Viva la Sport!

Garret McDowell

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Despite an age where more college students are participating in athletics than ever, the NCAA has stopped protecting them and their best interests. The NCAA has failed student-athletes everywhere. Gone is the age where classes and coursework came first, and in its place excused absences for game days that are hundreds of miles away. Yes, the distance thing is a major issue, as class time is missed so conference affiliations can be maintained.
With a major push on the bottom line and a ridiculous amount of cash being spent and divided up among the nation’s elite, once great institutions have fallen prey to the NCAA’s mentality of get the most money possible. Anywhere there is a chance to make a buck, the NCAA does.
While that is all fine and dandy in a capitalist world, the NCAA’s mission is precisely the opposite of that. Their core purpose even states that their “purpose is to govern competition in a fair, safe, equitable and sportsmanlike manner, and to integrate intercollegiate athletics into higher education so that the educational experience of the student-athlete is paramount.” I don’t see that in the modern day NCAA. The bottom line is much more paramount than the academic experience.
Competition is not fair, because the NCAA did not balance power out among universities during the rise of conferences. Now, there are four separate divisions among intercollegiate athletics in the NCAA alone, and there is probably going to be a fifth higher tier in the next few decades if the super conference problem is not addressed.
The NCAA has also made a joke of the safety side of sports. I will continue to dwell on football, but what was once a simple game that needed safety regulations has become a bureaucratic mess due to a ridiculous number of rules. These kids are simply that: kids. They are prone to emotions on big plays, and they are prone to make mistakes. Yes, mistakes that can cause serious injury must be addressed, but there is no need to punish some kid celebrating a trick play touchdown and rule it didn’t happen. Instead of fixing stupid rules, the NCAA is brokering television deals and sanctioning whatever will give it the most air time. This is a joke.
As for the educational experience being paramount, that ceased to exist at most major colleges and universities some time ago. It is very real at Mercer, as we enter play into the Pioneer League for football in 2013. The football team will have to travel all around the country to play just a few games. Mercer will play San Diego in California every other year. This is not in the best interests of the educational experience.
In addition, postseason dreams of a championship are awesome and should be encouraged, but it should not come before the education. The NCAA celebrates wins, and they even have a Capital One Cup for the school that has the most wins overall. More than likely, for an athlete to be at the top of their game, things must be sacrificed and removed in order to make the sport their sole focus. I don’t see the NCAA celebrating with some cup for the schools that have their athletes be better students than everyone else.
The NCAA has failed student-athletes, and it becomes more apparent with every team that switches conferences or goes to follow money. Since when is SMU considered an eastern school or Missouri part of the southeast? Now, the NCAA doesn’t stop schools from throwing around millions of dollars in order to find a conference that best suits their financial needs. The only schools that push academics are in the lower divisions, but no one celebrates them on a nationwide scale.
I personally feel that the NCAA not stopping conference expansion and fluidity every few years has done nothing but continue their refusal to care about student-athletes. All the NCAA cares about is getting money. Unfortunately, promising minds are forced to pick their sport in order to get some education. With the NCAA not enforcing academics as much as they promised they would, it’s half-baked and not what it should be. There needs to be a radical overhaul, or just let the conferences rule themselves.
You might say I am complaining about capitalism, but in a world where more experience and connections promises greater financial security down the road, why stop these kids from getting all the opportunities they can? We might lose the next Adam Smith to a fifth round NFL draft selection who blows his knee out just a few years in the league. You never know.

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