Tuesday, October 28, 2003

I doubt this bill will ever get out of committee, or be signed by Herr Ziffel if if comes to that, but a pair of influential legislators in California have finally put the NCAA's feet to the fire by introducing a bill that would forbid colleges in the Golden State from obeying regulations mandating amateurism for student-athletes. It's always amazed me the amount of newsprint that gets wasted on investigating whether some booster gives a campus superstar a loaner to drive around town, and perhaps some spending money for dates and such, as if it were a sin to receive something that wouldn't even raise an eyebrow if the beneficiary weren't a college athlete. Colleges rake in hundreds of millions a year on sports, but they seem to think that the producers of that wealth should get nothing. And now they are upset that some lawmakers have a problem with that.

At this point, the usual arguments get tossed out. Hey, those athletes don't get nothing--they get a scholarship, a free "education". Well, that's assuming that after practicing forty hours a week they still have time to go to class, hit the library, and cram for tests, and that's not even counting time spent eating, sleeping, recuperating from injuries, dating, going on road trips, etc. Besides, walk-ons, who by definition don't receive scholarships, don't get paid either. And students in other activities, such as theatre and music, get scholarships as well, but no one forbids them from making money on the side. Oh, and did I mention that athletes in some conferences, such as the Ivy League, don't even receive that.

But what about the notion that the role of college is to educate, and that sports isn't important enough to honor those who play it well? OK, then maybe colleges should only give scholarships to athletes on an at-need basis, and then only to those jocks with superlative academic qualifications. And then after that, those schools should be forced to give all of the money received from the Final Four and the BCS Championship to the school's general fund, rather than letting the school's athletic department keep it. Schools don't act like sports are an unimportant cultural activity, perhaps because the rest of society doesn't view them that way, either.

But, er, what about the importance of amateurism, the tradition of athletes playing for dear old alma mater, rather than for manna? Jeez, the Olympics barely care about that anymore, or didn't you notice that college basketball players got pushed aside a few years back for the Dream Teams. Amateurism has always been a way in which the powerful could assert their dominion over those without power, and the NCAA is the mechanism in which they enforce that leverage. In college sports, amateurism now exists partly because of tradition, but mostly to preserve competitive balance; it was imposed in the late-19th Century to prevent schools with wealthy alumni, such as Harvard, Yale, Princeton, et al., from buying championships. And in any event, would it really be so terrible if Duke and Stanford were able to lure top athletes to those campuses, where they would actually have to go to class and earn good grades to remain eligible.

That the NCAA is still allowed to keep its talent in serfdom into the 21st Century is idiotic. Athletes long ago quit caring about whether they obey every little malum prohibitum regulation the school imposes on them; they take the money that's offered them under the table, and if it's not enough, they turn pro. It can hardly add to the prestige of our educational system that so many top high school basketball players no longer care what their SAT scores are, since the NBA beckons, or that pro teams now view seniors entering into the draft as being reclamation projects, inferior to the real talent coming out of high school (or Europe). So let a thousand boosters bloom !!!

Monday, October 27, 2003

The new BCS ratings now have USC jumping three spots, to Number 4, while formerly undefeated VA Tech falls completely out of the picture. FSU is a tenuous third.

As I mentioned last week, it doesn't look like either Oklahoma or Miami will lose a game before the Sugar Bowl, although both teams have their toughest tests of the year coming up this Saturday. The Trojans would seem to have the best shot if either school stumbles, although they play an even tougher opponent this week than their competitors.

Still in all, this has been a spectacular season and a half for USC, and in dedication to the law school from which I matriculated, I now present what I hope will be a weekly feature, my Song Girl of the Week. This week, it's "Lindsey", a petite blonde Pi Beta Thi whose favorite movie is Dumb and Dumber, whose favorite part about being a Trojan is "[T]he amazing school spirit and Trojan Pride along with the perfect mix of academic and social life (which) make USC the ideal school", and who believes that the best word to describe herself is "enthusiastic". Indeed.

Saturday, October 25, 2003

After last week's ill-advised prediction, I'm going to pass on further prognostications for awhile. We have now passed the half-way point in the season, and with VA Tech's shock defeat Wednesday in West Virginia, we are now down to two undefeated BCS teams, Miami and Oklahoma. Both schools will be favored by at least a touchdown in every remaining game.

