Another feather in the cap of big-time college sports

When the next college sports scandal breaks…shouldn’t be too long now…remember that the corruption of the higher education enterprise by the money sports, MBB and FB, is redeemed because those athletic scholarships are a path for poor kids, especially poor kids of color, to get a college education.

Three Duke basketball players (so far) are off to the NBA as freshmen.  Most of a single academic year, physically present on the actual Duke campus, shuttling from practice to training to practice, is pretty much the same thing as a Duke degree, right?

Author: Michael O'Hare

Professor of Public Policy at the Goldman School of Public Policy, University of California, Berkeley, Michael O'Hare was raised in New York City and trained at Harvard as an architect and structural engineer. Diverted from an honest career designing buildings by the offer of a job in which he could think about anything he wanted to and spend his time with very smart and curious young people, he fell among economists and such like, and continues to benefit from their generosity with on-the-job social science training. He has followed the process and principles of design into "nonphysical environments" such as production processes in organizations, regulation, and information management and published a variety of research in environmental policy, government policy towards the arts, and management, with special interests in energy, facility siting, information and perceptions in public choice and work environments, and policy design. His current research is focused on transportation biofuels and their effects on global land use, food security, and international trade; regulatory policy in the face of scientific uncertainty; and, after a three-decade hiatus, on NIMBY conflicts afflicting high speed rail right-of-way and nuclear waste disposal sites. He is also a regular writer on pedagogy, especially teaching in professional education, and co-edited the "Curriculum and Case Notes" section of the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management. Between faculty appointments at the MIT Department of Urban Studies and Planning and the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, he was director of policy analysis at the Massachusetts Executive Office of Environmental Affairs. He has had visiting appointments at Università Bocconi in Milan and the National University of Singapore and teaches regularly in the Goldman School's executive (mid-career) programs. At GSPP, O'Hare has taught a studio course in Program and Policy Design, Arts and Cultural Policy, Public Management, the pedagogy course for graduate student instructors, Quantitative Methods, Environmental Policy, and the introduction to public policy for its undergraduate minor, which he supervises. Generally, he considers himself the school's resident expert in any subject in which there is no such thing as real expertise (a recent project concerned the governance and design of California county fairs), but is secure in the distinction of being the only faculty member with a metal lathe in his basement and a 4×5 Ebony view camera. At the moment, he would rather be making something with his hands than writing this blurb.

7 thoughts on “Another feather in the cap of big-time college sports”

  1. No, it's not–but the only person suggesting it is, is you. Pretty weak excuse for a straw man. Try harder next time.

    These young men are required, by a stupid rule that arguably violates the Federal antitrust laws, to spend a year at university. Why not the best one available, if they have the capacity to benefit from it?

    1. The requirement is not being eligible until one year after high school graduation, and some players have signed a pro contract for that year, then returned to the U.S.

      Both the union members and teams benefit. The high-schoolers underperformed for the piece of the pie that they were getting, and the NBPA had no obligation to protect non-members. By having the one-year wait, there's better definition of which players have the capability to function in the top league, thus not having the teams waste their resources.

      How this circles back to the college game is that it can undermine the competitiveness. It won't do anything for the America East's capability to produce a national champion, but the scholarship limits are there so that the top teams can't stockpile the top talent. The teams with several one-and-done types are subverting that.

      This is all enabled by collusion among the handlers of the players, and okay, I'll credit the players with also wanting to put in minimal personal obligation to win the maximal team honor.

      1. Well said, Philomath. Sufficiently talented 18-year-olds, should be free to turn pro on fair, open-market terms; college scholarships as a thoroughly non-coerced alternative is a fine idea. That works fine for baseball, hockey and golf. There is virtually no such direct-to-pro option for football, and limited ones for basketball. By non-coincidence, those two college sports are the ones that generate the big bucks and are most heavily entrenched culturally. The system is badly designed at a fundamental level, and getting from here to something significantly better will be very difficult.

      2. How this circles back to the college game is that it can undermine the competitiveness.

        I don't think "competitiveness" is the right word here. What is undermined is the quality of the product, in the sense that many of the best players will not play in college. If we think of competitiveness as something like more teams having a chance to win – a general narrowing of the range – then it may well increase.

        Maybe the college game would then become less popular, which is not altogether a bad thing, except for the salaries of coaches.

  2. Please someone, can you contrast and compare the example of Stanford Athletics where a high proportion graduate? For example, Chasson Randle who led the team to win the NIT, and Andrew Love, Indianapolis Colts QB, going back to my memory of Jim Plunkett, not to mention many WNBA players, some of whose names I always have trouble spelling, Nneka and Chiney Ogwumike? You can get a good education and a college degree and still be a superlative athlete, and live a successful life when your playing days are over.

  3. Michael, these guys are getting a payoff. Most of the semi-pro athletes get *maybe* a crappy degree (or 3/4 of one), many at the cost of injuries and long-term damage.

    1. I think you're reading him backwards. That is, "if it's an education, it ain't much of one" (read the last sentence of OP again).

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