fall into the trap. They're happy their son is being 'taken care of.' If he is
really exceptional in athletics, the townspeople get involved, from the mayor
on down. They treat him specially, to the point where he doesn't have a real
perspective on life. 'Things' are done for him. No one wants to spoil his
chances to make it big.
recruiter visits. He tells the parents that he will 'take care' of their boy,
make sure this or that doesn't happen, that he'll have the best of this and
that. Still the young man hasn't had to deal with the day-to-day frustrations
other youngsters face. He's quite willing to accept this attention—his name in
the paper, a suit of clothes, being steered away from classes he 'won't need.'
After all, he's going to be a pro.
"The boy goes
through his college career 'protected.' Special dormitories, special food,
carefully chosen courses. He lives with youngsters of the same interests. There
are no distractions, no problems, no frustrations. We coaches feel we have to
try harder and harder, because that's what our competition does, and so we do
more and more to segregate the athlete. And he goes willingly.
everything but educate him. We're afraid he'll fail, so we look for ways of
making it easier instead of ways to educate him. Soon his entire outlook is
"It can be
devastation begins long before the student-athlete reaches for the top rung of
the educational ladder, and there's little the colleges can do about the
failure below. Whether or not a high school diploma is much more than a
certificate of attendance is outside the NCAA's jurisdiction so long as the
student's record is dutifully recorded on the proper transcript form.
Universities know that often the secondary schools are writing fiction—about
non-athletes as well as athletes. SAT scores for all high schoolers, which the
schools can't tamper with, have fallen at a rate of 2� points a year over the
last decade, indicating that incoming freshmen are more poorly prepared than
they used to be. Many colleges have had to set up massive and expensive
remedial reading and mathematics programs for first-year students. Ohio State
found that more than half its freshman class in 1978 needed remedial math and a
fourth needed remedial English.
comparative study was recently completed by Dr. Alvin C. Eurich, currently the
president of the Academy for Educational Development. In 1928 he administered a
reading examination for 1,313 freshmen at the University of Minnesota and 4,191
high school seniors in the state. In 1978 he gave the same test to a similarly
diverse group of 865 freshmen at Minnesota, and the scores were significantly
poorer across the board. The freshmen of '78 even tested at a lower reading
level than the high school seniors of '28. And it wasn't just that a larger
slice of the population (45.5%) goes to college now than did in 1928 (12%),
resulting in a lower average score. In the top 1%, the very best of '78 tested
at a significantly lower level than the very best of a half century ago.
From the moment
the student-athlete sets foot on campus, the name of the game is "majoring
in eligibility," and it is a vulgar, callous, shameful, cynical—and
perfectly legal—exploitation of the system by and for the American college
athlete. The formal term for it is "normal progress toward a degree."
But the NCAA's definition of "progress" won't be found in any
dictionary; for one thing, "progress" in the student-athlete lexicon
can mean no progress at all.
Here is how
Bernard Madison of Chicago was making "progress" toward a degree at
Montana State University:
Madison is 20
years old. At Hirsch High School on the South Side of Chicago, he grew to be
6'5" tall and a better-than-average basketball player. Maybe not a pro
prospect, but good enough to make first team of the All-City squad in 1978. He
graduated with a 2.7 grade-point average, which put him in a good position to
make basketball pay for his higher education.