12:19 PM, Nov 13, 2015 • By ERIN MUNDAHL
It's a little hard to find underneath the bright banners advertising football conference schedules, field hockey scores, and special video clips from recent games in a half-dozen different sports, but at the bottom of NCAA.com is a small menu entitled “About the NCAA,” which takes you to NCAA.org and answers “Who We Are” with a list of core values.
There, you will learn that college sports are “an avocation,” and a “respectful culture” and the NCAA itself believes in and is committed to the “supporting role that intercollegiate athletics plays in the higher education mission.” Considering how much easier it is on the site to find a favorite team's licensed memorabilia or the appropriate cable package for your chosen conference than any mention of academics, the lead and supporting roles in this educational mission seem to have been switched.
It's a reality thrown into sharp relief by the events of the past week. On Saturday, the University of Missouri football team refused to participate in team activities, including practices and games until Tim Wolfe, the university president, stepped down.
In many of the news stories reporting on this, the main focus was less the bizarre notion that a mere 60-odd students could force the president's resignation, but the fact that the University of Missouri could lose $1 million if they did not appear to play Brigham Young this weekend. The focus on the money treats the issue as though it were a contract dispute, akin to the 2012-2013 NHL lockout.
There’s clearly a move to treat college athletes not as part of the “higher education mission,” but as semi-pros, in training for the big draft. Something similar happened in August, when the National Labor Relations Board was asked to decide if players on Northwestern University's football team could unionize. The NLRB punted, claiming that making a decision would “not serve to promote stability in labor relations.”
The non-decision missed the larger point. Who are they unionizing against? Student athletes are, first and foremost, students, enrolled in universities and colleges and registered for classes in pursuit of a degree. For those fortunate enough to receive scholarships, their education—worth tens of thousands of dollars—is heavily subsidized by the schools they play for. At a school like the University of Missouri, a player also receives advanced coaching and training, and, potentially, a shot at playing professionally. In exchange, the school gains financially from ticket sales, broadcast rights, and licensed memorabilia.
Students are not paid to play, in the sense that none of them receive a salary from their school. This doesn't mean that they are abused by the system. They are students, not employees, and as students, they don't need to play. If sports take too much time away from academics, these students can quit the team.
The events in Missouri demonstrate that many of the athletes and schools who participate in the NCAA need to take a closer look at the second letter of the acronym. At the end of the day, the football players are still in college.
1:09 PM, Nov 9, 2015 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
You quit or we don’t play. That is essentially what dozens of players on the University of Missouri football team told the president of the university. They had lost four straight games, five of their last six, including a 31-13 home loss to Mississippi State on Saturday night.
9:28 AM, Nov 4, 2015 • By JEFFREY H. ANDERSON
For 16 years, the Bowl Championship Series focused fans’ and reporters’ attention on teams’ actual success in winning games against strong opponents. Just over a year into the new Selection Committee era (in which 13 people determine which teams will be invited to a 4-team playoff), it’s clear that the sort of maddening and subjective evaluations that held sway during college football’s poll-dominated pre-BCS days are returning with a vengeance. Actual accomplishments are taking a back seat to perceptions about what a team might be able to achieve going forward.
The Spartans’ win deserves accolades, not an asterisk.
10:41 AM, Oct 19, 2015 • By JEFFREY H. ANDERSON
On a crazy college football Saturday that saw Michigan State pull out about the most improbable win since Stanford’s band came onto the field against Cal 33 years ago, the LSU Tigers beat previously undefeated Florida and claimed the top spot in the Anderson & Hester Rankings. In three weeks, the undefeated Tigers and star sophomore running back Leonard Fournette will travel to Tuscaloosa to play the Alabama Crimson Tide.
10:55 AM, Oct 13, 2014 • By JEFFREY H. ANDERSON
Half of this college football regular season (7 of 14 weeks) is now in the books, and neither of the two standout teams to date has won a conference championship, let alone a national championship, in the past half-century. Each played in a bowl game in Tennessee last year (the Music City Bowl and Liberty Bowl, respectively), far away from the bright lights of Pasadena, New Orleans, or Dallas. What’s more, the two are separated from each other by only 100 miles geographically and by only .001 in this week’s Anderson & Hester Rankings. Despite their modest pedigrees and expectations, however, few college football fans would deny that #1 Mississippi (6-0, with wins over #7 Alabama and #17 Texas A&M) and #2 Mississippi State (6-0, with wins over #6 Auburn and #17 Texas A&M) have accomplished more so far this season than any other teams in the country.
9:27 AM, Oct 7, 2014 • By JEFFREY H. ANDERSON
After finishing the season ranked #29 last year, the Arizona Wildcats — hot off their upset win at Oregon — have claimed the top spot in the inaugural 2014 Anderson & Hester Rankings. The second and fourth spots are held by two schools from Mississippi — #2 Mississippi and #4 Mississippi State — that went a combined 15-11 last year. Sandwiched in between are the Auburn Tigers, who came within 14 seconds of winning last season’s national championship. TCU, which went 4-8 last year, rounds out the top-5.
11:10 AM, May 10, 2014 • By DAVID WOLFFORD
I experienced some rough emotions rooting for my alma mater, the University of Kentucky, during the NCAA tournament. Partly because of the close games and come-from-behind wins, and partly because of their one-and-done reputation under Coach John Calipari. The media contrasted UK’s likely NBA-bound freshmen and UConn senior Shabazz Napier, who remained a Huskie to earn his degree as a promise to his mother. It’s what made March maddening for me.
The golden age of college footballDec 23, 2013, Vol. 19, No. 15 • By JEFFREY H. ANDERSON
College football wasn’t always like this. The eyes of the nation weren’t always riveted on a massive stadium in a tiny town in southeastern Alabama, wondering whether the two-time defending national champion Crimson Tide could really—against all probability—be knocked off by archrival Auburn. They weren’t always glued a week later to a game in Big Ten country, wondering whether Michigan State could really hand Ohio State its first loss in two years and knock the Buckeyes out of the national title picture. No, the race for the national championship wasn’t always so exciting.
10:55 AM, Aug 19, 2013 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
The NCAA might just as well become another department of the government and build a lavish headquarters building in Washington. Its bureaucratic culture would make it a perfect fit. The complexity of its rules would make for a seamless merger. And the high-handed, arrogant management style would make the transition almost frictionless.
10:15 PM, Mar 23, 2013 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
As the men of Harvard exit the NCAA tournament at the hands of the Arizona Wildcats, you'll surely want to wish them a fond and hearty farewell. So sing along with the final verse of "Fair Harvard," written by Reverend Samuel Gilman for the university's 200th anniversary in 1836.
11:26 AM, Mar 23, 2013 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
Mighty Georgetown, a number two seed, fell to Florida Gulf Coast, a number fifteen seed, last night. Florida Gulf Coast has only been eligible to play in the tournament for two years.
9:15 AM, Mar 22, 2013 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
On March 21, 2013, history was made. Ivy League champion and 14th seed Harvard men's basketball team busted brackets everywhere as it upset 3rd seed New Mexico, winning its first NCAA playoff game ever and notching its first victory over a top-ten team. Read all about it here and here.
9:01 AM, Jan 27, 2013 • By DANIEL HALPER
In an interview with the New Republic, President Barack Obama is asked, "I'm wondering if you, as a fan, take less pleasure in watching football, knowing the impact that the game takes on its players."