Thursday, June 12, 2014

The "student athlete" and the American university

After "five years and thousands of pages of filings":
The class-action lawsuit filed by lead plaintiff Ed O'Bannon -- a former UCLA star basketball player -- calls into question the long-held NCAA notion of amateurism and seeks an injunction that would effectively allow top men's basketball and football players to profit from their names, images and likenesses that are used in live broadcasts, rebroadcasts, video games, DVDs and more.
Of course, I am cheering the plaintiffs.  I would love to see the complete annihilation of the NCAA as we know it.  The whole college sports industry is an abomination, and an uniquely American one at that!

First, this excerpt:
Another course that I didn't like, but somehow managed to pass, was economics. I went to that class straight from the botany class, which didn't help me any in understanding either subject. I used to get them mixed up. But not as mixed up as another student in my economics class who came there direct from a physics laboratory. He was a tackle on the football ball team, named Bolenciecwz. At that time Ohio State University had one of the best football teams in the country, and Bolenciecwz was one of its outstanding stars. In order to be eligible to play it was necessary for him to keep up in his studies, a very difficult matter, for while he was not dumber than an ox he was not any smarter. Most of his professors were lenient and helped him along.
You will be surprised that the excerpt was not from this NCAA antitrust lawsuit.  It is from James Thurber's hilarious tales from his university days, almost a hundred years ago!

Sounds absolutely contemporaneous, right?

We read this Thurber piece back in high school in India.
Yes, back in India!
The India where we students, perhaps with the exception of that one guy, had absolutely no idea that the football in America was not the same football that we played.

But, I bet many of us could relate to Thurber's experience in the botany lab!  I was (and continue to be) awful with hand-drawing and, well, I "outsourced" to my good friend the drawings we were required to do for the biology lab work.  Somehow I didn't think it was unethical at that time, and now as a faculty I worry about my students outsourcing their work :)

The fact that I loved that humor even without the faintest idea of the nuances of American higher education system and the role that football has in it means that, well, it is no surprise that I am now a huge fan of the New Yorker magazine--the Thurber's kind of intelligent humor and cartoons continue on, even decades after Thurber exited the magazine and this world. 

I wonder how Thurber would have made fun of the NCAA! Well, there is always that other finest source to tickle my funny bone;)
Saying the student-athletes would have definitely become an enormous thorn in their side, officials from the NFL front office expressed their profound relief Tuesday that Northwestern University’s pro-labor activist football players will never make it to the pros. 


Ramesh said...

Even if you keep aside, for the moment, the football vs education issue, the NCAA deserves to be roasted alive. The suits and their backers make enormous money out of this activity and the players who enable all this to happen, earn not a penny under the sham of amateurism. So much so that Shabazz Napier who led UConn to victory this year actually goes to bed starving because he does not have the money to buy food. Its a different matter that as soon as he drafts for the NBA he will earn millions, but under the NCAA, he starves. The extent of ridiculousness is such that three Oklahoma athletes ran into trouble with amateurism because they ate too much pasta - more than their "allowance" and hence they had to pay $3.83 (not joking) to ensure that they didn't lose their amateur status.

I hope the NCAA is bankrupted by the suit - although I hate class action suits.

Sriram Khé said...


These past few months, we have seen quite a few radical decisions, either in society or in the courts. (whether we like them or not) Like:
* the SCOTUS allowing for more money in politics, and prayer before a local city council meeting
* gay marriage bans falling like dominoes
* marijuana suddenly becoming legit

As I stand back and look at the changing landscape, I am tempted to think that the NCAA is in for some serious structural changes.

Anne in Salem said...

Love Thurber!!!