Books and Basketball: Quid Pro Quo

6 02 2008

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In college, old men had an affinity for me for whatever reason. I thought that my status amongst them had changed since graduation until today.

I took a half-day off of work and stopped by the local Wendy’s for lunch. I ordered my usual three junior bacon cheeseburgers and sat down adjacent to two elderly gentlemen. They were having a rather heated conversation and I presumed that it was due to the Super Tuesday events.

In the infamous words of Biff Tannen: I “thought wrong, dude.”

Stan and Al were talking about the dichotomy of interests between college basketball coach and collegiate student-athlete.

They were mulling over the espoused interests of both parties and how they affected the other. The argument is as follows:

Coach recruits Player by touching on the value of University’s athletic programs and of the education they will receive. Player is then enticed by the strength of both athletic and academic programs. Even if Player weren’t too enamored with the thought of going through school, the Coach has a responsibility to educate his team off the court.

Player signs with University and starts to play for Coach. The key jump during my conversation with Stan and Al was the amount of time spent on basketball by collegiate players.

I expected them to be out of touch with this concept. I might have been presumptuous but I guessed they probably haven’t been on a college campus in at least fifty years. However, they fully accepted this concept. And having a girlfriend that competed at the Division I level in two sports, I have seen how they can take over someone’s life.

On with the theory. Player puts in the work to get on the court. He attends team practices, walk-throughs, watch tape, attend meetings along with traveling across the country and playing games.

Player has absolutely no time for studying and they probably miss a third of their classes while in season. He no longer sees the value of getting an education.

Player dedicates himself completely to basketball. If he wants to make it, he has to drop books completely.

Regardless of the success Player gets on the court, he sees that Coach is primarily interested on results in the gym. The only provision Coach gives regarding academics is that they achieve a 2.5 or 3.0 GPA to stay eligible.

That GPA requirement is essentially a floor that Player will not look to sky over. There just isn’t any time and everything he sees tells him that basketball should be his main focus.

Player realizes that he is truly playing for the Coach and nothing else. So, Player “acts up.”

If the kid’s got game and thinks he can go pro, he knows he has to get enough playing time to showcase his stuff. That’s where the change happens.

Player then has to get his and if Coach does something that Player sees as impeding his progress, Player goes into a siege mentality. This is how kids get a bad rap for having “attitude” from the media and such.

A lot of people talk about how skilled athletes have certain privileges and shouldn’t complain about not getting enough playing time. That really doesn’t play into the argument if you think about how coaches recruit their players.

This shouldn’t be taken as a generalization but it was a very stimulating conversation, especially because I had it with two elderly men.

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2 04 2008
Not Taylor Made « Feet in the Paint

[…] It’s no surprise that high school kids go to a school to play for the coach. The basketball player goes where he will fit into the style and where he’s built up a rapport with the coaching staff. With the exception of UCLA, Kentucky and a select few other schools, kids don’t play for programs. The question then becomes how are poached collegiate coaches held accountable?  What exactly do we expect from ballers and why? I’ve asked this question before in a different context. […]

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