Big news came down from the NCAA this week.
Or rather, big “no news” came down as the NCAA said it wouldn’t be imposing any penalties on UNC’s football and basketball teams because of questionable classes at the university.
This set off a social media storm of outrage from Tar Heel haters. Duke fans especially poured out the venom this week, which I find rather hypocritical.
In 1998, Duke excitedly welcomed a freshman named Corey Maggette. Duke was very familiar with the player and also his AAU coach, Myron Piggie, with whom the university had some dealings.
In April 1999, Duke wrapped up a very successful season, having won 38 games and reaching the national championship game before losing. Then Maggette was one-and-done, going into the NBA Draft.
Two years later, Piggie pleaded guilty to a conspiracy charge after defrauding Duke and three other colleges. Maggette, by this point a starter on a NBA team, admitted to taking money from Piggie before college, thus making him ineligible to play for a college team under NCAA rules.
Stories in 2001 were saying that Duke would have to vacate those 38 wins and give back $226,000 in NCAA Tournament revenue.
Instead, Duke got off without any punishment.
When I brought up Maggette to a Duke fan, he responded that UNC’s Julius Peppers was such a terrible student that he shouldn’t have been allowed to play by academic standards.
Peppers had a grade point average of 1.824, and he needed a 2.0 to play, he said.
For those not familiar with college scoring, a C is worth 2.0 points, so he was just below the level of a C overall. Sort of like a D+ student.
Peppers failed three classes and got a D in eight classes. Either he was a poor student, or he was an average student who was overtaxing himself trying to play both football and basketball, leaving little time for studies.
Obviously he was doing just enough per season to stay on the field, taking four classes in summer school and padding his GPA with African-American Studies courses that have come under fire for being too easy.
Rather than keeping the UNC/Duke hate going, let’s ask a different question: What else could Peppers have done? Or in a more generic form, what are great football players supposed to do if they are terrible students?
If a high school baseball player has a great pitching arm or can swing a mean bat, no one cares if he can read or write. An MLB team will sign him and put him in the minor leagues to develop.
If a senior has a killer three-point shot, but doesn’t stand a chance of staying academically eligible in college, he can go to the NBA’s developmental league and play for a year or two until he gets noticed.
The NFL doesn’t have a minor league system or a D League. The only way to get training to play in the big leagues is to go to college (preferably one of the top programs) and learn from the best coaches.
If a high school senior is a tremendous talent, but academically challenged, how does he go to school and maintain that C average? College is meant to be harder than high school, so if he struggled around home, what is he going to do when he goes off to college?
And, it isn’t like the one-and-done rule in the NBA. He can’t go to Europe for a year to play like Brandon Jennings did to avoid college. The NFL has a rule that a player isn’t eligible to be drafted until they are three years removed from high school graduation.
Three years is a lifetime in sports. Miss three years of game action, and the rust will be so bad that no one will want you. And if you did get picked by a team, you would play so badly at first that you likely would get cut.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
Those words come from the Declaration of Independence. For today’s discussion, let’s look at the last part, the pursuit of happiness. Nowhere in there does it say we are guaranteed to be happy, just that we have the right to pursue it.
You’ll also notice that nowhere in that sentence does it say that only Americans smart enough to pass college classes have such a right.
Forgive my extreme bluntness in order to make a point, but even complete morons have a right to pursue an occupation that they have the skills to hold.
Why should we demand that a football player take mandatory classes in subjects that are very difficult to him and have nothing to do with football?
If a person wants to use sports as a means to getting a free college scholarship for an education, more power to him. That’s great. But I’m not talking about him.
I won’t name any names, but there is a digital folder on my computer about one local star that dominated on the local level. One college coach told me he could see the young man playing outside linebacker for a 3-4 defense like the Pittsburgh Steelers. The young man was a rare package of power and speed.
He was also a poor student, and that held him back.
Sure, there are kids out there who are just lazy and don’t try in class. I’m not necessarily talking about them, but heck, shouldn’t this even apply to them?
If an 18-year-old adult doesn’t want to pursue academics anymore, then he’s free to make that choice. But, to take away his ability to pursue his chosen field plays into the sort of heavy-handed control Thomas Jefferson was writing about more than two centuries ago.
Jeff is the news editor and can be reached at 415-4692.