When I realized my dream of playing for a nationally-ranked NCAA basketball team, the University of New Mexico Lobos, I was quickly disillusioned and alienated by the evil-doings of my coach, the one and only now-infamous Dave Bliss. From players who didn't have a pot to piss in suddenly driving brand new Eddie Bauer Ford Explorers to the way that somehow none of the scholarship players, including my poorest teammates, didn't have to work during the summer breaks, but still always had good spending money and clothes and what not to the time two of my teammates who were arrested for burglary or something were punished by having to sit out a meaningless game against someone like Hawaii, I didn't have to look hard or long for the stereotypes about college athletics.
How many of my team-mates graduated? I'd guess less than 50%, but I wouldn't know for sure, because I essentially got kicked off the team -- and never looked back -- for calling it like I saw it when the Albuquerque Tribune did a feature story on me. The jist of the story? Well, the call out on the frong page sorta says it all, "The Dreaded Chant: When Lobo fans start chanting for the walk-ons to get in the game, it's meant affectionately. But for Lobo Cody Willard, the chant is the knife in the heart of a proud player who believes he can contribute." My first high-profile "Flip It" perhaps? (BTW, I searched on Google archives for this article, but I guess it's not added...yet.)
Anyway, the day I walked up the ramp at the Pit for the last time, I pretty much had decided that I'd be boycotting college athletics in the same way I boycott Woody Allen movies -- the dude married his ex-wife's daughter, a girl whom he helped raise for crying out loud, and I'm not okay with that -- because of my fundamental objections against the tyranny of the NCAA monopoly. It's not okay that young kids are constantly exploited and lucky to get what is deemed illegal SUVs and clothes by the system that generates hundreds of billions of dollars for itself and its cronies and coaches and publicly-funded schools.
However, my dad and my uncle and my cousins sure do love college sports as most people in this country do (I remember sitting on the bench at UNM and watching the 25,000 wacky fans in the stadium scream horrible things at the refs and wondering how any one who's not actually on the team can possibly care so much as to be so cruel) and I got this forward from my uncle about the bounty that their alma mater (and where I'd paid half the fees to a half-dozen basketball camps as a kid with the money I made working full-time in my pop's animal hospital, contributing to the outsized revenues of the school's basketball program) is receiving from Nike.
Here I'd finally watched a part of a game or two since I caught Vince Young's amazing championship game performance last year, and then this article in the Sports Illustrated College Basketball Blog by Luke Winn reminded me of all that's wrong with the sport and why I'm going to have to put my boycott back on.
Bob Huggins arrived in Manhattan, Kan., in March, and shortly thereafter, big things began to follow. National media attention. A 7-foot-3 high school center from Florida, Jason Bennett. Controversy over wresting rivals.com's No. 1 recruit from the Class of 2007, Michael Beasley, away from Charlotte by hiring 49er assistant Dalonte Hill. But the biggest thing of all -- at least for Kansas State's athletic department -- came last week: a $12.3 million contract with Nike.
Nice bounty for the coach and the school. How much do the kids who will be the ones constantly on TV wearing those swooshes get? From the article...
If I'm Nike, I'm keeping a close eye on what happens the weekend of Sept. 23. That's when Beasley -- and a host of other big-time recruits -- will make official visits and get their first look at the K-State campus. Louisville will be in town to face the Wildcats in football, and Huggins and his staff will no doubt be pulling out all the stops.
Ooh, the recruits will be treated to a coach and a staff who will pull out all the stops! That probably includes some great tours of the campus and some great food and parties. Give the players on the team anything of value -- besides that education that's measured in value in tens of thousands of dollars (the school makes tens of millions of dollars a year on the basketball team, remember) -- and they get criminalized. What a great system!
Oh, and if you're a school who wants to do something right by your student athletes? You could always join one of those other collegiate associations, like the NAIA which has the same damn rules.
I'm back to boycotting college sports -- because free trade and individual rights are important, and the NCAA oppresses free trade and individual rights.