College basketball is often considered an interesting paradigm whenever I think about its overall make up. While I would admit that I prefer the NBA game, I enjoy the passion and exuberance that the college atmosphere creates as well as the game’s unique innocence in skill level. However, it is the semantics around the game that makes college basketball an interesting topic. And the main topic, as is with all large collegiate athletic programs: Education vs. Wins. Which is the true image of NCAA basketball programs?
And that topic is at the fore front of the issue regarding Norm Roberts, St. Johns University Men’s Head Basketball coach.
After falling into the basketball abyss due to many violations, scams, and controversy, Roberts took over the reigns of the St. Johns program. Now, in his fifth year, Roberts is now under an intense microscope and in danger of losing his job.
However, on what grounds?
Roberts has restored St. Johns back to respectability. While they are not world beaters, St. Johns is not the worst program to attend. However, one of the most interesting quirks by Roberts in his five years, is that he runs a very clean program that graduates it’s student-athletes.
While I am not advocating for Roberts to keep or even lose his job, one has to wonder, is a winning program amidst controversy and/or low graduation rates more satisfactory than a clean program in mediocrity? It sounds like an age-old debate, yet, its amazing how desensitized the concept has become, almost beyond the threshold of acceptance.
When college basketball fans clamor and puff their chest about the “purity” of the college basketball game, it is situations like Roberts, and the many others that makes one scratch their head.
The constant occurrence of coaches not honoring contracts and skipping from school to school is absurd. Coaches on the collegiate ranks often leave recruits and schools in worst condition than when they initially partnered.
The way schools place certain student-athletes on high thrones for their athletic ability while fixing students grades, lavishing them with gifts, and pardoning them from certain responsibility all in the face of education.
How about loop holes in the structure that allow a student-athlete to play four years of basketball and not graduate? How about the recruiting of athletes with no intention of pursuing advanced learning? And those questions are posed without going in depth on the one-and-done athletes.
With the NBA potentially facing a lockout in the coming years, the overall ethical health of the NCAA will be tested, and reevaluated. Students will be forced to stay in school due to no other level to advance to. How will the NCAA respond?
Now is the time for the NCAA to tighten its structure, and clean up the loose ends which has turned amateur athletics into a professional business prostituting college athletes.
For is it about wins at all costs? Or is it about educating students?
In agreement with the words of NBA Commissioner, David Stern, “The hit to the game of basketball is not due to age limits or high school athletes looking to go pro, it is the NCAA lack of ability to police itself. Everyone always points the finger to us or elsewhere, except for where the blame truly belongs.”