By Christopher B. Daly
Recently, the Times invited readers to send in letters for a “Sunday Dialogue” concerning the NCAA. The prompt for the letters involved a rather arcane point, internal to the NCAA, about whether the top 1% of teams by revenue should break off from the NCAA.
I didn’t think that was a great question, but I wrote anyway. The Times did not print my letter (probably because it was a bit off-subject). But I have a blog, so here it is:
To the Editor:As an associate professor at Boston University (a school with 23 NCAA Division 1 teams, including a top-10 men’s hockey team), I have had many student athletes in my classes over the years. The question I have is this: what educational purpose does the NCAA advance? What is the educational benefit of intercollegiate sports?At the start of nearly every semester, I have one or more students approach me after the first lecture. They hand me letters from the Athletics Dept. telling me in advance which classes these students will be missing and requesting my “cooperation” with their athletic schedules. I often wonder why my students need to travel as far as the West Coast, during the regular season, to run around in shorts and chase balls. They miss classroom experiences that, I believe, they can never truly make up.I also wonder why NCAA athletes train year-round. A few years ago, I had a student in a class who was on BU’s swimming and diving team. She missed a number of classes for swim meets, then missed a few more because the team had earned its way into a tournament. Finally, her season was over. When she returned to class, I welcomed her back and observed that now she would have a lot more free time. Not so fast. She explained that although the season was over, the team would go right on holding practices, which she was obliged to attend. In fact, she said, they could step up their training now, because they would not be traveling to meets.I believe young people should get exercise, but I think that’s true for all college students. They should all have sound bodies. But I don’t see the educational value in having a small fraction of the student population training intensively, year round, in ways that undermine the real reason they should be on campus.–Chris Daly, Boston