With millions of dollars in merchandising and television contracts at stake, colleges have a lot of money riding on the recruitment, education, and performance?both on and off the field– of college athletes. Colleges lure the athletes to their school, and make sure they meet the eligibility requirements when there. In order for athletes to be eligible to play in college they must attain a minimum of a 2.0 GPA in 11 designated courses, and earn a combined 700 on the SAT?s. Athletes must also meet the schools requirements, normally a 2.0 GPA. With so much at stake, some colleges often go too far, by providing players with personal tutors, who often do work for the players, and pressuring teachers and administrators to look the other way when athletes fail. The NCAA also bars players from receiving any compensation, except scholarships for their play. However, there are many incidences of players receiving other sorts of compensation. There are many violations of athletic department officials and trustees giving players money, or gifts, ranging from clothing to cars. Colleges have also been known to give gifts to players just to get them to attend their institution, a practice that is much harder to trace because the student is not enrolled at the school. This has an effect on the psyche of the athletes; more incidences of sexual abuse and other crimes by athletes are arising every year. Even though the NCAA strictly prohibits all of these things from going on, it seems every year another school is violating them. These rules are not stringent enough both academically and socially for the players. The last major change to these rules came in 1989 with the passage of Proposition 42.
This rule change closed a loophole in a proposition passed in 1983. The 1983 proposition, known as Proposition 42, required that, beginning in 1986, all athletes must earn a minimum of a 2.0 in eleven designated high school courses, and earn a minimum score of 700 on their SAT?s. However, there was a loophole in this regulation. If they did not earn these minimums players could still enroll in the university, under full scholarship, not play or practice with the team, but earn their minimum GPA and then play the next year without ever having met the initial requirements. In an article written for The New Republic in May 1986, Malcolm Gladwell criticizes Proposition 48 and the effects it will have on college sports. Citing many examples of foul play at colleges, ranging from teachers being fired at the University of Georgia in 1982 for not giving preferential treatment to athletes, to players being arrested for rape at the University of Minnesota and their coach stating he ? could not set realistic disciplinary standards?much less academic standards?for fear of losing recruits?, Gladwell states, ?Big time athletic competition is far more important than education at many major public universities, and nothing is likely to change that? (13). He identifies the main problem with proposition 48, citing Berkeley sociologist Harry Edwards, ?The big universities will simply keep a separate roster of first year ineligible athletes along with their regular players?(16). The amount of money a school has will determine how many non-qualifying players they can lure to their schools with scholarships. This is the reason for the passing of proposition 42, which bars colleges from giving scholarships to incoming freshmen that do not meet the requirements. Consequently, many people feel that these tougher regulations will lead to more cheating. If that is the case, than more severe punishments should be installed to deter this behavior. A side effect of proposition 48 is that, many of the athletes that attend these schools on basketball and football scholarships are from low-income families that cannot afford to pay tuition to large universities. It is these people that will lose out if the colleges cannot find another way of paying for them. This in effect will lead to more cheating, like colleges helping prospective students secure government grants and loans, but this is not always enough. They may have to have trustees pay for some of their education, or may be outright given money by the schools. And this is for athletes who do not meet the requirements. What about the athletes that do meet them, what are they given? The top athletes in the country know they can get scholarships from many schools, so what else are these top schools willing to give them? At the least, these athletes receive preferential treatment. With so many of the countries top basketball and football players, some with criminal records, coming from lower class communities, where does this preferential treatment stop? There are many cases of college athletes violating the law and someone looking the other way. There has never been a better example of widespread athletics corruption than the University of Minnesota.
