Sports’ New Boogeyman

By Jason Whitlock
Updated: May 20, 2008

NCAAKANSAS — Arlen Specter wants to investigate “spygate” and further shame Bill Belichick. Glory-seeking Bay Area prosecutors hunt Barry Bonds like he’s Moby Dick.

Meanwhile, the NCAA and its member institutions continue to rape young men — mining them for their basketball and football gold — and play dumb and powerless whenever the academic fraud that powers their revenue-generators is unearthed.

I don’t know or care whether Kansas basketball forward Darrell Arthur had grades changed while he was a prep star in Texas. It’s really irrelevant. We all know it happens. In a country filled with jock-sniffers, no one should be startled that teachers and administrators want a whiff, too.

And, in all honesty, I can understand the logic that would drive a well-meaning person to conclude that one boy’s dislike of or struggle with algebra shouldn’t keep him out of college and on track for a huge NBA payday.

No. Darrell Arthur isn’t the bad guy. Neither are the people who may have protected his NBA future.

The bad guys are the people running the NCAA who refuse to acknowledge that their current system is almost completely void of consistent academic integrity, the people unwilling to recognize that it’s criminal to allow the young men who generate all the money to rot in academic wastelands until age 18.

The NCAA knows that nearly all of its member institutions recruit a good handful of kids in football and basketball who are totally unprepared for college.

When you’re talking about elite-level hoopers — kids in’s top 250 — I’d venture to conservatively estimate that 70 percent of them are unprepared academically.

I’m not talking about meeting minimum eligibility requirements. I’m speaking of hitting campus ready to take advantage of the full academic experience a university has to offer.

They’re not ready. They need almost 24-hour tutoring or remedial courses.

They’ve been shuffled through the education process since grade school, either because no one cared or they demonstrated athletic talent at an early age.

The NCAA knows this. Kids get grades changed. They get someone to take their SATs. And what does the NCAA do?

It has a joke “clearinghouse” that examines transcripts and occasionally questions the academic integrity of teenage basketball factories disguised as prep schools.

And when a TV-ratings-driving kid slips by the clearinghouse and is later exposed, the NCAA shrugs its shoulders, pretends it can do nothing and blames the high school.

Well, the NCAA can do more. It should be forced to do more. It owes the Darrell Arthurs of the world more than that. The basketball players are the reason the NCAA inked a gigantic contract with CBS.

The contract is so large that the NCAA is able to provide welfare to all the nonrevenue sports played by kids who look nothing like Darrell Arthur.

The NCAA should be spending money on Arthur’s education long before he arrives at Kansas.

The NCAA should finance basketball and football academies for elite athletes starting in ninth grade for football players and eighth grade for basketball players.

You want athletes prepared for college? Prepare them yourself. Don’t leave them to rot in poor schools or with jock-sniffing teachers. Get involved with them before the street agent.

Take a significant interest before they’ve covered themselves in tattoos and owe a debt to someone who cares little about their intellectual evolution.

This current system is broken. Everyone can see it. Players enroll with the intention of turning pro as soon as possible, preferably after a year so they only have to pretend to be a student for one semester.

No one should be surprised that USC one-and-done guard O.J. Mayo may have accepted money from an agent. Why not?

He didn’t come to USC looking for an education or ready to get one. The NCAA tried to pay Mayo in a currency (education) that he probably couldn’t use and didn’t respect. The kids are about the money.

That’s all they’ve heard about. That’s what we preach.

The NCAA preaches “free” education but declines to take the common-sense steps to make sure its most vulnerable and valuable athletes can accept what’s being given to them.

It’s like taking a toothless man to an awesome steakhouse and getting irate when he doesn’t enjoy the food and only wants to drink.

And yes, I purposely avoided addressing the notion of whether the NCAA should strip Kansas of its NCAA title if it’s proven Arthur or Kansas officials knew Arthur’s high school transcript was bogus.

What? Give the title to the dean’s list honorees at Memphis? Hell, Davidson might be the only high-quality team in the tournament worthy of the title if across-the-board academic integrity is a requirement.