Editor’s Note: The author of this week’s point of view is Dr. John Metallo, retured athletic director and coach at Gloversville High School. He also served 20 years as secretary for Section Ii New York State Public High School Athetic Association.
Duke University basketball was named No. 1 in the country on Monday, Nov. 29. They promptly lost to an unranked Ohio State team on Tuesday. This in spite of the fact Duke had the best recruiting class in the country (in sports we rank everything including 17-year-old high school recruits) and perhaps the best class in the history of the game
I have been a college sports fan for most of my 72 years on this planet. I especially enjoy watching the University of North Carolina Tar Heels. I have followed the Heels teams religiously since 1966 when one of my high school mates played for Coach Dean Smith alongside the great Charles Scott. Having been a high school coach of four different sports, I also helped prepare many high school students who went on to compete on the college level.
What I have been seeing and hearing around college sports today is dismaying at best. High school students are being tracked and ranked as early as grade 9. The choice of college of some highly ranked players (yes we are ranking 17 year olds) becomes a nationally televised event with coverage by ESPN as well as local television and radio stations. Mind you, this is the college choice of a high school student who has not yet graduated from high school and still might be looking for a date to the senior prom.
Then, as soon as they enroll in college, before they play a college game, we hear how they are sized up, labeled and ranked for the next year’s NBA draft … Yes NBA and they have yet to play one college game. Let’s remember that less than 2 percent (2 in 100) high school athletes go on to play college sports on any level — that is junior college, Division 3, Division 2 or Division 1. The percentage of college athletes who go on to play professionally is well under 1 percent. By percentage, it is much easier to become a brain surgeon in the U.S. than it is to get a spot on the roster of an NBA team.
Now we are hearing about football players who do not want to play in bowl games or basketball players who do not want to play post season tournaments because they might get injured and hurt their chances to enter the professional ranks. I think they had the same chance of injury in every game they played, but who am I to judge?
We are also experiencing the proliferation of OADs — one and done players. Those are college basketball players who go to school for approximately six months. They begin classes in August or September, they stop attending classes at the end of November and leave the school when their team is eliminated from the NCAA tournament never to return because they are off to the NBA. Many of these OADs end up in the D league or G league or whatever it is being called now, which is the NBA version of intramurals but that is a topic for another day.
We also hear about paying players because everyone is making money except the poor kids on the field or court. Let’s take a closer look at that. Most college athletic programs do not make a profit. They take in a lot of money and they spend a lot of money and at the end of the day they run in the red. At one time the model was that an athlete who attended college on an athletic scholarship was being paid (in kind) with free tuition, room and board, books, etc. all of which led to a college degree. There are some now who think these players should be given a salary for playing before they leave college after six months or so.
I say no.
The model needs to be changed. Major League Baseball has a pretty good rule. If a player is great coming out of high school, he can drafted around the time of graduation from high school. He is then sent to the minor leagues for a number of years. He is paid for his time. He may or may not make it to the major leagues. MLB also has a plan of entry for student athletes who are not drafted right out of high school. If they go to college, they are not eligible for the MLB draft for three years. The players have the choice.
I would expand upon this model and use it for all sports. However instead of three years in college, I would up it to a minimum of four. (Right now the NCAA allows a student athlete to play four years of college sports over a period of five years.)
I would adjust the MLB rule for all sports in the following manner:
• A player can be drafted into a professional contract right out of school.
• A player who chooses to go to college is not eligible for professional sports for four years after entering college.
We also need to remember that these athletes are enrolling in academic programs and they are taking spots from other students who are being rejected by the colleges in question.
Bottom line is college athletics at one time were sports played by college students. All too often now, college programs are becoming minor leagues for professional organizations who are more than happy to let that happen because it saves them money and that is what they are all about.
We shall see where it all goes in the next few years.
— Dr. John Metallo