, or gifts, ranging from clothing to cars. Colleges
have also been known to give gifts to players just to get them to attend their
institution, a practice that is much harder to trace because the student is not
enrolled at the school. This has an effect on the psyche of the athletes; more
incidences of sexual abuse and other crimes by athletes are arising every year.
Even though the NCAA strictly prohibits all of these things from going on, it
seems every year another school is violating them. These rules are not stringent
enough both academically and socially for the players. The last major change to
these rules came in 1989 with the passage of Proposition 42. This rule change
closed a loophole in a proposition passed in 1983. The 1983 proposition, known
as Proposition 42, required that, beginning in 1986, all athletes must earn a
minimum of a 2.0 in eleven designated high school courses, and earn a minimum
score of 700 on their SAT’s. However, there was a loophole in this regulation.
If they did not earn these minimums players could still enroll in the
university, under full scholarship, not play or practice with the team, but earn
their minimum GPA and then play the next year without ever having met the
initial requirements. In an article written for The New Republic in May 1986,
Malcolm Gladwell criticizes Proposition 48 and the effects it will have on
college sports. Citing many examples of foul play at colleges, ranging from
teachers being fired at the University of Georgia in 1982 for not giving
preferential treatment to athletes, to players being arrested for rape at the
University of Minnesota and their coach stating he “ could not set realistic
disciplinary standards—much less academic standards—for fear of losing
recruits”, Gladwell states, “Big time athletic competition is far more
important than education at many major public universities, and nothing is
likely to change that” (13). He identifies the main problem with proposition
48, citing Berkeley sociologist Harry Edwards, “The big universities will
simply keep a separate roster of first year ineligible athletes along with their
regular players”(16). The amount of money a school has will determine how many
non-qualifying players they can lure to their schools with scholarships. This is
the reason for the passing of proposition 42, which bars colleges from giving
scholarships to incoming freshmen that do not meet the requirements.
Consequently, many people feel that these tougher regulations will lead to more
cheating. If that is the case, than more severe punishments should be installed
to deter this behavior. A side effect of proposition 48 is that, many of the
athletes that attend these schools on basketball and football scholarships are
from low-income families that cannot afford to pay tuition to large
universities. It is these people that will lose out if the colleges cannot find
another way of paying for them. This in effect will lead to more cheating, like
colleges helping prospective students secure government grants and loans, but
this is not always enough. They may have to have trustees pay for some of their
education, or may be outright given money by the schools. And this is for
athletes who do not meet the requirements. What about the athletes that do meet
them, what are they given? The top athletes in the country know they can get
scholarships from many schools, so what else are these top schools willing to
give them? At the least, these athletes receive preferential treatment. With so
many of the countries top basketball and football players, some with criminal
records, coming from lower class communities, where does this preferential
treatment stop? There are many cases of college athletes violating the law and
someone looking the other way. There has never been a better example of
widespread athletics corruption than the University of Minnesota. The scandals
at the University of Minnesota are so important because they were not isolated
incidents, but rather operations that had gone on for years before being
uncovered. After the 1986 scandal when three basketball players were accused of
rape, the team was accused of over forty violations and put on probation; merely
put on probation for forty rules violations? Then, in 1989, Luther Darville,
acting coordinator of the schools office of minority affairs was uncovered as
having given money to players. According to Steve Wulf, a staff writer for
Sports’ Illustrated, “Darville is alleged to have siphoned money from the
minority affairs office from 1983 to ’88 and to have doled some of it out to
17 students, including nine athletes, in need of cash”(13). This is a person
who is not even in the athletics’ department. This shows the dedication some
large schools have to keeping their athletes satisfied. The article goes on to
state that, “According to Valdez Baylor, a former tailback on the Gopher
football team, “Go see Luther” was the catchphrase among minority athletes
in need… he received as much as $5,000 over six years from Darville”(13).
