TONY COX, host:
Athletes often see big bucks in going to big-name universities. College is the last step to a high paying pro-career. Commentator John McCann wonders what would change if those promising athletes opted instead to go to smaller schools where sports wasn't such a big priority.
JOHN MCCANN: Imagine this now. Talented Ohio State big man Greg Oden suiting up for a historically black college near you. Crazy, huh? But work with me for a minute. I mean think about it. Former Ohio State football star Maurice Clarett - I'm talking about before he got all crazy and grew that beard and riding around with guns.
So let me just say like this. Suppose the nice Maurice Clarett went to say, I don't know, North Carolina Central University, the hometown HBCU where I live in Durham, North Carolina.
Now if he'd shown up and if Central ever played a team on artificial grass, Clarett either would have to wear the same sneakers he wore around on campus or slide all over the gridiron carpet in cleats. Central can't afford turf shoes, or gloves, or a lot of things.
And here's how real it gets. I can call the head football coach at Central, or the head basketball coach, and they'll pick up the phone on the first ring or two. Not because I'm important. That's just how it is with the lower-profile sports programs.
Central is just a few miles down the road from where some guy named Michael Jordan played basketball - the University of North Carolina.
And suppose former Tar Heels Raymond Felton, Sean May, Rashad McCants and Marvin Williams - they all left early for the NBA - had enrolled at Central instead of UNC.
Think about the extra dollars from fans pushing through the turnstiles. Not that gate receipts will generate serious gobs of dough for Central, but perhaps enough money so the athletics department could buy some gloves for the dudes on the football team.
Of course, high school phenoms would have to buy into the idea of leveraging their status. But here's something to think about. While black professional athletes make tons of money in a multi-billion dollar sports industry spawned largely off their talented backs, are they just slaves controlled by wealthier masses who tell them what to wear when entering NBA arenas?
We all know how Major League Baseball swiped stars from the Negro League and crippled that black enterprise. Well, if you think about it, that's basically what happens when prep stars shun historically black schools like Central for the UNCs and Dukes and Ohio States.
And it's not just a black thing for me. Hey, spread the talent to small predominantly white schools too. It's not like elite high school basketball players enroll in college to stay four years and absorb all they can from hoops wizards such as Coach K and Roy Williams. So why not lend that prestige to allow smaller venues to cash in a little bit.
Exposure certainly isn't the issue. Perhaps (unintelligible) prodigy LeBron James could have come here to Durham Technical Community College that doesn't even have a basketball team, play pickup games with some local cats, and still been the number one pick in the 2003 NBA draft.
In an ideal world, these guys have signed sweet contracts after a year, maybe two, at schools like Central, and write generous checks to support their schools and the often needy neighborhoods surrounding them.
Talent begets talent, and before long there's a nice financial pipeline. I'm just saying spread the wealth. And spread the love for crying out loud. All these coaching vacancies out there and you mean to tell me there's not one token brother to at least dangle in front of the cameras.
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COX: John McCann is a columnist for The Herald-Sun in Durham, North Carolina.
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