Tomorrow's schedule has a few games of interest. Out West, the Pac-10 race should sort itself out with the top six schools playing each other, with USC and Wazzou trying to avoid looking past Washington and Oregon St., respectively, before their big game next week. Arizona State travels to Pasadena to place conference leader UCLA, which now starts the hard part of their schedule; three of their final four games after this week are on the road, including match-ups with the Cougars and Trojans. Purdue will attempt to remain perfect in the Big-10 when it attempts to win at Michigan for the first time since 1966, while Penn State seeks to keep Joe Pa atop the all-time coaching leaders by beating Iowa.

Other games of note include Auburn playing LSU, the Sooners traveling to Boulder to meet Colorado, and Northern Illinois facing its last big road test of the year at Bowling Green, the first time two ranked MAC teams have played each other since 1973. Also, Jim Owens, who coached the Huskies to two Rose Bowl championships during the '60's amidst accusations of racism and intolerance, will be honored by a statue to be dedicated before U-Dub's game with USC. This week, Owens, now 75, met with several of the black players he suspended for disloyalty back in 1969 to apologize for his actions.

Monday, October 20, 2003

The first BCS standings are out. As expected, the top 3 are Oklahoma, Miami, and VA Tech, followed by a very tight logjam involving Georgia, Florida State, Ohio State and USC.

Sunday, October 19, 2003

Things not to do ever again: watch a Bruins game at the Rose Bowl. It is a depressing place, with none of the amenities a sports fan has come to expect when attending games. The game itself was boring (alma mater is now oh and four in games I've attended), the crowd was docile (who could have thought that 60,000 fans could make so little noise, on a day when their side was winning), and I actually had to use my cell phone in what was a futile attempt to get the SC-Notre Dame score. The word "stalinist" gets thrown around loosely, much like the words "racist" and "fascist", but there has to be a way to describe UCLA's unwillingness to announce any score that might favor their crosstown rival. When my friend Deborah asked, with a minute to go, if I wanted to leave to catch the shuttle to Old Town, I enthusiastically supported the motion; as it turns out, I missed CAL's only impressive drive of the game.

The current investigation of the Auburn football team may result in something more than lost scholarships and forfeited games from the past. The organization that accredits schools in the South is investigating the role school trustees had in some of the hiring and firing decisions at the school, including that of former coach Terry Bowden, as well as allegations that one trustee sought to have the failing grades of a "student" removed from his transcript. Loss of accreditation for the school would make any "Death Penalty" imposed by the NCAA seem like a slap on the wrist. [link via WarLiberal]

Friday, October 17, 2003

I've pretty much taken a hiatus this season, due in large part to the demands of my other blog during the Recall, but now I'm back. As you probably know, last week saw the fall of six undefeated schools: Minnesota, Nebraska, Arkansas, Florida State, LSU, and, most surprisingly, defending national champion Ohio State. Oklahoma routed Texas in what has become the college football version of the Yankees-Red Sox "rivalry", while Miami once again showed why they are such a tough road opponent by dismantling the Seminoles.

This week features perhaps the safest "upset" prediction of the year, as Notre Dame will once again pound get pounded by USC in South Bend; since 1981, the Trojans have won only once on the road in what was once the greatest rivalry in the sport, and the combination of a young QB, lousy officiating, and a rejuvenated Irish team, fresh off a stunning fluke win last week at Pitt, will lead to the fall an easy win for yet another highly ranked team. The other big game will be in Columbus, where the Buckeyes have struggled all year, and now have to face the school they shared the conference title with in route to the BCS crown, Iowa. In another elimination game for the Big 10 title, Purdue will square off early against Wisconsin, last week's victor over Ohio State.

In the meantime, I will be at the Rose Bowl, watching the alma mater take on the Cubs Bruins of UCLA. Also, Midnight Madness starts tonight. And the first BCS poll comes out Monday.

The addition of Boston College to the ACC, potentially as far off as 2006, will lead to the following division set-up in preparation for a conference playoff...and the conference musical chairs continues, as Rice, SMU and Tulsa announce that they shall leave the WAC for Conference USA, which itself stands to lose Louisville, among others, to the rebuilding Big East. And so it goes.

Thursday, October 02, 2003

Miami 22, W. Virginia 20: The second close home win of the season for the overrated Canes. I have a suspicion there won't be a battle of the unbeatens in the Sugar Bowl next January.

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