Anytime I talk about college sports, I’m always quick to make sure I spread the wealth of blame. I’ll do that once again, here. EVERYONE involved has blood on their hands. The kids, the parents, the schools, the coaches, the apparel companies. They’re all deal creators of the highest order. And even though they all know it’s wrong, they’re only operating off the standard that says “everyone else is doing it this way, so why wouldn’t I?”
What it is, essentially, is this: Beating. The. System.
That’s all it comes down to…”how can I beat the system and cut a nice deal for myself to play…beat the system and convince that kid to go to Maryland…beat the system and get that great point guard from Texas…beat the system and blah, blah, blah…”
Those three words are probably the three words plaguing our county more than any other three these days, so it’s not a surprise that college basektball is mired in an integrity slump.
My guess is 80% of the American adults alive today spend portion of their 24 hours trying to figure out a way to beat the system out of something. Might be a welfare check or the unemployment counselor or the insurance adjuster or the jury…could be something as simple as betting on sports and collecting untaxed income. Somehow, someway, I can guarantee that someone you know tried to beat the system today. And they’ll try again tomorrow, too.
The “system” in college sports unfortunately allows for the kind of nefarious behavior that shoe and apparel companies have perfected. At the big time schools, it starts and stops with the coaches. They run the show. And when adidas or Nike comes along and wants to be friends with the coach, he or she listens and ultimately shakes that hand because they know, as I wrote above, that if they don’t jump in bed with them, someone else in their conference will. And the coaches also know that apparel companies want to be aligned with a winner. Quick, during the heyday of the Chicago Bulls, what apparel/shoe product did Michael Jordan endorse? Right…it was Nike. OK, what apparel/shoe product did the Milwaukee Bucks team do business with during “the Jordan years”? I didn’t think you’d remember. No one does.
Maryland and Under Armour were both probably used by the two Harrison kids to sweeten the pie with Kentucky. That’s just a wild guess, but it certainly fits in with the way these budding teen-age superstars and their parents do business in 2012. And before you fire off a “those two young Harrison’s are nice kids and they come from good stock” comment, might I remind you that they just signed on to go into business with the most well known underground magician in all of college sports, John Calipari. They can’t be all that good…
So pencil Kentucky in for another national championship in a year or two.
Unless something odd happens, Coach Cal and his “supporters” in Lexington have, in fact, bought themselves another winner. Nike will get what they want, naturally, which is a direct tie-in to the two Harrison boys and the birth of a relationship that they – Nike – hope will carry over for a few more years until they can put out a pair of sneakers for $325 with the Harrison’s “official logo” on them or something like that.
Calipari gets the players, again, and the University of Kentucky is a proud institution of higher learning AND great basketball.
The kids benefit because they get to choose their own path after having all of the options laid out in front of them. It’s big business, what they’re involved in now, but they’re getting an early lesson in how to make the most money you can if for no other reason other than it’s out there to be made, righteous or not.
It all stinks, if you ask me.
The NCAA is the ring leader of it all, because they allow it to go on. Of course, they’ll applaud those two boys for “making a great decision with the guidance of their parents and loved ones.” They’ll give the scholarship offers their blessing and the two Harrisons will be on their way to Lexington. And three years from now, a handful of NCAA compliance officers will fly to Kentucky to officially investigate UK’s role in the recruiting of those two kids.
The schools — you know, the people paying athletic coaches more than the university President — get to sell-out more football or basketball games. They also get big sponsorship checks from the apparel company. Everyone gets a back rub. Everyone gets to be “part of the deal”.
Well, almost everyone.
The students who really want to go to college and study in an effort to make something of themselves have to pay cash for their tuition or borrow the money from the government.
They should have paid attention a little more in gym class when they were 10 years old.