Just so you know where I am coming from: I grew up playing and watching lots of sports, and will never forget the lineup of the 1982 Milwaukee Brewers, but in my adulthood I have grown ambivalent if not a bit hostile to the attention and money Americans expend on professional and pseudo-professional (i.e. college) athletics. I enjoy going to games and seeing the action, but I no longer understand—perhaps because I married someone who feels this way, so much so he wears a t-shirt proclaiming his indifference—following a team as if you have anything to do with it.
Having gone to a college where students only realize there is a football team because games happen to be played within view of the armchairs in the library, college sports mania puzzles me especially. Friends who taught college have been pressured to go easy on athletes, and the fakery that sports-crazed universities engage in to pretend that athletics somehow serves academics, and that marquee athletes are truly scholars, riles me. I was glad to hear Secretary Duncan call out the NCAA, I think it is great when publications like the Ann Arbor News look at what athletes are doing academically (you ever check the breakdown of majors of the basketball and football players you cover?), the tournament brackets by graduation rate always amuse me, and I love USA Today’s investigative work on athletic spending.
So I would like to see journalists take a different sort of look at Signing Day, beyond the usual yee-haw coverage. When my colleague Kent Fischer was blogging in Dallas, he used to ask, “How many of these kids will truly leverage their talents into a college education? (Because only a handful of them will ever earn a paycheck chasing a ball.)” That’s easy enough to find out, isn’t it? Take the pool of athletes your publication featured on Signing Day six years ago. See how many of them got a degree. Sorry about the buzzkill, but don’t you want to know?