College Basketball: Student Athletes are Students

By Joseph Nardone

Major college basketball is first and foremost a business. Any University President or Athletic Director that tells you otherwise is lying. If a school is a traditional top 50 program, or even has the potential of being so, it seems the importance of young athletes getting an education gets pushed to the wayside. That’s not saying the head coach(sometimes) or other members of the school doesn’t have the players best interests in mind. Unfortunately for the athletes, their idea is of using basketball to make money. Not what should be going on, using a college education as a way to make yourself better while hoping for the best with your basketball career.

Every year sites like ours, ESPN, and the like trot out a top 100 or so list of the best recruits in the land. When your favorite school lands 1 of these recruits, you as well as the alumni go bonkers. These kids get treated as meat coming into a factory just waiting to get used, grind up, and chewed out. Now generally it’s not the media or fans place to worry about whether these kids graduate or not. Yet, when these kids become academically ineligible, god forbid during the season, we all hate on the kid.

The athletes don’t have many things helping them focus on school. Soon as 1 of the top recruits in the land commits to a certain university, it’s expected they enroll early so they can participate in “voluntary” workouts. Nobody ever asks the kid who’s there on a chess scholarship to enroll early to focus on the rook move(I know nothing about chess). The program nor the faculty never factor in that the kid just might not be ready for a college environment. Or rushing through their senior year in High School could limit his learning capabilities when the athlete gets to campus. Kind of like when a kid goes to the NBA to early, only to flop and never find a niche in the league.

The responsibility that goes with this is obviously the young man and the parents. But if you were in their shoes and somebody was telling you how your kid is a lock to get millions playing pro ball, you would listen and forget about every responsible fiber in your body.

The 1 and done rule doesn’t help either. Whether the athlete was a projected lottery pick entering his freshmen year or somebody ill-advisedly told him he would be, kids won’t focus on school if they think it’s JUST a platform to get to play professional basketball. That’s all the 1 and done rule is saying. Hey kid, you never really cared much for book learning. So why don’t you come play here for a year, I’ll show you how to be a pro ball player and you’ll get drafted in the lottery next year. Sounds great right? Well I bet that pitch is made to about 50 kids a year if not more. Oddly enough, there is only 15 lottery picks in the NBA and not all of them are freshmen or even from college.

Now us sports websites aren’t going to praise a kid for getting straight A’s in school or if he makes the Dean’s List. Nor do we care if a kid stays for 4 years and earns a degree in Science Evolution Theory of Eating Grapes. I would be a hypocrite if I told you the next piece I wrote wouldn’t likely being hyping up some new recruit or talking about the pro potential of some returning sophomore sensation. But what I don’t lack is perspective.

To us college basketball is just another sport that’s on TV. We treat it like we treat the NFL, MLB, and the NBA. The difference between those 3 and college sports? College players aren’t paid, they don’t get endorsement deals, and playing for their school isn’t their livelihood. However, we treat them as if they were getting paid, NIKE was banging down their door, and every college athlete turns pro.

All I’m trying to say is that the next time your backup shooting guard misses a wide open 3 to win a game, relax…he’s just a student.

Follow Joe on the Twitter machine if you dare @JosephNardone



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