Tag Archives: education

Abolish the NCAA: The Duke case

By Christopher B. Daly 

I’m just catching up with a fine review by Caitlin Flanagan in the NYTimes Sunday Book Review about what sounds like a fine book by William D. Cohan about the fiasco that was the Duke lacrosse “scandal” of 2006. Without re-hashing the accusations or the ensuing rush to judgment, the issue raises the question:

What educational role does intercollegiate lacrosse play at Duke University?

I think the answer is pretty obvious.

From Flanagan’s book review:

It has become possible, these past several decades, to think of Duke as consisting of a professional basketball team to which, bizarrely, a research university has attached itself. But it is the “non­revenue” sports at Duke — and the school’s relentless, aggressive and very expensive campaign to build them into powerhouse brands — that have most radically changed the tenor of that campus. The strange centrality of the athletic program in the life of an academically excellent institution, and the many unintended consequences this situation has wrought, is the subject of William D. Cohan’s “The Price of Silence: The Duke Lacrosse Scandal, the Power of the Elite, and the Corruption of Our Great Universities.” The book is at once a masterwork of reporting and a devastating critique of a university that has lost its way.

. . . The ill-advised party that would end in the rape charges took place at the beginning of spring break, when the team was required to stay in Durham to practice. This forgoing of their vacation week had resulted in a new tradition in which players spent their off-hours partying, hard, in a kind of alternative spring break. At the beginning of the week, the coach came to practice with some $10,000 in cash, which he passed out to the players in fat wads. The absurd amount was ostensibly for meals, although many of the players were sons of wealthy families and could afford to buy their own chow. By that night, the cash was being spent on all the ancient vices: booze, gambling and the hiring of desperately poor women for sexual entertainment. The players chose to do all of these things, of course, and it was their responsibility to deal with any disastrous outcome that might result from them. But the way in which that huge pile of cash played its role in the events hangs over “The Price of Silence.” It raises the most disturbing questions about how Duke envisions its student-athletes, what it expects from them, how it is willing to accommodate them — and how it will drop them, completely, when they are no longer of use to the university. . .

Bernard Thomas/Herald Sun via Polaris

Bernard Thomas/Herald Sun via Polaris


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Abolish the NCAA: unionize!

By Christopher B. Daly 

As I have long maintained, the NCAA does not advance any educational purpose on college campuses (and, in fact, with its insane training regimens and travel requirements, intercollegiate athletic competition often works at cross-purposes to educational activities like attending class, reading, writing, thinking, etc.)

imagesNow comes word that the NLRB (an agency that rarely makes news in this atomized, freelance economy) has ruled that college football players at Northwestern should have the right to organize into a union like the NFL Players Union. And why not? Those players are on college campuses essentially to provide entertainment to the other students. They are provide a service, and most of them are students in name only. They should certainly have the right to bargain collectively. After all, they bring in big money by putting on a show that is worthy of televising.

(In fact, they should probably be bargaining with the NFL, since they work in what amounts to the NFL’s minor league or farm system.)

From today’s NYTimes:

The ruling comes at a time when the N.C.A.A. and its largest conferences are generating billions of dollars, primarily from football and men’s basketball. The television contract for the new college football playoff system is worth $7.3 billion over 10 years, and the current deal to broadcast the men’s basketball tournament is worth $10.8 billion over 14 years.

The decision could give momentum to those who believe the N.C.A.A. should modify its rules on how athletes are compensated. The ruling applies only to scholarship football players at Northwestern, but the precedent could extend to other Division I scholarship football players at similar private universities. (Collective bargaining at public universities is governed by state law, not the N.L.R.B.)

“It’s another brick being taken out of the castle the N.C.A.A. has constructed,” said the ESPN analyst Jay Bilas, a former college basketball player. “It’s not going to stand forever, and we’re getting closer and closer to it tumbling.”


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Can we ever catch up to Shanghai?

That’s one question that could be asked about the latest round of global testing of 15-year-olds. This Boston Globe graphic makes it easy to see where we stand. (If you believe in testing.)


