Originally Posted by dabvu2498
Good post, improbus. Some excellent points.
One thing I'd disagree with is the idea that "fans" think the way alumni do. Even alumni-fans.
I love my alma mater, both as an athletic program and an academic institution. I think one issue is that there are so many fans (even alumni-fans) who could care less or care far less about their schools as academic institutions than as athletic programs. They care about w's and l's above all.
I have no problem with a kid like John Wall, who made the most of his time as a UK student-athlete both on and off the court. He had a college experience. He wanted a college experience. And he got a good one, even if it was only for 7-8 months. I will have no problem with John Jenkins leaving my alma mater after 3 years without a degree for the same reasons (although I hope he comes back for his senior season and I'm relatively certain he'll find a way to complete his degree). The kid wanted and worked for a quality college experience, on the court, in the classroom and as a place for growing into an adult. And there are many others we could point to who have left early who have done things the right way while they were enrolled in school.
My issue is that quite a few of the "one-and-doners" (not just UK kids at all) have no business near a college campus. They're going to college because, more or less, they have to. I think kids should be able to enter the draft after high school if they so desire.
The way I view my alma mater is this: We, as alumni and fans, deserve a competitive team on the field/court because the resources are there for the coaches to bring in kids who can compete at the appropriate level (can't have always said this about Vandy football, but that is changing). But at the end of the day, the school also has to get kids who will be capable and worthy of having the same degree us alumni have. I guess I can't get over the idea that that's the whole point of having the school in the first place. If my alma mater competes at a fairly high level while remembering that it's more important to bring in and turn out quality human beings who make the most of the opportunites given them in college, I have no issues. That does not sound like too much to ask.
I also agree with you that the fans and schools are getting more out of the student-athletes' time there than the kids are. Are schools really fulfilling their missions by using these kids and allowing themselves to be used to a certain extent?
And I have no issue with John Wall wanting to go to college. But he didn't really have much of a choice, did he?
I see a few possible solutions.
1) Make the athletic department a "school" unto itself. Let the kids at Florida and OSU and the other schools participate, get paid some money, and get a "football" degree. That would loosen schools from having to treat the kids like regular students, which they are not (based on their schedule, not necessarily their acadmeic capabilities.) It would allow the schools to create "athletic/academic calendars" that work around their seasons (which would eliminate the BCS "finals" excuse as well). But, it can maintain some of the associations that draw people to the event in the first place. Also, if the kids want to participate in the regular education program at a school, then their "salary" can go to the education instead.
2) Create something similar to the Junior Hockey Leagues in Canada. They are a feeder to the NHL, have the same passionate fan base that many colleges do (the finals of the Juniors rival the Stanley Cup Finals in interest) and don't have the compulsory academic aspect, (although the do try to provide academic assistance to the kids if they do decide to go to college and not to the pros). It seems like a pretty nice solution.
3) Academies. Imagine if there was a USA Basketball program that took the top fifty 16 year olds into the program each year. It taught them the game without the pressures of recruiting, the inconsistency and fragmenting of talent of the NCAA and AAU, and taught them a more consistent game. How much better would American ballers be? How much better would the NBA be? In fact, this idea has me pumped up. We would be awesome. USA, USA, USA...