Since the beginning of collegiate athletics, there have been student-athletes whose actions are considered disproportionately deviant. College athletes have defied the rules and regulations set forth by the National Collegiate Association of America by such acts as accepting stipends, committing date rape, abusing drugs, and even committing homicide. For some reason, college athletes believe they are above the law and should not have to abide by the same set of rules as a normal student, because of their athletic talent.
As a former NCAA Division II football player, I can attest to the feeling athletes have that they deserve special treatment because of their status. There are some people who believe that college athletics is above reproach, but the purpose of this essay is to assert the statement that college athletics is corrupt. Year after year, college athletes make the headlines of newspapers and magazines across the country, not only for their accomplishments on the field, but more for their antics off the field.
College athletes sacrifice their bodies, integrity, and character to gain an advantage over their opponent. Athletes give up the very things that make them who they are to feel appreciated by their coaches, teammates, and fans. Players cheat by taking anabolic steroids and other banned substances that give them a chemically induced physical advantage (Eitzen 3). Athletes desire to be identified with a team that works and sacrifices together to reach a common goal. The guestion we should ask ourselves is: Why?
Why do individuals give up so much to be a part of a team? The answer lies within the organization of how big-time college sport exists. Fans are drawn to big sporting events such as the Super Bowl and the World Series. College athletes want to be in that spotlight, and they sacrifice everything to gain that status. Fans are consumed by sports. USA Today, the most widely read newspaper in the United States, devotes one-fourth of its space to sport (14). Fans know every detail about their beloved sports team.
Not only the latest box scores, but also the win-loss record, point spread, current statistics, play-off probabilities, and biographical information about athletes and coaches (16). College sports appeal to the general public, young and old. At a very young age, aspiring college athletes are taught the principles of sport and how much winning really means. Young athletes are told to sell out every play, every day, and every way. One such instance involves a football team composed of fifth-graders, that were shunned upon after losing the championship game.
At a banquet following the season, each player received a plaque on which was inscribed a quote by Vince Lombardi, the infamous coach of the Green Bay Packers: “There is no room for second place. I have finished second twice before and I never want to finish second again. There is a second place bowl game but it is a game for losers played by losers. It is and always has been an American zeal to be first in anything we do and to win and to win and to win,” (Klatell, and Marcus 136).
Another phrase often used to arouse athletes is: “Good, Better, Best, never let it rest; until your good is better than best,” (Eitzen 134). This thought process which is ingrained into the minds of young athletes can be very damaging. Athletes begin feeling inferior to teams that win, and will do anything to erase the disadvantage. Young athletes believe that they have to be the best, so they have a greater chance of becomig a pro. The most tantalizing part of college athletics is the allure of becoming a professional athlete.
More than winning, college athletes are drawn to the big salary contracts of professional sport. College coaches tend to use this desire to obtain a greater effort out of their athletes. For the big money, college athletes will give anything, and take anything to be a professional athlete. Often times the athletes are tempted by bribes, and gifts from alumni, and crooked sports agents to join their team. Coaches sometimes exploit the athletic skills of their players while not helping them move toward graduation (95).
From every influential angle an athlete has, he or she is being taught that cheating is okay to get an advantage over an opponent, but the ultimate goal is to make it to the pros. Athletes are drawn to the abundance of money, and all the special treatment received for being a pro athlete. Contrary to my opinion, Mike Krzyzewski, the highly notorious, highly ublicized, highly successful coach of the Duke University Blue Devils men’s basketball team, states that, “All this stuff where people talk about college sports and things as bad, you have no idea.
I want to whack everybody who says that. College sports are great. They’re okay when you yell at each other, when you hug each other, when you live,” (Eitzen 105). Coach K, as he is commonly referred to as, believes that these behaviors are committed by bad people, who have lost sight of the true purpose of college sport and let the pursuit of winning override the pursuit of teaching (106). Coach K genuinely loves his players, coaches, the camaraderie, and the accolades of big-time college athletics, but fails to admit the travesties and crimes that are overlooked to produce such glories.
Coach K is blind to the fact that college sports are corrupt, because he bases his opinion on his own perception, and does not realize that the fallacy lies in the organization of big-time college sport. Big-time college sport contradicts itself in many ways, it provides achievement, excitement, and exuberation for athletes. As former athlete Kenny Moore states: “To celebrate sport is to celebrate sheer abandon, to savor moments when athletes surrender themselves to effort and are genuinely transformed.
This is when sport takes loneliness, fear, hate, and ego and transmutes them into achievement, records, art, and powerful example,” (Thelin 55). Moore also admits college sport has a dark side as he states: “Sports presents us with cocaine deaths, steroid cover-ups, collegiate hypocrisies, gambling scandals, criminal agents, and Olympic boycotts. Such failings show that sports civilizing, freeing effort on us in incomplete. Not everyone is following the rules.
Not everyone is trying,” (58). In conclusion, college athletes have been defiant of the rules of the NCAA as long as sports and the regulating body have existed. Colleges and universities need to look at the policies and beliefs of their institution regarding athletics, and if needed make amends. The question that should essentially be asked is this: What is our mission? Why do we exist? Are we here to teach and learn or are we here to house big-time college sport? (203).