10 June 2010

He's Yo Daddy, Mr Lucas

I'm of multiple minds (and personalities!) on the sanctions issued against the Evil Empire's professional college football team today.

  • It's for nancy-boy football, and the real football begins tomorrow, so it's just not earthshaking. Even if it is in LA.
  • It's USC... and having grown up in Pac-8 country, any sanctions against USC are probably deserved, if only for institutional arrogance (just as they would be at Notre Dame, Alabama, Oklahoma, and Ohio State, to name the most annoying — but far from only — examples).
  • It's a pretty stiff set of sanctions for violating some pretty easy to comply with (and pretty clear) rules designed to prevent unfair advantages... for some value of "unfair advantages." Not having read the report, I'm only inferring, but I suspect that there was a lot more misconduct that couldn't quite be proven.
  • It's a sanction for doing what USC should have been doing, under any reasonable interpretation of the Fair Labor Standards Act: Paying its bloody employees.

That last point exposes the real charade in this whole bit of nonsense: The continued pretense that "student" has a damned thing to do with "athlete" in the so-called "revenue sports." Sure, there are individual exceptions; but yesterday's release of the NCAA's laughably lax annual report on academic progress at Division I schools just reinforces my point, especially when delving underneath the standards themselves.

What I'd really like to see is this: On some broadcast next fall — say, USC v. Stanford — I'd like to see a little bit more data on the starting players' profiles. In addition to height, weight, year in school, and major, I'd like to see their standing in their class within their major, in quartile terms, and the percentage of their major composed of scholarship athletes. Then whether they fall outside of the 25/75-%tile boundaries for their entering undergraduate class as a whole. When the NCAA starts doing this routinely, then I'll consider whether its athletic-performance employees just might really be "student athletes."

n.b. I went to a Division III school. On the always-competitive-for-a-national-championship men's soccer football team, we started nine National Merit scholars (out of 11, for those of you who think "football" means only the nancy-boy, 15kg-of-protective-gear, tea-break-every-ten-seconds version played only in North America), three eventual doctors, two eventual lawyers, and an eventual professor of mathematics... and those are just the ones I haven't lost track of over the last few decades. With absolutely no special athletes' dormitories or "training table" with free food, no personal trainers, and very little accommodation otherwise. That's a "student-athlete."