The NCAA has penalized Syracuse and mens basketball coach Jim Boeheim for a number of violations (including academic fraud, booster payments, and irresponsible drug testing), resulting in a loss of future scholarships and a future probation period of five years. As I wrote about earlier this week it does appear that cheating in the NCAA isn’t anything new, as countless athletic programs have been penalized in recent years. In fact, so many programs have been caught breaking rules that it almost makes you wonder if savvy Athletic Directors aren’t already calculating their risks within a framework of “cheating is part of the cost of doing elite-level athletics today.”
The Syracuse suspension, however, does once again bring up a number of questions surrounding the current NCAA “amateur” sports model, and whether the current system can sustain in an age of multi-million dollar facilities, exponentially growing athletic budgets, and astronomical coach salaries? With so much money on the line, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that schools are only going to continue to push the envelope when it comes to breaking NCAA rules. Winning fills seats and sells merchandise, and you only win with great (student?) athletes who are often recruited illegally and then placed in classes simply to keep the athlete eligible.
Is it time for the NCAA to huddle up, regroup, and essentially redesign what college athletics should look like for the future? Should the term “amateur” athletics be once and for all eliminated, and replaced with a more accurate, professional sports labeling? Many critics would argue college sports already are miniature professional sports, and that the current amateur status is in name only. If the NCAA were to change for the future, many of the current Syracuse violations wouldn’t be violations, thereby eliminating what appears to some as cherry-picking when it comes to schools and violations that the NCAA pursues.
Amateur sports were great when they really were amateur, but what you see today is every bit as big as pro sports (If you don’t believe me, prepare yourself for the upcoming March Madness). I am not defending Syracuse or Coach Boeheim, but instead wondering if the NCAA can keep up trying to defend an amateur model that’s hardly supported if you look closely at the growing number of violations doled out annually.
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