Bill Kwon

Sports Watch

By Bill Kwon

Thursday, July 1, 1999

Reminders of what college
sports has become

COLLEGE athletics. It's a jungle out there. And it's getting harder and harder for the "have-nots" to keep up with the "haves" of the collegiate world.

There have been several not-so-subtle reminders recently about what a rat race it is when it comes to recruiting.

The first mental nudge is the meat market known as the NBA Draft.

It's the other end of the recruiting rainbow that began when the draft picks were the very same guys who were hustled by their colleges.

This end has the pot of gold. But some cynics might snicker and say so does the other end, although it isn't as obvious.

Maybe not money, but colleges are definitely paying a steep price - mostly in integrity and principles - while waging a recruiting war for hired guns in football and basketball.

It's not surprising that most of the college violations occur in those two sports. Not only are they the most high-profiled, they're the two biggest moneymakers for an athletic program.

Hence the need for athletes who otherwise have no business or even an interest in getting an education.

In the case of many football and basketball players who are only interested in playing professionally, college has been a good place to hone their skills and develop physically. Two or three years seem time enough.

THAT was never more apparent than at Ohio State, where star players Andy Katzenmoyer and Rob Murphy undoubtedly spent more time on the football field than in a class room. They both flunked out.

Katzenmoyer was more upset that people ridiculed his summer courses in AIDS awareness, golf and music appreciation in order to become eligible to play last season than that he had taken such soft-core classes, which used to include basket-weaving in the old days.

Buckeye teammate Damon Moore told Sports Illustrated Katzenmoyer was put off by criticism of his summer courses "Not everyone comes to college to be in college," Moore said. "... I've had some grades changed, other people have, too. Now we're both headed to the NFL, which is what we came here to do."

Well, if they didn't, Moore sure told it like it is, loud and clear.

This has been a summer of discontent for the Big Ten.

Besides some people questioning the academic integrity of Ohio State's football program, Minnesota faced charges of academic fraud that led basketball coach Clem Haskins to accept a buyout of his contract.

Purdue's basketball program yesterday was placed on probation by the NCAA for recruiting violations. Three other schools - Michigan State, Michigan and Iowa - also had athletes run afoul of the law.

That led Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany to remark, "I've had better weeks," when asked to comment about his conference's bad press in recent days.

JUST when you thought everyone forgot about squeaky-clean Northwestern's point-shaving scandal.

While it's true that maybe because they're athletes and thus celebrities in a way, things can get blown out of proportion by the media.

However, school administrators and recruiters themselves deserve some of the blame for much of the dilemma facing college sports today.

Many prized recruits come with questionable moral and academic baggage that's tolerated. And once on campus, their deficiencies have fallen on deaf ears or blind eyes.

Sold-out football stadiums and basketball arenas have come at a cost of academic integrity.

It's a steep price to pay, and the colleges are paying it.

And we're just talking about the "haves." Imagine if the "have-nots" can afford to jump into the recruiting fray as well.

Bill Kwon has been writing
about sports for the Star-Bulletin since 1959.

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