Friday, November 2, 2007

Idiots and Valvano

I hate to send traffic to this blog, but I just go angry enough that I need to vent. This is from a UVA fan/grad's blog:

My Take-Sports and School

I'm sure you've heard at least once that a college athlete has been declared "academically ineligible" because of his poor grades and whatnot. Well, that is a bunch of bull. Here's why.
When a school recruits a player, and offers him a scholarship, they are bringing him to the school to play the sport. They're asking him "Will you come here to play sports?", not "Will you come here to do your work, earn good grades, and help uphold the academic tradition of this school?". The player is at the school for no other reason than to play sports. They let the guy in already, and chances are he's helping the team win, so why are they ostracizing him now?
Schools need to protect their athletes. A school known for this is North Carolina State University particularly basketball, at least during Jim Valvano's era. James Thomas Anthony Valvano was (in)famous for his miniscule graduation rate. Only three (3) of his players graduated from NC State. That's 3 players in ten (10) years. Current Wolfpack head coach Sidney Lowe is a former player under Valvano, but did not graduate. Another one of Jimmy V's recruits, Chris Washburn, had a 470 on his SATs and Valvano found a way to get him to play for the Wolfpack. In 1983, this team won the NCAA Tournament, knocking off Pepperdine, UNLV (coached by fellow cheater Jerry "The Shark" Tarkanian), Utah, my Virginia Cavaliers (darn it) Georgia, and the dramatic championship win over Houston.
Sure, NCSU may have cheated like crazy, but because those players were brought to the university to play basketball, I feel Valvano had every right to protect his players. Other schools protect their players, too. I'll be darned if JJ Redick wasn't in academic trouble at least once while he was at Duke.
Also, the Ivy League needs to grow up and give athletic scholarships to their players. College sports are a way of life these days. These players are not the BS term that is "student-athletes". They are athletes. Treat them as such.

I read it and couldn't stay silent, so here is my response:

The one thing you miss in picking out a couple of cases like Valvano, is that things were very different most places throughout the NCAA. While there were of course some schools doing things the right way, academics weren't a priority for the majority of schools when it came to their athletes. As great a school as UVA is and was, their graduation rates weren't stellar during that period either.

The biggest mis-conception in the world and that ignorant people continue to say, is that Valvano cheated. It simply isn't so. He was investigated and investigated. The only violation ever found at State was a lack of institutional control, which allowed a couple of the players to sell their shoes.

Granted, Valvano didn't bring in capable students often (although some of them were good). But he did what he thought his job was, take a set of rules handed him, and build the best possible basketball team under those rules. It was a lack of foresight on his part, and a complete lack of control in university leadership that allowed things to go so bad, but it WASN'T CHEATING.

To just pick a little more at the poor facts behind some of your statements, the 1983 team that won the championship was built primarily of Norm Sloan recruits, not V recruits. While you are correct, some of them didn't graduate, they were a far cry from academic failures. Lowe lacked 3 classes, and would have stayed to graduate (Hell, I even took 5 years) if not for the fact that an NBA team was ready to pay him serious money. There are certainly teams under the V era where you can point to some miserable failures as far as students, but that 1983 team isn't one of them. Most of those kids did eventually get degrees and go on to very successful careers and lives.

Ken White


Jarrett said...

I hear what you are saying, but I think that if a school is goign to ask an athlete to improve the financial and public standing of their university through their talent, the least they could do is invest in the academic and professional development of that athlete, whether the athletes wants it or not.

Ken White said...

I couldn't agree with you more. There is no question that Valvano, and maybe more correctly, university administration at NC State really dropped the ball. My main point was that, during that timeframe, the exact same things were going on at 75% of the other Div 1 schools at the time, and that while it was wrong, and was certainly a dis-service to those kids, it wasn't cheating.

Jason said...

Ummm... "Lack of institutional control" is just short of the most severe finding the NCAA levies on schools. Valvano's shady rep as a coach is hugely overshadowed by the '83 highlight reel and (appropriately) the great things his name have done for cancer research.