Battling Viewpoints

Miami Herald columnist Fred Grimm's has this take on sham schooling for star athletes, the sex allegations and coverup regarding high school football star Antwain Easterling, and other "lessons that lying, cheating, jock-sniffing adults impart."

Below is New Times' editor Tony Ortega's response. He disagrees with Grimm's conclusion, which he terms "hypocritical bullshit": "Who gives a rat's ass if the guy can spell? As long as he can sign his freaking name on a fat NFL contract someday, is it really anyone's problem that the guy doesn't become a scholar?"

Me, I'm somewhere in the middle. I think both of them make valid points. When I was sports editor for my college newspaper, I wound up partying with jocks on occasion. Some of the coddled ones, mostly football players, were utterly terrifying people. They would get drunk and fight all the time (and I'm talking about 320-pound linemen with arms like sledgehammers), openly piss in extremely public places (like, say, bar tables), act like general monsters. And they'd get away with it.

And you think, they need to crack down on these guys, most of whom don't get the big contracts and wind up settling down as ne'er do wells in their old neighborhoods. That's when the free ride comes right back to bite society on the ass.

It goes beyond academics. But it's just a reality that the system as it is now makes an emphasis on classwork impossible. And pretending otherwise, as Ortega points out, is ridiculous.

I'm thinking a farm system in football would help, where athletes who have no intention of ever getting an education can hone their skills, make a little money, and save universities their presence. But that would cut into the clout and power of college football -- and that just won't do in America.

After the jump: Ortega's Take

"I get so angry when I read this hypocritical bullshit about student-athletes.

As long as American colleges are going to whore themselves out as the minor leagues of professional football and basketball * encouraged, of course, by those professional leagues * then why do we continue with the hypocrisy about grades and graduation?

Why is it so hard to understand that a guy like Morley goes to college to MAJOR in FOOTBALL. The school wants him for his footspeed or his passing ability so that it can bring in the big money that goes with TV contracts. Who gives a rat's ass if the guy can spell? As long as he can sign his freaking name on a fat NFL contract someday, is it really anyone's problem that the guy doesn't become a scholar?

I used to teach athletes at Cal State Fullerton, which was a big time baseball machine and also had a decent basketball program (it produced Cedric Ceballos). Some of the basketball players were in my class, and they were barely literate. Each week, I'd get a call from their 'liaison officers' from the athletic department making sure that they were keeping up with assignments, getting passing grades, etc. It really offended me. None of the other students had that kind of help or support. The rest of us (I was a grad student at the time) had to get our own asses to class to make sure that we did our work on time.

It was such a farce. The players knew they weren't there to read English literature or learn ancient history or become scientists or engineers. They wanted to perfect their jump shots. And what's wrong with that?

In four years, after they were done taking their shot at the NBA or NFL, there's nothing stopping them from doing what any other citizen of only modest academic skill can do to improve themselves: take inexpensive classes down at the local community college.

There's no doubt that the University High School Grimm wrote about was a scam. But why did it need to exist? Because we continue to perpetuate this utter bullshit about universities and athletes.

The hypocrisy will only end when universities own up to the scam. Let athletes major in their sport. Let those who want a real education get it. Pay them for playing. And when they've used up their eligibility as athletes, then treat them like any other student."

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