A recent cover story in Time magazine, "The College Trap," decries the current state of collegiate athletics, in which an obsession with winning and money-making leads "too many players down the path of broken dreams."
Young men play collegiate ball with an eye on an NBA contract. However, Time reported, only 40 of the 20,000 young men playing collegiate basketball will make it into the NBA in any given year.But, more importantly, the article stressed, an alarming number of collegiate players trade their basketball talent for a third-rate college education. The colleges court them and then break or bend the rules to keep them playing and winning games. Grades and academic achievement are the least of the players' - or the coaches' - concern. In the end, players are cheated out of what they should have been going to college for in the first place - an education.
A particularly telling example was Tom Scales, a 6-foot-10-inch former star center for Georgetown University. Scales never made it to the NBA. He did manage to get his sheepskin, but his education, always taking a backseat to the basketball court, was a sham. He is now a doorman at a Washington, D.C., hotel.
He told Time that he learned the hard way that "there is more to life than sports."
Shortly before publication of Time's thought-provoking article, my alma mater, the University of Utah, hired a new basketball coach. In his first public appearance as Utah's new coach, Rick Majerus said some things that, considering what was reported in the Time article, were refreshing, if not revolutionary, for a basketball coach. Majerus said that the classroom, not the basketball court, will be his players' No. 1 focus.
But I also wonder about an unspoken message that came out of the U. at the same time. The day before Majerus' selection was announced, it was reported that the U. had offered him a $1 million salary package, to be paid over several years. He and U. officials vehemently denied that report, but no one is pinpointing an amount.
I don't have any inside information on the size of his paycheck. But I'm convinced of one thing: It is a lot more than the ones earned by most U. professors. It wouldn't be surprising if it's more than U. President Chase N. Peterson's.
I find all of this talk about big-time salaries curious after listening to the cries from the U. for more money because its faculty salaries are 20 percent below their peers' elsewhere.
Now, as I write this, I'm already anticipating a U. official or two will call to "educate" me on such things as the important role of athletics in attracting donor dollars and how athletics pays its way through gate receipts. I'm well aware of those and similar arguments, and they have validity.
But so does the idea that you funnel your money into what is valued most.
Time suggested that one step toward reforming collegiate athletics would be to pay coaches on the same scale as other faculty members and make them eligible for tenure so their jobs wouldn't be tied to a win-loss record. There were other, equally interesting recommendations, such as sending a greater portion of athletic revenues into the general university coffers and limiting athletic events to weekends.
Maybe it's time our colleges started taking such suggestions seriously.