The U.S. likes to view itself as the epitome of sports integrity, but beyond its own professional and amateur doping scandals, there is the institutionalized corruption around U.S. college athletics, reports Lawrence Davidson.
By Lawrence Davidson
There is an old saying when it comes to college sports: “they are played not quite for fun, and not quite for money.” Of course, that sentiment is supposed to apply to the players. It certainly does not apply to the college administrations and athletic departments which nurture these sports.
For the schools with “big name” teams, college sports is all about the money. In the U.S., “the 231 NCAA [National Collegiate Athletic Association] Division 1 schools that make income data available generated a total of $9.15 billion in revenue during the 2015 fiscal year.” At least 25 U.S. schools make almost or more than $100 million a year. We are talking about money generated directly or indirectly by the teams themselves, and we all know about the corruptive power of that sort of cash.
So how would that corruption work? We are not talking about gambling schemes and fixing games here. But, as it turns out, we are talking about fixing the “eligibility” to play of “student” athletes. According to the academic eligibility rules used by the National Collegiate Athletic Association, student athletes must maintain between 90 and 100 percent of the minimum GPA (Grade Point Average) required for graduation at the school they attend.
Freshman athletes need 90 percent to be eligible to play their sport, sophomores need 95 percent, and then it is 100 percent for juniors and seniors. OK, that is a bit of a break already, at least for the freshmen and sophomores. And maintaining a minimum GPA should not be that hard. However, with all the money at stake for the institution, most of these schools do not want to take any chances about high-performing athletes staying eligible.
The result of this pressure was laid bare by a New York Times article of Oct. 14. It appeared in the Sports Saturday section and was entitled “N.C.A.A. Declines to Punish North Carolina for…