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Problems with big-time athletics

The NCAA Board of Directors recently decided to allow a $2,000 special stipend to be given to athletes in addition to current scholarships already covering room, board, tuition, fees and books.
The idea is that the universities are making large sums of money off of athletics and therefore they should share with the athletes that are actually earning the money for the university.
In the early ’60s, when I was president of the student body at N.C. State, all profits from the college student supply store went to athletic scholarships.
I proposed that we take the monies and divide equally among academic and athletic scholarships. When the matter was to be heard before the student legislature, all the athletes came in an effort to intimidate the legislators. It prompted me to suggest to then Chancellor Dr. Carey Bostian that we should simply rent rooms at Cameron Village for the athletes and pay them to play.
Treat it as a business, make it profitable and everyone would live happily ever after.  Admittedly, the “student-athlete” may not get an education, but it would be up to their election whether to attend classes, not a requirement.  Dr. Bostian grinned and basically agreed in principle, but of course was compelled to continue things the way they were.
It was quite obvious back then that in many instances the athletes did not spend a lot of time on academics.  I recall tutoring a very good athlete who was trying for the third time to pass Zoology.
To help him find a way to remember certain pancreatic enzymes, I suggested he think of the word “elm” as an acronym for elastase, lipase and mylase.  He then asked me “How do you spell elm?”
We are all partly to blame.  I often wonder at how many people go back to their colleges or universities to attend not only one ball game per year but almost every game. They carry their young children with them, 150 to 200 miles round trip, and sit in the stands, even in cold weather.  (Perhaps we would be better off if we would actually take some of them to church. But then, who am I to judge what people’s recreational habits or their religious habits might be.) So many of us just want our team to win; no questions asked.
The bottom line is that college football and basketball are big time athletics. We have scandals being revealed at an alarming rate.  There are lawsuits being brought by athletes across the country demanding a part of the profits. The coaches already have a percentage of the profits, with many making one to two million dollars a year, far greater than they could earn in the private sector. Lavish upgrades and additions are being built at college stadiums and arenas. I am sure that the ladies’ volleyball team or the golf team don’t have similar problems because they don’t draw the money that is earned from attendance and television in the big time sports.  The smaller sports seem to be closer to the ideal of the student-athlete.
In conclusion, it looks like we have probably reached the point of diminishing returns.  This means simply that if a farmer making 200 bushels of corn per acre adds 100 pounds more fertilizer per acre, it doesn’t enhance the yield but instead burns up the entire crop. The increasing money for college big time athletics may be burning up what was originally meant to be student participation sports.

H. Edward Knox, a resident of eastern Lincoln County is a practicing attorney and the former mayor of Charlotte.

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