Big Time College Football, the Culture of Thugs and My Plan for Fixing the Whole Stinking Mess

Anyone who’s ever read Here in Franklin knows that I am an unabashed fan of  the University of Tennessee athletics. Volleyball, basketball, tiddly-winks–if the Vols are playing, I’m rooting for them.  But of all the sports played in Knoxville, there’s one that is king of the hill and that’s football. Millions and millions of dollars are made at EVERY HOME GAME. Millions more everytime they’re on tv. Millions more in concessions, donations and loose change found under the seat cushions in the luxury boxes.

Not a dime of that money goes to the players. Sure, they’re on scholarship and they’re getting a free education. But who are we kidding here. UT is a great school. It is also a football factory.  And every year there are players on the team who could care less about class and school. They’re there for one reason only–as a stepping stone to the NFL.

Making the NFL is a long shot for sure. But if you’re a starter on a football factory team in the Southeastern Conference, you have a better than average shot of making it in the pros. Of course, there are pro prospects who excel at school. The poster child for that is Peyton Manning. But there’s a difference between Manning and most of the other players aiming to go pro–Manning is from a rich family. He could afford to stay in school. He didn’t need to buy his mama a house.

Wednesday night three UT players were arrested for armed robbery. The weapon in question was a pellet gun and no one was hurt. But these three freshmen have screwed up monumentally. Their future is in doubt, but I hope they are kicked off the team and out of school. That sounds harsh, but it’s not their first time in trouble. And I’m guessing that anyone who was out cruising around at 2 a.m. probably wasn’t going to make it to their first class anyhow.

So, here’s my plan. (NCAA, if you’re reading, just e-mail and we can discuss this further.)

Each school has the right to designate 10 players as being “Pro Track.” This means that these ten players are declaring that they have no interest in sitting in art history classes. They have one goal–the NFL. The criteria for choosing these players is not unlike the NFL combine…they take a series of physical and mental tests to determine if they’re eligible for the Pro Track. If they are selected, they don’t attend regular classes. However, they are prepared for living the life of a millionaire professional player–how to handle money, how to choose an agent, how to make sure that you have the right people around you.

At most schools–certainly most public schools–the idea of the “student athlete” is somewhat laughable. The Peyton Mannings of the world come along once in a generation. More common is the underprivileged kid who is blessed with one thing only–incredible athletic ability. We all know why they’re in school–it’s time we admitted it.

I don’t know if a system like this would’ve kept those three young men at home Wednesday instead of out looking for trouble. But it’s definitely time for a change.

8 Comments

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8 responses to “Big Time College Football, the Culture of Thugs and My Plan for Fixing the Whole Stinking Mess

  1. You make some good points. As a former college athlete myself there were vast discrepencies in the men’s and women’s programs. The women’s programs had members who were truly student-athletes. We went to class, carried high grade point averages, and counted our blessings that our education was paid for as a result of our athletic ability. Most of us knew professional sports were not a realistic option unless we went overseas (I was a basketball player and the Women’s NBA was in its inception). By contrast the men’s teams were full of junior college transfers, many who had criminal records, who rarely went to class and were barely passing those they did. They were put into “coaching” classes and “general studies” majors and most after their eligibility was up did not graduate, compared to the women who almost all graduated in four to five years. College athletics is full of dysfunction and impractical and non-sensical rules. I like your ideas! 🙂

  2. I met Dikembe Mutumbo (Basketball) when he was a university student. I was impressed as hell: I was with a friend’s kid brother, and he asked Dikembe for his autograph. Dikembe obliged with grace, and asked my friend’s kid brother where he was from. When my friend’s kid brother said, “Boston”, Dikembe paused, thinking, “Capital of Michigan?”. Friend’s kid brother corrected him, “No, Massachusetts.” “AAAHHHH” Dikembe roared, frustrated with his mistake.

    I wondered how many of Dikembe’s fellow university students could name the capital of his native country, Zaire.

    I’ve always liked Dikembe since.

    On another note, thanks very much for your kind words at AAYSR. I’m flattered especially because you are one of my faves. Mutual admiration is great! x, e

  3. That’s an interesting idea. I’ve always thought that it was rather silly that extremely gifted athletes were “forced” to get an academic education just to play college football (and get to the NFL).

  4. Sarah…I love the Lady Vols who have a 100% graduation rate among players who stay for their entire eligibility. Where did you play?

    Ellie–You’re welcome! Also, I wish that more of our sports stars could laugh at themselves at little more. I know I’d be laughing if I made that much money.

    Gwen–I’ve missed you…here and at your place. I think that it’s time the powers that be in collegiate sports start thinking a little more creatively.

  5. This isn’t a bad idea. I will say that I had some football players in my volleyball class and they were on time to every class. That’s something, right? 😉

  6. First of all, being kicked out of school is not a harsh penalty for armed robbery – pellet gun or no, armed robbery is armed robbery. They should go to jail, never mind being kicked out of school.

    And this: ” More common is the underprivileged kid who is blessed with one thing only–incredible athletic ability. We all know why they’re in school–it’s time we admitted it” – is my argument that the current system, while not perfect, is best. At least the kids that aren’t going to go pro are going to get a college degree. This is more than most of their peers and family. They have to keep their GPA up to play, so they have to study and they occasionally learn something. So, after school with no NFL contract at least they’ve got a degree. There’s no excuse for being a criminal. And 4 years at a university, with the discipline that goes along with being part of a team may help some of these kids out. A lot.

  7. Jen–Welcome back, we’ve missed you around here. And yes, being on time does account for something. 🙂
    Chris–Of course in a perfect world all these “student athletes” would be in class…and I don’t mean basketweaving 101, but it doesn’t happen that way at my school or yours. Congrats on the win against AU–it was a good game.

  8. Pingback: Thuggery Revisited and an Unexpected Outcome « Here In Franklin

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