That's right. College athletics. Actually, it's when a few “insiders” secure deals to encourage, no, to ensure that those athletes commit to play a sport in the college the insider selects. For them, it's not about fit; it's about finances.
Speaking of insiders, [James] “Gatto is … accused of helping funnel approximately $100,000 to the family of an "All-American high school basketball player" to secure the prospect's commitment to a school which Adidas sponsors. According to court documents reviewed by CBS Sports Insider Gary Parrish, the prospect committed in June. And the only All-American high school basketball player who committed to a school Adidas sponsors in June is Brian Bowen, a five-star prospect who is now enrolled at Louisville.” (CBSSports)
Individuals like Mr. Gatto have forgotten why collegiate-level sports are the best. They are still pure. These students are future Olympians. They are highly competitive. They’re having fun.
The Goal of Postsecondary Education
For some, athletes are greater than academics. More than 480,000 of the 8,000,000 high school athletes play in college. So, if recruiting a top athlete might translate into more revenue, there are a few adults who would capitalize on this through sponsorships and television deals.
This is what make it tough for people like me.
First of all, I enjoy collegiate sports. I can’t wait for March Madness or the College World Series. My wife and I schedule our fall Saturday’s around college football. She also enjoys watching college gymnastics and cheerleading.
When athletics becomes the priority, it makes it difficult for school counselors, college planners, and college admissions officers to place prospective students in the right academic setting. While many students want to get their college degree while playing their favorite sport, it does put pressure on those teenagers who are trying to balance academics (what is necessary) with athletics (what is challenging and fun).
The mission statements of colleges focus on improving the region and world with education, innovation, health care and more. None of them talk about sports. The goal of higher education is, well, education,
Fortunately, "the likelihood of an NCAA athlete receiving a college degree is greater (than non-athletes); graduation success rates are 86% in Division 1, 71% in Division II, and 86% in Division III" (NCAA).
Unfortunately, college sports has become a form of idolatry for some.
David Wharton of the Los Angeles Times reported on why Reggie Bush, the 2005 Heisman Trophy winner, gave his trophy back.
“Investigators ultimately concluded that he had taken improper benefits from the San Diego sports marketers who hoped to represent him after he turned professional. Bush's family had lived without paying rent in a home owned by one of the marketers.”
Reggie’s athleticism was evident since high school. It had nothing to do with what was going on behind the scenes, but it did violate NCAA rules.
Nothing Has Changed in Decades
Sports scandals are nothing new. Richard Vedder and Matt Denhart (Wall Street Journal) “bemoaned the massive financial exploitation of super good college athletes” in 2009. Taylor Branch, wrote “The Shame of College Sports” in 2011 and in 2012, David Ridpath wrote Tainted Glory detailing athletic corruption, particularly during his service at Marshall University.
Vedder writes, “In short, for many years numerous commentators have outlined horrendous problems with college sports: cheating, exploitation of athletes, the debasing of academic values, the potential long run health effects of high contact sports, and so on. The sex-based scandals at Penn State shocked the nation, as did the revelations of “phantom courses” for athletes at North Carolina.”
Protect Your Children
Parents of potential collegiate athletes need to protect their students and help them make wise decisions about their future. You can’t allow yourself to get “caught up” in the accolades being doled out so you can focus on what is important – higher education.
My wife’s cousin was a high school, college, and club team pitcher who was also in a strikeout battle during the U.S. Semifinal game during the 2002 Little League World Series. There were three major Division 1 baseball programs interested in his arm. So were a few dozen major league teams who wanted to draft him in 2008.
When deciding which university to attend, he ultimately selected the college because of the education he would receive. Since he hurt his arm in college, his full-tuition scholarship was redistributed to the next freshman phenom pitcher. While he’s no longer playing baseball, his parents helped him make good decisions (and had good guidance) that helped him stay grounded.
Build a Solid Foundation
The Bible says the wise build their "foundation on the rock" (Matthew 7:25). Trusting in and applying the Word of God will solidify the building. David Roach, Baptist Press News, reported on the need for a God-focused perspective in athletics.
David Conrady, boys basketball coach at Prestonwood Christian Academy (TX) shared with his team that "it all starts with your foundation of what you believe in. Hopefully, that starts with a relationship with Jesus Christ.... Then we can use Him and His standards as our barometer."
Conrady, who has coached at the college level, said the emphasis on money and winning at all costs among some college programs tempts coaches and athletes to commit the types of ethical and legal violations alleged by the federal investigators.
I personally hate that a few foolish people are using talented high school athletes as a pawn in their personal game of life, and "building their foundation on sand" (Matthew 7:26). While these are not the life lessons we want our students to learn, it is good that those involved in the scandals are being brought to justice.
David Conrady sums this up with a great life lesson, “there's never a right way to do a wrong thing."
Combining my youth ministry and educational consulting experience, I guide students to connect higher education with God's calling.