Kids from Massachusetts may be in striking distance, but that US average is not all that impressive. Try chanting this: We’re Number 30!

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Abolish the NCAA (cont.)

By Christopher B. Daly

Former North Carolina head football coach Butch Davis talks with former defensive tackle Marvin Austin in a file photo. Austin is a key player in investigations involving improper contact with sports agents. JEFF SINER — JEFF SINER - jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

Former North Carolina head football coach Butch Davis talks with former defensive tackle Marvin Austin, who is a key player in investigations involving improper contact with sports agents.
JEFF SINER — JEFF SINER – jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

The latest episode of stupid, destructive results stemming from collegiate involvement in big-time athletics involves the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. This one is particularly painful to me, since I got my master’s degree at UNC in 1982. (Yes, that was the height of the Michael Jordan era in Tarheels hoops, and yes, I was a fan. I had not yet figured out how deeply corrupting the NCAA is.)

In today’s column, the NYT’s Joe Nocera lays out some of the low-lights from the downfall of UNC Chancellor Holden Thorp (what a name!).

Here’s a link to some of the coverage of the UNC mess by the estimable N&O, the News & Observer of nearby Raleigh. You know you’re in trouble when the biggest paper that covers you has to create a standing headline like “UNC Scandal.” The N&O has a story about a recent talk given by Mary Willingham, who once labored in the belly of the athletic beast, helping unprepared athletes navigate their ways to remaining eligible while working nearly full-time as minor-league players for pro sports.

Willingham, who worked as a learning and reading specialist inside UNC’s academic support program for athletes, talked Thursday about her struggle to combat the system. She spoke of NCAA paperwork that arrived annually that required a signature and promise that she hadn’t seen cheating, or been a part of it.

“I’ve got to tell you that most of the time, I scribbled my initials on it,” Willingham said. “So yeah, I lied. I saw it – I saw cheating. I saw it, I knew about it, I was an accomplice to it, I witnessed it. And I was afraid, and silent, for so long.”

Willingham still works at UNC, though not with athletes. She’s an assistant director in the center for student services and academic counseling. Of the 750 to 800 athletes at UNC, she described 150 to 200 of them on Thursday as “seriously underprepared” for the academic rigors of college life at UNC.

During her 20-minute speech, she lambasted the NCAA – calling the organization a “cartel” and describing its academic entrance standards for athletes “a farce.”

And she should know.
What more is there to say? Abolish the NCAA, before it corrupts another fine school. 



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Q: What’s wrong with U.S. higher ed?

A: It costs too much.

We are doing some things right in higher education, but we are getting this big one wrong. This is one of the saddest stories I have seen in a while.


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College rankings

are obviously problematic, but not when they make your own school look good. Here is a recent global survey, weighted toward schools whose graduates are in demand in the worldwide economy.

It was no surprise, I suppose, that the top 5 were, in order: Harvard, Yale, Cambridge, Oxford, and Stanford. What came as a pleasant surprise was the No. 17 global ranking for the school where I teach, BOSTON UNIVERSITY. 

In fact, if you go through this list just looking at U.S. schools, the schools rank this way:

Harvard, Yale, Stanford, MIT, Columbia, Princeton, and then . . .  B.U.!

That would make B.U. the seventh-best university in America (at least in the eyes of the “thousands of recruiters” who participated in this survey, which was “compiled by Emerging, a human resources consultancy based in Paris, and Trendence, an institute that researches employer branding, personal marketing and recruitment” — pardon me, but I think I am allergic to half the words in that description of those two outfits).

This all sounds very sketchy, but I have to admit that I like the results.


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Ban the NCAA (cont.)

Can this happen fast enough?


Look here and here.

My only quarrel with Joe Nocera, who is doing some good reporting on this issue, is that I think he just wants to reform the NCAA, when the real answer is staring him in the face: Ban intercollegiate sports.

Here’s my question: What educational goal does the NCAA advance?

Answer: ______________?



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