gimme-five | The blog of a busy guy.

TAG | college

I don’t like the idea that pro athletes in some sports are required to attend college for a certain number of years to compete in a professional sports league. I started thinking about this recently because the McDonald’s All American game is coming up soon, and there is lots of controversy over agents recruiting high school kids even though they have to go to college for a year before entering the NBA. The requirement that pro athletes attend college before participating in a professional sport is silly and paternalistic.

The argument generally made in favor of this requirement is pro sports leagues have to protect the pro athletes from themselves in case their sports career doesn’t pan out. I don’t buy it. First, these “kids” are 18 when they graduate high school (or will be soon). Hence, they are adults, and they deserve respect, so we should treat them like adults. If they want to bet it all on a sports career: so be it. That’s no different from a high-school graduate trying to become an entrepreneur: we don’t require a college education before starting a business, even though starting a business is inherently riskier than playing in the NBA for a year because if you fail, you’re generally going to be in big-time debt.

Secondly, although many future pro athletes enjoy going to college, there are some that just go because it is a prerequisite to playing in the pro leagues. Those athletes get little out of the classroom experience, and merely go through the motions so they can graduate. Why subject them to this? If a future pro athlete doesn’t care about college, why force him to sit in study halls and go to classes he doesn’t want to go to so he can receive a diploma that he doesn’t care about? Why not let someone who genuinely wants to go to college take his place, and let the future pro athlete do what he wants?

I don’t think my suggestion will result in the destruction of college sports programs. Many future pro athletes really do want to go to college, and voluntarily stay four or five years. I understand the value of college sports programs, and how they bring much needed revenue to many schools, and I don’t think that will change with my suggestion.

I think we should recommend that everyone try to attend college, but to have sports leagues that require future pro athletes do it is just paternalistic and unfair. It’s treating future pro athletes like babies, and it’s keeping people who could take their place who want to get a college education out of the classroom.

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The President of my Alma Mater, Gene Nichol, resigned recently after a short two years or so at the helm of William and Mary.  Over his presidency, he was involved in a number of different controversial events, the most notable being the “Wren Cross Controversy.”

I do not intend to discuss whether or not he made good decisions.  I just want to point out the obvious reason he got fired and why small schools should be worried.  Gene Nichol was fired because major donors threatened to withdraw donations from a school that is not very wealthy.  Small schools should be worried because they typically only have a small group of large donors and generally have a greater need for each of these donors to keep contributing, so each of these donors have a huge amount of power over the small schools.

William and Mary would be gravely injured if a multi-million dollar donor stopped donating.  The College had a choice – do what the donors wanted or lose a ton of money.  Whether or not Nichol was the right man for the job is irrelevant.  It’s whether Nichol was someone with whom the donors were willing to put up with.

I have nothing to say about Nichol’s policy decisions, or whether he has an agenda.  Perhaps the donors who withdrew the money and instigated Nichol’s ousting are actually sparking a positive change.  And money is needed to provide a top notch education.  The thing that bothers me is not these immediate effects.  I am concerned because of the fact that small schools can easily be forced to bend to the will of a few, because of desperation for money.  What happens when a few want to pursue some extreme ideological agenda?

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