Damn academics

"From Sunday through Friday our football program has exceeded all expectations in every way," [Notre Dame] athletic director Kevin White said at Tuesday's news conference. "The academic performance is at a fever pitch. It's never been better. Tyrone has done some wonderful things. But again, on Saturday, we struggled. We've been up and down and sideways a little bit, a little bit inconsistent."
Yeah, it's a real shame that football players at Notre Dame have to actually be students. At least the Athletic Director was honest about his priorities. Some people say that college sports are more enjoyable to watch than pro sports, that it's a purer game. I don't believe that in the case of college football and even to some extent with college basketball. Having read more than enough stories about football players being passed through classes mysteriously or receiving cars and cash for phantom jobs, and having seen the graduation rates at the schools ranked in the top 25 at the end of each college football season, and I can't help but think of college football as a free farm system for the NFL, or a semi-pro league where schools profit from their athletes for almost nothing. The NBA and NFL would love to not have to pay for a minor league, the way pro baseball or hockey teams do, so they continue to try to restrict the age of incoming players.
Of course, Notre Dame is easy to pick on because they signed a contract with NBC, so every one of their games is televised nationally. I doubt any none-Notre-Dame-alums are grieving over the Golden Dome's misfortune. At least Notre Dame maintains higher academic standards for their athletes than the ones the NCAA requires, unlike many other schools. Anyone who thinks that doing that doesn't hurt the quality of their football team is naive.
At Stanford, the minimum academic requirement for all incoming athletes was a 3.0 GPA and an 1100 SAT. Does the student body in the cheering section care about that when Stanford's getting killed by UW or USC or Cal in football? Probably not on Saturday afternoon, but I don't think most students go there to be associated with a winning football team. If I ever become one of those forty to sixty somethings still buying season tickets to my alma mater's college football games and sitting in the stands wearing a diaper, living and dying on the play of a bunch of 19 and 20 year old boys, just shoot me. It's a sign that my college education probably didn't do me much good.
I personally wouldn't have anything against paying college basketball or football players (I'm assuming these are the NCAA's top two revenue-generating sports). Doing so would be explicit acknowledgment that some schools bring in athletes purely to improve their record on the field and to sell lots of tickets, and that those schools have little interest in providing that athlete with much in the way of an education. Some people have no desire to do anything but play sports, even if the odds against achieving that are slim, and if schools are going to exploit that, at least let those kids share in the revenue they bring in ticket sales and television/bowl revenues. Last I checked, Coach K wasn't working for free dorm housing and a scholarship.
Of course, the problem with doing so is that it would blur the purpose of universities. If you want those athletes to be students, I think you have to have some minimum academic requirements for entering students. If someone is totally unprepared for the academic rigor of college, they shouldn't be dumped into school solely to give the fans in the stands a warm, fuzzy feeling on Saturday afternoons, especially if they'll be working the Krispy Kreme donut machine as soon as their college playing days conclude. If they're solely there to win games, then that part of the school is essentially serving as a sports organization, a minor league semi-pro team. That brings me back to wondering if the NBA and NFL would ever do the right thing and just sponsor minor leagues instead of leaving that to universities.
Yeah, I didn't think so either.