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Success in college sports

When the last whistle blew, the final foul called, and the men’s and women’s champions decided, March Madness 2018 came to its close last month. With the winners determined, there were ecstatic folks at Notre Dame and Villanova while at other universities across the country, those that also sought notoriety through the NCAA brackets, were left to mutter, “Well, there’s always next year.”

The University of Oregon and the Oregon State University women’s teams came close to glory as both won their games to the Elite Eight.  The Oregon men were invited to the National Invitational Tournament, and lost in its second game while Oregon State’s men were not invited to post-season play at all.

In comparing student numbers at just four universities in the women’s national contest, University of Oregon, Oregon State University, and Notre Dame: UO has an enrollment of about 24,000; OSU counts around 30,000; and winner, Notre Dame, numbers just over 12,000.  The number of men at UO and OSU, of course, are the same as the women while winner Villanova enrollment counts only 11,000 students. With contrasting numbers so high and player selection so broad how can they miss grabbing the big trophy?

One sports writer argued that to win on the national stage what was needed, for example, at the University of Oregon was for Coach Dana Altman to persuade three upperclassmen to give up millions in earning power, after their Final Four appearance last year, to return for at least one more college season with the prophetic chance to win it all in 2018.The writer also wrote that a colleague of his contacted Dillon Brooks of season 2016-2017 UO fame, now with the NBA’s Memphis Grizzlies, to inquire about his early departure.  His answer could have been predicted: “I’ve got a lot more money.”

However, I’d argue that players coming from other states and even other countries look for the best deal in scholarship details while the specific university is a lower level concern unless the individual seeks a specific degree and thereby makes his choice of school. Relative to this matter, NCAA rules do not now allow any school to pay salaries. Meanwhile, there’s a lot of cash the shoe makers “invest” in one form or another to outstanding high school athletes, their families, coaches and school shoes and clothing to persuade through formal deals and informal arrangements for use of Adidas, Nike or Under Armor gear followed by contractual arrangements at the college they attend.

So, how is it that public and private universities with much smaller enrollments are more and more often nowadays taking home the grand prize?   The difference is that while public university players quite often are recruited from families of limited means, the private school recruit quite often comes from families of greater financial means where the money consideration is not nearly as important as it is to those from families of limited means.  Also, specifically relative to the private schools are the religious and association factors that have to do with one’s faith and membership therein, two conditions that often mean little to poorer black or Hispanic kids or youth from many European countries.

A kid from a impoverished background without strong church or community ties generally could care less whether some college team in Oregon, Michigan or California gets its name on a bronze plaque or brings home a big trophy. He wants to make it into the professional athlete world where earnings exceed a million dollars. Furthermore, he can pass on getting a free education because he dreams of the opportunity to make the big bucks, leading to early retirement with no need for a college degree as money will buy everything important to his ego and material needs.

A  matter that deserves considerable attention is the dominating influence of money in competitive sports at every level of public and private education and the professional ranks. Many among us have making money as their top priority and highest value in living the American life.  And that’s why so much of the negative has crept into competitive sports with corrupt and even criminal practices until greed prevails as it does now.  Hence, the excessive importance of money ultimately allows evil to take over with all things once beautiful gone ugly.

(Gene H. McIntyre lives in Keizer.)