Tuesday, April 1, 2008

The Only People Who Are Losing Are The Kids

As I've tried hard to make obvious, I love college basketball. If there is one (developing) story that has frustrated me over the last couple of months, its the situation out there in Hoosierland. If you don't follow ball, let me briefly catch you up. Indiana dismissed its coach Kelvin Sampson for violating NCAA recruiting rules for a second time. This time, Sampson had violated 5 "major" rules. In addition, Kelvin was suspected of foul play after stealing away star Eric Gordon from Illinois, where he had previously given his verbal commitment.

Now, Kelvin Sampson getting fired was the right decision, but the timing was wrong. Yes, Sampson had cheated and deserved to be reprimanded. But what about his players? At the time, Indiana was ranked in the top 15 and looked primed to make a run at the Big 10 title. Instead, Sampson got the boot and the players were forced to play for an interim coach who was clearly not qualified to hold the head coach position.

Out of respect for their former coach, some players boycotted an Indiana practice. As a result, those players were suspended for a game. ESPN's basketball "experts", Dick Vital and Digger Phelps, said the players were immature and deserved their punishment. This is so typical of ESPN. They always want to side with the coaches and make nonconformists look like cancer. The players basically got screwed out of their season and ended with a mediocre record and a one-and-done tournament appearance.

Today, two starters from Indiana were kicked off the team. Jamarcus Ellis and Armon Bassett skipped a meeting addressing who their new coach would be then were reprimanded by being forced to run the next morning. Of course, these players decided to skip the punishment as well and have been wiped out of the Hoosier program.

I'm not saying these guys are freedom fighters like Rosa Parks and Malcolm X. I concede that their decision to skip the punishment was stupid. But let's look at this from their perspective: their coach gets fired, their team falls apart, they get upset and show their frustrations, they lose their scholarship.

How do I think this whole situation should have been handled? Funny you should ask because I happen to have an opinion. Kelvin Sampson's violation should have been kept secret by the NCAA until the end of the season. Then, Kelvin should have been fed to the lions (or fired) and Indiana should have found a new coach. That way, the players wouldn't have to suffer. Then again, it is tradition that college athletes get mistreated. They make millions of dollars for their universities and are simply given a free education. That's good, but not nearly enough.

Its a well known fact that many college athletes never receive their degree and are kept afloat by their coaches pulling some strings. It is almost impossible to expect college athletes to succeed academically in the first place. These kids practice and condition their bodies practically all day and then are told to handle college courses? Most kids without any commitments find it difficult to handle college classes. How are these athletes expected to do it? For most college athletes, all their scholarship gives them is four years of glory and a lifetime of pain while living in poverty.

This is just another example. The system is messed up and won't change because any athlete who tries to speak up is looked at as a menace.

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