I apologize that it has taken me such a long time to finally getting around to writing this article. I hoped to write a simple thesis about the one institute of higher education that never has fielded a sports team, yet has more influence on Amateur, Collegiate and Professional Sports than those that win championships and supply the high draft choices.
I still plan to get there in this column. However, while doing my research I came across a great deal of material that dovetails or parallels into what I wished to write about. Thus, I have included what I have learned and thereby express my opinion as a result.
Growing up in New England and coming from a family of immigrants, my mom was from Bessarabia, it was instilled in me that there never was any doubt that I was going to go to college. To hear the people who came from "the old country", "America provided a great opportunity and to be educated was the foremost route to success.
However, somewhere along the line, Education at many Colleges and Universities seem to have become a second-class citizen. Scholarships for the best kicker, the finest shot maker, or the elite passer apparently have taken center stage.
Alumni, encouraged by the schools would rather provide Scholarships to athletes than have a hand in molding the future of our country and the world by endowing future chemists, biologists, doctors and physicists. What a shame!
Then along comes John Calipari, University of Kentucky's successful Basketball Coach who openly expresses what other coaches think. His theory is to give a kid a Scholarship and even if he stays for only one year and then turns pro because of his talent, he will make Calipari a winning coach. He becomes one to be fawned over by overzealous alumni because he has made old school tie something to be proud of.
THIS IS WRONG!
Many of these one-year athlete's leave school to ply their wares in the professional world. If they don't make it, they have nothing to fall back on. All too many Scholarship athletes cannot even read, or write when they leave school. They are ill prepared for the outside world.
My pal Rene Henry who in his day was one of America's foremost Sports Public relations Experts, called my attention to a rule that the NCAA passed last October. Simply stated it is a requirement that college teams must be on track to graduate 50% of their players. If they don't, they will become ineligible for post-season competition.
If the rule had been followed, UCONN, Florida State, Indiana, New Mexico State, Colorado State, Norfolk State, Ohio University, St. Louis, Syracuse and Southern Mississippi would not have been in March Madness.
Jonas Salk never caught a pass. Albert Einstein never diagrammed a play (although I am sure he could) and yet, the way Scholarships are doled out to athletes one would think they were on track to make a major contribution to humanity. With Scholarships going to athletes whose eye is on a pro career and who after just one season might leave the school team after making a mark for pros to notice, the next Mark Zuckerberg who may need aid might be out of luck.
Therefore, I feel if these young athletes are looking for a career and selling their talents to a College, or University, they must, in a business fashion, sign a four-year contract. Should they void this contract and enter the pro ranks after one year, they would be penalized by having to pay the school back the total cost equivalent to what it would have taken for the University to have them graduate with a degree.
You might ask, "What if they are struggling to make ends meet and turning pro is an instant solution, why should you penalize them?"
THE ANSWER IS SIMPLE!
They should be punished since they used their presence on the school team as a display case for their talents. If they don't want this opportunity instead of taking a scholarship on what I consider false pretenses, then they should attempt to turn pro right out of High School.
As for the 50% graduation requirement, it brings me to the many letters I receive from readers.
Recently, I received a note from an old friend Chuck Young, the former Chancellor of UCLA. Chuck for years spent much time on NCAA committees trying to push for a National Football Championship similar to March Madness.
Chuck pointed out to me, after reading my March Madness column that J.D. Morgan, UCLA Athletic Director at the time was instrumental along with Eddie Einhorn in putting together the Houston v. UCLA game I wrote about. It was a game that pitted two great four-year students and eventually great pros, Lew Alcindor and Elvin Hayes.
Chuck still advocates for a pure elimination-style National Football Championship. Something, I also advocate. However, if the NCAA implements their 50% rule, we would have a true championship based on the real principles of education.
This brings me to why I wanted to write this column in the first place. As I said in my first paragraph, there is one Institute of Higher Learning that combines all the fundamentals of a
Academics and Sport. It has more influence on American sports: amateur, collegiate, or pro than any other entity. It is the United States Sports Academy.
The vision of one man, Dr. Thomas Rosandich, the USSA now starts its 40th year housed on a majestic campus located in the sleepy town of Daphne, Alabama. It is today the only freestanding accredited sport university in the Untied States. This year, the USSA will confer its 4000th Master of Sport Degree.
In 1972, when The U.S. Olympic Team had a more than mediocre performance in the Munich Olympiad coupled with a devastating report commissioned to study what caused our failure, it prompted five men meeting in Milwaukee under the leadership of the visionary Dr. Rosandich to do something dramatic.
Working out of Advertising Executive Bob Block's donated Board Room, they recognized that the answer to improving skill levels of coaches and performance of athletes was better Sports Education. Thus, on April 22, 1972, the Academy was born.
It quickly became known around the world, as America's Graduate School of Science. It has grown into, "America's Sports University". Offering Bachelor's, Masters and Doctoral degree programs. Thousands have benefitted from its program and the Academy has had a profound impact of sports in this country. It is a fact that over 75% of its graduates works in the Sports Profession. ... Quite an achievement for just 40 years of growth!
The curriculum covers the entire gamut of sports... everything - Coaching, Fitness and Health. Business and Management as well as the overall study of Sports. At the Academy, the emphasis is on fair play and success by personal achievement. Unlike the Super Bowl New Orleans, Saints, USSA graduates carry the meaning of sportsmanship toward victory as their prime banner.
Over the 40 years, Universities and Colleges in 60 countries throughout the world have joined with USSA and implemented the Academy curriculum into their own programs. A shining example of American Achievement through Sport, the USSA is a welcome visitor wherever it plants its banner.
Isn't it wonderful, in a Sports World damaged by constant scandals, there is the USSA and its shining light?