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Saturday, March 23, 2013

The Curious Case of Jadeveon Clowney and Academic Integrity in the Business of College Football

Originally published February/2013

When it was suggested last week by media sources that South Carolina's star defensive player (#7), Jadeveon Clowney, would be better off to sit out his junior season instead of risking injury by playing, the eyes and ears of sports talk in America perked up.

Sports talk took an interest because of the unusual situation Clowney finds himself in, one year away from a big payday, yet with expectations to fulfill his college tuition contract.

Actually, the situation may not be as unusual as many sports talkers think.  It's certainly possible for many college football player athletes to sit out one or even two seasons to ensure they are three years removed from high school, healthy and within the rules to be considered for the NFL draft.

Clowney's case is unique because he would be considered the possible number one pick in this year's NFL draft and if he chooses not to play and just workout for one year, he would still likely end up the number one pick, or top five at least for next year's draft.

Clowney has become the coverboy and caricature for how ridiculously dishonest college football has become.

The bending of college football rules of integrity have been taking place out in the open for decades, since the 70's.  And, for the most part, not too many pundits have taken a public stand against the massive cheating, lying and deception being played out on dozens of campuses throughout the country.

Players are recruited to play who have no desire to attend classes and do college coursework.  Over the years, there have been several discoveries through social science research, some media resources and NCAA officials of players being coddled-passed through the academic testing/grading systems in order to meet and keep eligibility requirements.  But, generally speaking, the public, media and NCAA have taken a blind eye or turned their heads at most of what is really the situation for college football and academics.

It seems the reason is that college football is just too big of a business to try to push up against and too many people enjoy it.  To do things all the way the right way would rub too many people (boosters, fans, coaches, media) the wrong way.  It is their Gladiator event that gets people to gather up for university spirit and pride in the community.

Many of the athletes are from the inner cities of America and of African-American descent.  The college scholarship has been looked at as a way out of the 'hood' and an opportunity for a better life.  This is a great ideal and one that has leveled out much of the discrimination and racism against blacks from past generations until now.  As university sports started to become more fashionable to watch from the 1950's forward, programs began a few at a time to start letting black athletes onto the teams.  As sports has continued to be mass consumed, it has remained a wonderful thing for all ethnicities to be equally offered the chance to get an education while playing college athletics based on skill sets for their respective sports (Sports in society is the great equalizer.).

The issue that has never been addressed and the problem to resolve is how college football and basketball (as it is mostly endemic to these two sports because of the monies associated with the two sports at the professional level) can be more transparent and forthright regarding the handling of players interested in playing, but not interested in attending classes.

This is the subject no one really wants to talk about.

There are plenty of theories out there from pundits suggesting stipends and pay to play ideals, but what about keeping things all the way real?  If a player doesn't want to go to school, he shouldn't have to.

If he wants to play football without attending classes, he should be allowed to do it.  People in the stands, tailgating before a game, watching on Tv, listening on radio, wearing jerseys and hooting and hollering don't really care if 3 of the 11 players on the field don't study and attend classes.

At least by keeping it all the way real for academics, things are out in the open and there doesn't have to be a bunch of academic faking going on.  Players who choose not to attend school should be entitled to room and board and get to pocket the total cost of tuition (15 credits worth) and books per semester.

Thus, a college scholarship and the worthiness of every academic endeavor that comes with a college scholarship can be rightfully returned to how it was originally intended to be used.  College is not for everyone. If a young man wants the opportunities that come with studying hard, then, he will achieve the student-athlete dream and reap the benefits and fruits of his labor.  If the young man chooses to play for the pay of the costs of tuition and books, he also reaps what he sows in return.

It should be as simple and straight forward as this.  Stop the academic cheating and stop the academic pretending.  Everyone knows what has been going on for way, way too long.  Clowney and his predicament just bring to light the absurdity of it all.

Society tries so hard to be politically and morally correct in the U.S. about everything else, why can't the morality, ethics and integrity be applied as well to academics and college football and basketball?

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