Saturday, March 12, 2011

Uncle Tom's Fab'in

For years I've railed against the hypocrisy of the NCAA. An organization that is supposed to promote student athletics has become a money grubbing monolith with essentially no concern for academics and little concern for fair play.

Because the NCAA is thoroughly corrupt, it takes a selective and inconsistent view of the rules of fair play that it enforces. When it does enforce rules it does so after the fact, so that the guilty go free, and the people that follow the guilty are often punished. That's why USC currently faces scholarship limits and a bowl game suspension while its coach that overlooked the school's violations, Pete Carroll, is cashing a big NFL paycheck.

Additionally, the NCAA refuses to enforce standards requiring academic performance from it's members. It is up to individual universities to determine what level of rigor to demand from their athletes. Sadly, the path of least resistance leads most universities to put little requirement toward academic performance in revenue generating sports like football and basketball.

As I have posted before, the University of Michigan is one of the most unethical institutions regarding the welfare of their student athletes, with a 50% graduation rate for black football players, over 40% worse than the average for their white student athletes.

When one thinks of Michigan athletics, the Fab 5 comes to mind. This group of talented players became legendary in the early 1990s for their athleticism on the basketball court. Recently, ESPN has produced a documentary on the Fab 5. It features some extremely controversial comments from the Fab 5 about Duke University, the team that defeated Michigan for the 1991 NCAA basketball championship.

I hated Duke. I hated Duke. - Ray Jackson

The faces of Duke, I didn't like them. - Jimmy King

This might seem like sour grapes from a team that was defeated on the field of play, but a comment from Jalen Rose goes further:

For me, Duke was personal. I hated Duke and I hated everything I felt Duke stood for. Schools like Duke didn't recruit players like me. I felt like they only recruited black players that were Uncle Toms.

Let's compare that statement to the facts about the Duke University athletic department. In 2007 (the most recent data available) Duke had a 97% graduation rate for their student athletes, 3rd best in major college athletics behind the US Naval Academy (99%) and The University of Notre Dame (98%). Duke's African-American athletes graduated at an admirable 89% rate.

So what is Jalen Rose really saying when he calls Duke's black players Uncle Toms and suggests that he hates everything that Duke stands for? I think he's saying that he is an ignorant loser that had no desire to perform in the classroom. I think he's saying that he resents the fact that others from his background could achieve both athletic and academic success. I think he's saying that education isn't important. It seems to me that the message he is sending is not one we would prefer to send to young people today. Of course, Rose was hailed as a hero and this new documentary probably will show him in that light. That's a shame.