AMID ALL THE OUTPOURING of concern among America's big school basketball coaches about Proposition 42 and its accompanying threat that it will inhibit the education process of deserving athletes, I got on a plane in Atlanta Monday morning, returning from the Super Bowl in Miami, and was joined by the University of Nevada-Las Vegas basketball team.
The Rebels had played the previous afternoon on national TV at Louisville, and now they were on their way west.The curious thing was that in the Atlanta airport terminal they passed up a gate marked "Las Vegas," and instead boarded the plane for Salt Lake City.
On board, a team broadcaster explained they were flying to Utah first because the team had a game against Utah State in Logan - Wednesday night.
They would spend Monday afternoon and evening in a Salt Lake hotel, would practice somewhere in Salt Lake, and then drive to Logan Tuesday to get ready for the Wednesday night game. They would return to Las Vegas Thursday.
Another real-life example that hypocrisy is alive and well in college basketball; and that when it comes down to academics and athletics - in spite of all you hear - academics takes a distant second.
The Rebels could have been back in Las Vegas by early afternoon Monday. Maybe in time for a few classes. They could have easily flown to Utah Wednesday, bused to Logan, played the game, and returned Thursday. They could have, if going to class and being students was the No. 1 priority in the players' lives.
This isn't meant to single out UNLV. They just happened to be on the plane. Heaven knows, the Runnin' Rebels have been singled out enough. Virtually every major college program in the country makes similar travel arrangements on their road trips, Utah, USU, BYU and Weber State not excepted.
Even Georgetown tends to hang around on road trips. Perhaps you'll recall a couple of years ago when the Hoyas came to the NCAA West Regionals and, instead of going through the hassle of returning back to campus from one weekend to the next, just stayed in the Rockies for two straight weeks.
Which is brought up because of the high profile Georgetown has had the past couple of weeks in decrying the NCAA's passage of Prop. 42, a rule that prohibits the granting of scholarship aid to students who are offered athletic scholarships but then are prohibited from playing as freshmen because they don't meet minimum entrance level academic requirements (which, of course, is the now-famous Proposition 48).
John Thompson, Georgetown's coach protested, curiously, by not coaching a couple of his team's games.
Apparently, the point was, if he didn't like something then he didn't have to go to work.
His contention is that Prop. 42 further discriminates against kids from low socio-economic backgrounds, i. e., the ghettos; that they already have two strikes against them with their public education systems in such a generally sorry state, and if they can't gain entry, and aid, to the great higher learning institutions of this country via their athletics skills, they'll never break out of the abyss.
Thompson dismisses the arguments that A) The minimum standards set by Prop. 48 are really minimum and that there is something inherently inconsistent with giving a scholarship without a hint of scholar in there somewhere; B) This country is loaded with junior colleges, like, for instance, Salt Lake Community College, that pride themselves on being the halfway houses that will rescue great athletes from lives of poverty and broken dreams (and, in the process, win about 300 games a year); and C) By not stressing the importance of academics in high school, gifted athletes will have even less of an incentive to get down the fundamentals, such as, say, reading and writing, before they take their SAT or ACT tests.
Georgetown is a prime example of a university where the basketball team hardly reflects the academic standard of the school at large. For regular students, the entrance standards are Ivy League-level. For basketball players, the entrance standards are NBA-level.
The problem is, people like John Thompson won't just come out and say that. They won't admit that they don't want a kid in their school for any other reason than that he can play basketball; that his grade point average isn't anything compared to his game point average.
That getting to Utah and studying all week for Utah State is a lot more important than getting back to Las Vegas and studying for trigonometry.
If the people in college basketball would admit who they are, and what they are, it would not only be refreshing, but would enable laws like Prop. 42 to stay on the books, no pun intended.