Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Running Out Of Excuses

College sports is a running theme for millions of Americans this week, and for some of our staff too. The week began with both the men's and women's NCAA basketball championships and several collegiate "Spring Game" scrimmages are set for this next weekend - including the annual Red-White game for the Nebraska Cornhusker football team.

For us, the experience of college sports is a bit different, as multiple members of our staff have had long associations with both college education and college sports. Our Editor-In-Chief, namesake, and cartoonist Paul Fell has been both college professor and college football player, while our writing staff  includes the former Executive Producer of the Husker Sports Radio Network. Paul's long-running HuskerNutz cartoon series has also long mocked and celebrated the peculiar nature of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's unusual fans.

In short, we have some significant collective experience in professional media, athletics, and education at the collegiate level.

That's why, to some degree, while we were disgusted and dismayed at the stories coming out of the NCAA men's basketball tournament this year - about the coach's $350-thousand-plus bonuses, while some students complain of going hungry. We've also been cheered by the recent efforts by Kain Coulter and the Northwestern University football team to unionize.

The realities of liberty seem to finally be running down the cartel of the NCAA.

One of our favorite reporters on politics and sports, Dave Zirin of The Nation, has been covering the death spiral of the NCAA closely. If Zirin's dissection of the UConn Huskies men's basketball team on Tuesday didn't convince you there are massive problems with college sports that the NCAA is not only ignoring but encouraging, your problems might be deeper than facts can help.

From UConn's abysmal 8% graduation rate for their student athletes, and UConn's budget deficits and tuition hikes facing their students, to the coach's and network's million and billion dollar paydays, to the NCAA regulations that keep student athletes from even being able to accept meals at times - Zirin is right when he calls top college athletics today 'The Real Hunger Games.'

As Zirin also noted earlier this year, the NCAA has no intention of letting the cash cow star athletes get away without a fight. It's certain the NCAA won't just be throwing legal fees at this issue. They'll also be using all the stereotypical political tricks, including appealing to the basest level "logic."

Indeed, as so many Americans already say, "The kids are getting a free education, right? So what do they have to complain about?"

For the student athletes who go to schools like UConn, 92% of them don't get an education that will help them the rest of their lives. They get lifelong injuries and often have to take on piles of debt (like most college students today). Maybe they get to take with them a few memories of time when they were special - before the next crop of momentary superstars arrived on campus.

It's long past time someone ran down the NCAA and the corrupt system they operate, and truly looked out for the best interests of the students.

If that someone happens to be Kain Coulter and the football team at Northwestern, along with the help of the unions, many of those who've been involved with college academics and athletics will be there to cheer them on - hopefully to a better future for all college students.

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