Sweetness And LightSweetness And Light The Score On Sports With Frank Deford

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STEVE INSKEEP, host: Our sports commentator Frank Deford joins us each Wednesday and this morning has some recommended reading.

FRANK DEFORD: Sports fans love to designate certain games as The Greatest Ever, The Match Of The Century, and so forth. Well, I'd like to state that a piece in the October issue of The Atlantic Monthly, which was released online yesterday, may well be the most important article ever written about college sports.

The author is Taylor Branch, who is best known for winning the Pulitzer Prize for his work on civil rights. And essentially, in eviscerating the National Collegiate Athletic Association, Mr. Branch provides ample evidence that our so-called student-athletes are themselves lacking in their rights as American citizens; they are, he says, the heirs to Dred Scott.

The author, calls it the NCAA itself a classic cartel. He writes that the contrived concept of amateurism is a cynical hoax, and that the term student-athlete was essentially created college athletes for no educational reasons, but only as a smokescreen to keep make players from being able to sue for workman's compensation, if they were injured playing for dear old alma mater.

It was crucial, for legal reasons, not to let athletes enjoy the status of other university employees; hence they must be students without the common rights of laborers.

Mr. Branch found evidence that the NCAA spent less than one percent of its revenue trying to enforce its rulebook. Not surprisingly, the real culprits, the big schools and their coaches, are virtually never severely punished. Instead, says the author, the NCAA goes after powerless scapegoats, like the impoverished athletes themselves or honest professors who dare to volunteer how athletic departments cheat to keep their athletes academically eligible.

In fact, Mr. Branch points out, the NCAA wouldn't dare punish big-time offenders harshly for fear that the major conferences will leave the NCAA and start their own basketball tournament. Only the television money, paid by CBS to broadcast March Madness, keeps the NCAA in clover. At the end of the day, the whole point of the NCAA, despite its sanctimonious educational claptrap, is to protect the unjust concept of amateurism so that its client athletic departments get free labor.

All this may come crashing down, though, as lawsuits against the NCAA are finally approaching judgment. In the meantime, I commend to you this exceptional article entitled, simply, "The Shame of College Sports," which begins with the disgrace of the NCAA.

INSKEEP: And we commend to you the commentary of Frank Deford who joins us from member station WSHU.

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Sweetness And LightSweetness And Light The Score On Sports With Frank Deford