The scandals at the University of Minnesota are so important because they were not isolated incidents, but rather operations that had gone on for years before being uncovered. After the 1986 scandal when three basketball players were accused of rape, the team was accused of over forty violations and put on probation; merely put on probation for forty rules violations? Then, in 1989, Luther Darville, acting coordinator of the schools office of minority affairs was uncovered as having given money to players. According to Steve Wulf, a staff writer for Sports? Illustrated, ?Darville is alleged to have siphoned money from the minority affairs office from 1983 to ?88 and to have doled some of it out to 17 students, including nine athletes, in need of cash?(13). This is a person who is not even in the athletics? department. This shows the dedication some large schools have to keeping their athletes satisfied. The article goes on to state that, ?According to Valdez Baylor, a former tailback on the Gopher football team, ?Go see Luther? was the catchphrase among minority athletes in need? he received as much as $5,000 over six years from Darville?(13). Baylor?s account leads me to believe that Darville?s activities were much more widespread than 17 students. The University of Minnesota?s actions do not end there. In March of 1999 more issues concerning cover-ups were exposed. In the Chronicle of Higher Education, Welch Suggs provides an account of the next chapter in the declination of the University of Minnesota. According to the President of the University, Mark G. Yudof, ?Jan Ganglehoff?a secretary in the department?s academic-services office, completed more than 100 class assignments for as many as 20 basketball players during a five-year period? (A41). The article goes on to state the school may have stepped in on the reports of two dozen sexual misconduct cases, against tutors and other women on campus, in order to protect the athletes involved. Many colleges cater to these students, giving them money, clothing, and other material possessions. After time, the athletes come to expect these things. Athletic departments are primarily self funded, so if they don?t have winning teams, they don?t make any money. Consequently, the more the teams win the more money the schools and athletic departments make. Therefore, schools and coaches are willing to take a risk on athletes that have a background of bad behavior, if that person will make a difference on the field. Athletes that attend these big universities expect the universities to do everything for them, and they are more than often correct. These institutions are willing to do anything for them. It is the case know, that many institutions are being caught for covering up crimes that athletes have committed in order for the athletes to remain eligible.
Jeffrey R. Benedict in an article entitled, Colleges Must Act Decisively When Scholarship Athletes Run Afoul of the Law, points out that, ?male athletes?who make up only three percent of all male students?were accused of nineteen percent of sexual assaults and 35 thirty-five percent of the cases of domestic violence that were reported to campus officials by female students?(B6). Benedict goes on to note that, ?an extremely small percentage of student athletes are accused of criminal acts, but it also appears that many of those who are accused have had previous trouble with the law?(B7). The NCAA lets colleges determine the disciplinary actions that should take place if an athlete commits a crime. This allows the institutions to take as little action as they want in dealing with the students. It is common that students remain eligible while their trials are going on. The coaches and athletic departments are so eager to win that they will let criminals play for their teams. The athletes at these large universities receive so much, and are so looked up to in the community they feel untouchable. Furthermore, it is the coaches and boosters, so intent on winning, who commit the illegal activities and encouraging the athletes, not directly, but by their own example, into wanting more and getting away with more. These athletes are not being punished for the acts that they commit. The athletes therefore, believe that they can get away with anything. So what can be done to end the insanity that college athletics has become?
There are many proposals, from a number of institutions and organizations, for further rule changes by the NCAA. One, originated by Joe B. Wyatt, chancellor of Vanderbilt University, and explained in his article Our Moral Duty to Clean Up College Athletics has been forwarded to the NCAA and is now under review. These regulations are simple, if an athlete does not leave a college in good academic standing, the college would lose a scholarship spot until the date the departed athlete would have graduated (A56). Also, the athletes who transfer would not be able to play until they earn academic eligibility. Now, athletes who are in trouble academically can transfer and play immediately. If athletes who do not meet academic requirements cannot play when they transfer, colleges would be more reluctant to accept them. This would ensure they kept their grades up. These are not the only rule changes that need to take place. In an April 22nd article for Newsweek, Pete Axhelm believes rules must come down harder on coaches and boosters for cheating. He maintains that boosters, who are the main people presenting athletes with gifts, should only be allowed to meet with players at supervised functions. Also, in the article, Notre Dame basketball coach Digger Phelps comments, ?Make it uniform [the meetings], watch them closely, and let them know that if they [the players] cheat on it, they will lose eligibility?(74). This would intimidate boosters from giving gifts and players from taking them. If the state of athletics is improved morally, the academic gains will come. Axthelm also insists that coaches who get caught cheating and leave schools should have their penalties follow them, stating that, ?Fear of not getting hired again can be a good deterrent?(74). All of these rules make sense, for the athletes come and go, and it is the coaches and institutions that are always there. They are the ones that are cheating.
As I sit, watching a basketball game between Cincinnati and UNC, the number 1 and number 7 ranked teams in the country, I wonder why those players are at the schools they are. Recalling a quote from Pete Axhelm?s article, ?One bitter irony at Tulane is that while many deplored point shaving by a star, few noticed that when the star was shown a printed rundown of his rights, he had difficulty reading it?, I realize why they are. It is the institutions that exploit these athletes, luring them to college with gifts and then not providing. They are not providing an education for the athletes; the fundamental thing they are there for. Colleges use these athletes, young and na?ve, to earn more money and win. Thirty-seven percent of scholarship athletes graduate college. The one-thing colleges can promise to athletes, a full scholarship, a free education, they only provide to thirty-seven percent of them. In closing, I feel that it is the institutions, not the athletes who need to be held more responsible for cheating and cover-ups in order to clean up college athletics.