THE SHAM AND THE SHAME
SPORTS ILLUSTRATED and John Underwood have given the sports-loving people of this country a true challenge for the decade of the '80s (Special Report: The Writing Is on the Wall, May 19). Parents, students, educators, coaches and administrators must join together to put an end to the notion that a student-athlete's best interest is served when he is "taken care of" so that he can remain "eligible" and move to the next level of competition. The true strength of a society is measured by how it educates its children, or as Dr. Ewald B. Nyquist of Pace University says, the problem is moral, "not educational, not economic or fiscal, not social—but moral. And what is morally wrong can never be educationally right."
Concerned people like Chick Sherrer of Athletes For Better Education, Dr. Harry Edwards of the University of California at Berkeley, Father Thomas A. James of Los Angeles' Verbum Dei High School and others who share their vision of correcting decades of neglect of the student-athlete need the total support of everyone involved with sports and education.
RICHARD C. KOSIK
City Streets, Education for Life Inc.
New York City
John Underwood's article was fantastic, but the best part came from Verbum Dei High's Father Thomas A. James. I remember the special treatment given to many of the athletes when I attended high school. Those young men were never made to see the importance of studying or listening in class. When, as last-quarter seniors, they finally did realize that they were not going to be the next O.J. Simpson or Earl Monroe, it was too late.
STEVE C. JONES
After reading John Underwood's article, I will no longer laugh at pro rookies who mumble and fumble through TV interviews. I guess it's not their fault.
Anyone who is searching for the roots of the student-athlete hoax should look to the high schools for the conditions which predispose to what the article refers to as a cancer at the college level. The "carcinogenic" practice of grade-changing for the sake of athletic eligibility is often rampant even before these athletes are "awarded" their high school diplomas.
MARY D. BRADY
I teach sixth grade and coach a ninth-grade basketball team in Philadelphia. I think the need for better education and supervision at the elementary-school level is paramount. Maybe if more elementary teachers and coaches instilled proper values in their students, the children would carry those values with them through high school and college.
ROBERT G. CLARK
How about the student-athlete himself? Not all of those who violate rules are lambs being led to the slaughter. Many are willing accomplices to their fate. More responsibility should be placed on the shoulders of the individual to make the decisions necessary to avoid the problems.
It is interesting to note that in the same issue, in Anthony Cotton's article on Seattle Pitcher Rick Honeycutt (Unsinkable Mariner), Honeycutt is described as being in the Jack Armstrong tradition of American sports hero. And yet, when writing of Honeycutt's academic background, Cotton says that at Tennessee "he studied health education. Well, sort of studied. It was more like Honeycutt pitched and hit and Debbie tutored.... Honeycutt wasn't all that interested in a degree, anyway." Therein lies the problem.
I keep hearing and reading about the "poor victims" of the eligibility game—those athletes left in the gutter when their eligibility runs out. As I see it, if it weren't for college athletics, they would have been in the gutter (and probably on the welfare rolls) four years sooner. If they are being exploited, whose fault is that? They are certainly not imprisoned in these colleges and universities. If they are capable of getting an education, the opportunity is there. If they are too ignorant to take advantage of it, let's put the blame where it belongs.
ROBERTA C. RYSER
Oak Park, Ill.
During my days as an undergraduate and graduate student and now as a college instructor, I have run into many obviously unprepared student-athletes. I believe, however, that John Underwood has committed an error of omission. By and large he ignored the many capable, even brilliant student-athletes on our campuses. Now a lot of people will unfairly lump those true student-athletes with those in the "dumb jock" class.
BRADLEY J. MILLER