NCAA Scandals Remind Us What’s Really Important in Higher Education: Sports

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By Andrew Pillow

If you follow sports at all then you have undoubtedly heard about the latest NCAA scandal. If you haven’t, the long and short of it is this: Several schools, most notably Louisville, were caught in an FBI investigation funneling money to prospective students in exchange for commitments. Essentially schools were paying students money under the table to play.

“*pretends to be shocked*”

“*pretends to be shocked*”

The NCAA and the media are treating this like a bombshell, but it’s not. It’s not even a water balloon. It’s the confirmation of what virtually everyone who follows college sports has known for years: Schools will do anything to win. Including cheating and prioritizing athletics over academics.

You see college sports is big money, and the better your team is, the better the money. Therefore, teams have a pretty large incentive to win. There are probably some teams that do everything by the book. But when you incentivize cheating, a certain percentage of people always will, and that is what is happening now. In today’s scandal, that looks like paying student-athletes under the table. In yesterday’s scandal, it looks like throwing stripper parties for recruits on college visits. In tomorrow's scandal, it looks like creating fake classes and degrees as funneling programs for athletes.

For the next week, month or however long this takes to blow over, people are going to be “outraged”. They will pretend like this is a bastardization of college athletics. But it’s not.

They will point the finger at the University of Louisville. And why not? Louisville is an easy target. Already on probation for a scandal involving recruits and strippers, Louisville was caught paying for a commitment. It has since come out that Louisville’s athletic director, Tom Jurich, made more money than the entire budget of several academic departments. Tom Jurich made $5.3 million last year. To put that into perspective the University of Louisville’s entire English department had a budget of $4 million. Pretty crazy right? Louisville is surely all alone in their level of disregard for academics and jock worship right?

Not quite. Maybe other schools are not prioritizing athletics over academics on the same scale as Louisville, but we are talking a difference of degree not category when it comes to college athletics. This idea is pervasive.

You want proof? Google the highest paid state employee in your state?

Was it a football coach or a basketball coach? Because in all but 11 states, it is one of those two.

courtesy of DEADSPIN

courtesy of DEADSPIN

Louisville’s scandal was not the first exposure we have had into the underworld of college athletics. It will not be the last. As long as big-time college athletics brings in money, some schools will prioritize it over academics. Your econ professor will tell you that… if he hasn’t been let go to cover the salary of an athletic director.

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Andrew Pillow

Andrew is a technology teacher at KIPP Indy College Prep. He is graduate of the University of Kentucky and a Teach for America Alum. Andrew just recently finished his commitment as a Teach Plus Policy fellow, and he is looking forward to putting the skills he's learned to good use. Andrew has written for several publications in the past on a wide variety of topics but will be sticking to education for his role on Indy/Ed.