Sunday, April 15, 2012

NCAA: It Just Ain't Fair!

I attended a very small, Baptist HBCU university--Shaw University in Raleigh, NC.  Shaw is a member of the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) and is a NCAA Division II school.  Shaw is so small, that among HBCUs, it does not rank in the "elite" class of Howard, Hampton, Florida A&M, Morehouse, or Grambling Universities.  During my years at Shaw, our sports teams never won anything--that is to say, we never won any conference or other NCAA championships.  We weren't that good; but the whole school turned out for every game and it was truly an exercise in school pride and the pleasure of the sport itself.

In recent years, however, Shaw has been blessed with great athletic fortune.  Since 2004, the men's football team has won the CIAA championship five times ('04, '07, '08, '10 and '11), and made the NCAA Div. II playoffs twice ('07, '10 and '11).  The men's basketball team won the CIAA championship twice ('01 and '11).  Shaw U. has won many other team sport championships (men's and women's baseball/softball, tennis, track, etc.) during the decade of the 2000's, but it's the women's basket team that is our shining jewel, having won the CIAA basketball championship seven times between 2002 and 2011, and in 2012 the women won the NCAA Division II Championship!

Which brings me to why I'm making you read this stuff.  Today, I read a Washington Post story about the sanction imposed on the 2012 NCAA Division I Women's Basketball program at Baylor University.  The school was caught engaging in questionable recruiting practices.

Now, how often do we hear about this kind of thing among Division I sports programs--especially football and men's and women's basketball?  How often do the same schools keep breaking the same rules--seemingly getting away with it all the time?  Now, I realize that "getting away with it" is subjective--they do lose a few scholarships, and every "square" orbit the Earth takes around the Sun, you hear about the dreaded "Death Penalty."  But these schools still get Heisman winners, mega TV contracts, endorsement contracts.  Many of their coaches make 10x the salaries of their most tenured professors or even the school presidents/chancellors!  And that's not counting the product sponsorship dollars the coaches get.  Their athletic departments are so rich that even their "Tiddly Wink" teams have a budget greater than the entire AD department at Shaw!

But when these schools screw up--often ROYALLY (consider Penn State, Ohio State, Arkansas,  Southern Cal., Auburn, North Carolina, Oregon, Tennessee, LSU...the list goes on.  The media even calls it an "epidemic!"  Cheating, scheming, you name it.  But what really happens to these schools?  Do their program "really" suffer?  I don't think so.  If any of this kind of stuff happened to Division II school in the same frequency as it does in Division I, D-II schools would be devastated.  And the poor, poor Div. III schools--they're prohibited by NCAA rules from even offering scholarships to prospective athletes--I wonder how their sports programs even survive.

After Kentucky won the Men's NCAA Basketball championship, I overhead a commentator ask another who he thought should win the MVP and the other commented that it was a tough call because they had three freshmen, all of whom were equally eligible to win.  It dawned on me---three freshmen?  Freshmen?!?  I know there are some elite high schools around the country, but most college basketball freshmen come from fairly "normal" public and private high schools.  I wondered if Shaw University's women basketball team (Division II Champs) could compete against Baylor (Division I Champs).....I mean, they're the same women recruited from just about the same schools.  But probably not because Baylor has resources that schools like Shaw will never have.  They have the opportunity to shine (exploit) their athletes that a school like Shaw will never have.  Yet, despite losing two scholarships, Baylor is likely to be at the NCAA Women's Final Four next year, with millions ($$) at stake, while little schools like Shaw continue to go unknown, winning championships that the media (and the NCAA apparently) don't seem to give a damn about.  But Baylor will continue to win its championships and they will continue to cheat....and they'll continue to get richer while the little schools play for pride and barely hang on. 

It just ain't fair.


Anonymous said...

Back when I attended SDSU, I heard the phrase "If you're not cheating, you're not trying" a lot and it sickens me when the big schools always get caught yet STILL get to go on business as usual.

Zebster said...

Great rant and essay, G, right on point. I graduated from an NAIA, so I know exactly what you mean. Thankfully these small schools manage to keep these programs alive for the STUDENT ATHLETE. One suggestion would be to link the Post article you mentioned.

tpubgu said...

Nice, well written article, Geo.