The Breakdown: Saving college sports |

The Breakdown: Saving college sports

Sports editor Bryce Evans

I’ve done it. I’ve come up with the solution for the NFL’s (literally) hard-hitting problem of head injuries. All these rule changes, new helmets, better health care, better doctors, better education on the issue – we don’t need it. You see, I’ve been doing my own field research: My crack team of investigators – consisting mainly of my dog and myself – have looked at this problem from all angles. We’ve stepped outside the box; I’d say our thinking has been quite circular.

And here’s the answer: Eliminate cleats.

I know, it’s brilliant. Without the proper footwear on the field, who can deliver bone crushing hits? How will Pittsburgh’s James Harrison be able to turn someone’s brain into mush while his feet have the traction of a slip-and-slide? Simple: He can’t, no one can, and the game of football is now saved, you know, if they ever play it again.

You can thank me later.

So, how did I come up with this amazing idea? Well, I started trying to think like former presidential candidate Ralph Nader and his League of Fans organization, which is scrupulously dedicated to encouraging “social (and) civic responsibility in sports industry (and) culture.” Just this week, these sports experts came up with an amazing, forward-thinking approach to curing collegiate athletics of its “play-for-pay” plague: eliminate all athletic scholarships and replace them with a “needs-based” financial aid system.

I appreciate this conclusion very much, because I’m pretty sure they came to it with the exact same research method I did when saving NFL players from concussions: Run around barefoot in your yard and see if you can catch your dog. (I’m not sure, though, if they had better luck than I did; my dog’s pretty fast.)

Nader and the “League” feel that athletic scholarships for collegiate sports ensure that all athletes are professionals, because, after all, what’s a scholarship if not a financial contract between you and your university.

(Note: This thinking means that, when I was in school, my modest academic scholarship made me a professional biologist. I mean, I did use that cash to take a biology course. I’m going to start putting that on my resume.)

Also, eliminating any chance of earning a spot in an institute of higher learning based on athletic performance ensures that we keep our kids pure in their physical endeavors from T-ball all the way through high school. Without the incentive of earning a scholarship, kids won’t have a “win at all costs” attitude when playing sports.

It’ll be great: We won’t keep any stats, every game will end in a tie and after the final buzzer, everyone can share juice boxes and granola bars.

And, less kids can go to college.

Putting on my serious and less sarcastic hat for a moment – and, no, that’s not the hat I wrote about in my last column; this is figurative, that real one still hasn’t been returned – this is a scary proposition.

Sure, major college sports (mostly football and basketball) always seem to have case after case of cheating, scandal and all-around sleaziness in the news. But the problems don’t lie in kids not having to pay tuition bills.

And, yes, I’ve seen firsthand from covering youth and prep games the level of intensity some parents and kids put into the sports, and a lot of it comes from the hope of their kids earning scholarships. At the same time, though, I see a lot of parents harp on their kids even more about their grades, because those can get you into college, too. I don’t know of too many people who think kids caring about their schooling is a bad thing.

Now, obviously Nader’s theory is too ridiculous to ever implement, and there’s no way the NCAA would ever truly consider it.

But a bigger problem is how people – through seeing the current situation at Ohio State or even the immense commercialism of the NCAA basketball tourneys – feel that there’s something inherently wrong about college athletics. That couldn’t be further from the truth.

As kids, sports teach us valuable life lessons about team work, dedication, accountability to others, how to deal with failure and how to deal with success. Sports teach us how to grow from boys and girls into men and women, and that doesn’t stop when you reach college.

In so many instances around the country, college sports are changing kids’ lives, they’re molding these kids into adults, into people that can make a difference in our society.

There are problems in some cases, sure, but that doesn’t take away from everything sports do for those playing – and even those watching.

We forget that barely any NCAA athletes will ever play professional sports, and we forget that all those other kids are the ones that truly benefited from playing a sport in college.

And, even those destined for the NFL, well, we now don’t have to worry about them losing all they’ve learned in college by getting their heads crushed any more. You can thank me now if you want.

Sports editor Bryce Evans is a professional biologist and the recent founder of the League of Me and My Dog, a group dedicated to discovering the whereabouts of a certain missing hat.

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