I was just walking down the street today letting my mind do what it does best, which is wander and muse. My musings came to rest on the topic of college football which I love but am becoming very worried about. Every year college football becomes a bigger and bigger business, and with the money comes the inevitable strings and shady deals. I won’t mention any names, but most people who enjoy college athletics are well aware of schools slipping support to athletes and their families and athletes being shopped around for the best deal from schools. Add to this the students who leave their colleges early to pursue careers in the National Football League or National Basketball Association and the ones who actually ‘graduate’ but cannot conduct an interview without garbled cliches and fractured English and it becomes apparent that the notion of student athlete has been very badly strained. I am here to offer a solution of sorts.
A huge amount of attention is placed on the race for the National Championship of NCAA football, and huge television contracts, advertising and player recruiting are wrapped up in the quest for this title. I therefore propose a change in the calculus by which this championship is determined. I propose that there be developed an Academic Ranking Index based on student athlete classroom performance with the degree of difficulty of the various subjects being a multiplier. In this scheme an ‘A’ received in freshman English would carry a multiplier of 1, while and ‘A’ received in trigonometry or molecular biology or a critical evaluation of Victorian English writing based on Dickens, Austen and Trollope might receive a multiplier of 3.5. This ARI would be used in determining the champion in the following manner.
At the end of the college football and basketball year ( I chose those two because they are the major sports which siphon off players with questionable academic performance and before their graduation ) the coaches and sportswriters would do their calculations and determine which team has demonstrated the best athletic ability. A ranking on that parameter would be decided, much as it is now from week to week. Then the ARI would be assessed for each of the major colleges and a graph drawn of these parameters. At the point where these parameters intersect the national champion would be chosen.
I grant that the national champion would not be one of the powerhouse teams or conferences that we have come to know in recent years but it would be an accurate reflection of the notion of a student athlete, and the students who participate on the field and the administrators and professors and assistants who labor to produce rounded individuals will finally be recognized for the hard work that they are doing. Additionally, the places which they currently look to for national championships will find that trolling for brawn and omitting the academic development of the athlete will get you lots of wins but no trophies and, hopefully, less television coverage as the race for the crown becomes focused on those schools who more energetically pursue the twin path of academic and athletic excellence.
If that is not acceptable I recommend another reform. If American colleges and universities are to be no more than a minor league for the NFL and the NBA then let the professional leagues pay for it. I propose that the professional leagues provide the scholarships that the students receive to play ball and supply four additional full-ride academic scholarships for each athletic. The professional leagues will additionally provide a proportion of the funds that it takes to maintain fields and facilities at the schools and in the event of an underclassman jumping to the professionals that would cost them another four full ride academic scholarships. School, after all, is school.
I would like to go so far as to advocate that television coverage of college football games would rotate on a regular basis through all one hundred-plus Division I teams, but I suppose that would be asking too much. The players at Buffalo or North Texas or Southern Utah play just as hard and just as passionately as do those at LSU, Michigan or USC. Like I said, that would probably be asking too much.
Big influxes of money tends to bring corruption, as we all know. In the aftermath of the Seattle/Pittsburg Super Bowl game many years ago I began to suspect that all was not entirely honest in the NFL. Just as a point of fact, I am NOT a fan of Seattle. When $4 million can be asked for and paid for a thirty second ad on the broadcast of the Super Bowl it is just straining credulity too much for me to believe that that much money is clean. It is my earnest hope that the creeping cynicism which accompanies the hugh cash inflow to an endeavor does not eventually cause me to lose interest in the NCAA too.