Whoa, there…

Maybe you’ve heard of Brandon Jennings, the Arizona basketball recruit that’s taking his game to Europe for a year instead of spending a NBA-mandated year in college.

Jason Whitlock, the often controversial columnist for the Kansas City Star and, apparently, Fox Sports, offers his take on the story here.

And, as usual, I don’t agree with all of it. But it does inspire thought and discussion, as all good commentaries should.

This paragraph in particular bugs me:

“The NCAA needs to be blown up. It pimps mostly black basketball and football players to provide welfare to sports played by mostly white athletes. In exchange, the football and basketball players get a half-baked shot at an education they’re not prepared for upon arrival and a long-shot audition for pro scouts.”

He goes on to suggest that “college basketball and football players are entertainer-athletes, not student-athletes. Bring them on campus, pay them, free them of academic responsibility and let them entertain students, alums, boosters and fans while auditioning for a pro career.”

To which I offer this retort.


First of all, let’s discuss the notion that black football and basketball players provide welfare to sports played by mostly white athletes. How is this any less racist than Don Imus running down Rutgers basketball players for being “nappy-headed hoes?”

I played tennis in college. It had nothing to do with what was going on over at the basketball court of football field. Colleges and universities are required by federal law to field men and women’s sports in equal supply. So UNC has no choice but to fund women’s soccer. Ty Lawson isn’t footing that bill.

And as for the “in exchange, the football and basketball players get a half-baked shot at an education they’re not prepared for upon arrival and a long-shot audition for pro scouts” part, who’s fault is that, Jason?

Are you laying that at the feet of the NCAA? Where is the personal responsibility? Are you telling me that kids like Brandon Jennings have no control over how prepared for college they might be? You’re kidding, right? You have to be.

Open a book. Stay awake in class. Something.

And the notion of relieving football and basketball players of their academic responsibilities is just plain silly. A college education is a valuable gift. I know. Ten years after I got my degree, I’m still playing for it.

I guess I can just send that bill to a football player, though. Right, Jason?

Now, if you’re asking me if basketball players should be allowed to turn pro out of high school, the answer is absolutely yes. I think that it’s a policy contrived by the NBA and NCAA that smacks of racism. It’s a joke that Derrick Rose and O.J. Mayo had to spend a year in college. I don’t know either of them, but I don’t think getting an ‘A’ in English was at the top of their to-do list.

Change the rule for the NBA. Leave it alone for the NFL. Teenagers have no place in the NFL. With a few exceptions, they’re not ready for the physical demands of pro football.

I’ve got no problem with offering student-athletes a piece of the pie in terms of a stipend or some other financial consideration. But turning them into “entertainers” is insulting to anyone who goes to that university intent on learning something.

I’d rather have the games played at a lower level if those are the conditions.

But I’m glad Brandon Jennings has the chance to go to Europe and make a little coin before heading to the NBA. If he doesn’t want to (or can’t) go to college, I don’t want him there. Good for him. I hope others follow him across the pond for that extra year. Perhaps they’ll be more NBA-ready when they return.

But honestly, I expected better out of Mr. Whitlock, a man’s whose work I’ve always enjoyed and respected.

I can agree with him that the system is rigged.

But ripping the student out of “student-athlete” isn’t the answer.


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