Baylor’s account leads me to believe that Darville’s activities were much
more widespread than 17 students. The University of Minnesota’s actions do not
end there. In March of 1999 more issues concerning cover-ups were exposed. In
the Chronicle of Higher Education, Welch Suggs provides an account of the next
chapter in the declination of the University of Minnesota. According to the
President of the University, Mark G. Yudof, “Jan Ganglehoff…a secretary in
the department’s academic-services office, completed more than 100 class
assignments for as many as 20 basketball players during a five-year period”
(A41). The article goes on to state the school may have stepped in on the
reports of two dozen sexual misconduct cases, against tutors and other women on
campus, in order to protect the athletes involved. Many colleges cater to these
students, giving them money, clothing, and other material possessions. After
time, the athletes come to expect these things. Athletic departments are
primarily self funded, so if they don’t have winning teams, they don’t make
any money. Consequently, the more the teams win the more money the schools and
athletic departments make. Therefore, schools and coaches are willing to take a
risk on athletes that have a background of bad behavior, if that person will
make a difference on the field. Athletes that attend these big universities
expect the universities to do everything for them, and they are more than often
correct. These institutions are willing to do anything for them. It is the case
know, that many institutions are being caught for covering up crimes that
athletes have committed in order for the athletes to remain eligible. Jeffrey R.
Benedict in an article entitled, Colleges Must Act Decisively When Scholarship
Athletes Run Afoul of the Law, points out that, “male athletes—who make up
only three percent of all male students—were accused of nineteen percent of
sexual assaults and 35 thirty-five percent of the cases of domestic violence
that were reported to campus officials by female students”(B6). Benedict goes
on to note that, “an extremely small percentage of student athletes are
accused of criminal acts, but it also appears that many of those who are accused
have had previous trouble with the law”(B7). The NCAA lets colleges determine
the disciplinary actions that should take place if an athlete commits a crime.
This allows the institutions to take as little action as they want in dealing
with the students. It is common that students remain eligible while their trials
are going on. The coaches and athletic departments are so eager to win that they
will let criminals play for their teams. The athletes at these large
universities receive so much, and are so looked up to in the community they feel
untouchable. Furthermore, it is the coaches and boosters, so intent on winning,
who commit the illegal activities and encouraging the athletes, not directly,
but by their own example, into wanting more and getting away with more. These
athletes are not being punished for the acts that they commit. The athletes
therefore, believe that they can get away with anything. So what can be done to
end the insanity that college athletics has become? There are many proposals,
from a number of institutions and organizations, for further rule changes by the
NCAA. One, originated by Joe B. Wyatt, chancellor of Vanderbilt University, and
explained in his article Our Moral Duty to Clean Up College Athletics has been
forwarded to the NCAA and is now under review. These regulations are simple, if
an athlete does not leave a college in good academic standing, the college would
lose a scholarship spot until the date the departed athlete would have graduated
(A56). Also, the athletes who transfer would not be able to play until they earn
academic eligibility. Now, athletes who are in trouble academically can transfer
and play immediately. If athletes who do not meet academic requirements cannot
play when they transfer, colleges would be more reluctant to accept them. This
would ensure they kept their grades up. These are not the only rule changes that
need to take place. In an April 22nd article for Newsweek, Pete Axhelm believes
rules must come down harder on coaches and boosters for cheating. He maintains
that boosters, who are the main people presenting athletes with gifts, should
only be allowed to meet with players at supervised functions. Also, in the
article, Notre Dame basketball coach Digger Phelps comments, “Make it uniform
[the meetings], watch them closely, and let them know that if they [the players]
cheat on it, they will lose eligibility”(74). This would intimidate boosters
from giving gifts and players from taking them. If the state of athletics is
improved morally, the academic gains will come. Axthelm also insists that
coaches who get caught cheating and leave schools should have their penalties
follow them, stating that, “Fear of not getting hired again can be a good
deterrent”(74). All of these rules make sense, for the athletes come and go,
and it is the coaches and institutions that are always there. They are the ones
that are cheating. As I sit, watching a basketball game between Cincinnati and
UNC, the number 1 and number 7 ranked teams in the country, I wonder why those
players are at the schools they are. Recalling a quote from Pete Axhelm’s
article, “One bitter irony at Tulane is that while many deplored point shaving
by a star, few noticed that when the star was shown a printed rundown of his
rights, he had difficulty reading it”, I realize why they are. It is the
institutions that exploit these athletes, luring them to college with gifts and
then not providing. They are not providing an education for the athletes; the
fundamental thing they are there for. Colleges use these athletes, young and naïve,
to earn more money and win. Thirty-seven percent of scholarship athletes
graduate college. The one-thing colleges can promise to athletes, a full
scholarship, a free education, they only provide to thirty-seven percent of
them. In closing, I feel that it is the institutions, not the athletes who need
to be held more responsible for cheating and cover-ups in order to clean up
college athletics.
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