If the news out of Arizona regarding basketball coach Sean Miller surprised you this weekend, you haven’t been paying attention. College athletics are magnificent in their awesome camaraderie and regarded as a cornerstone of the American College experience. They are also magnificent in their malignant corruption and a model of antiquity in a modern world. While you’d like to believe that the heart of the NCAA has good intentions, after 2018, it may be hard to continue convincing people of that.
Scandals regarding paying college “amateur” athletes has not only been rampant since the inception of the NCAA, but there have been countless well known incidents that have involved big name coaches in the past. The difference in 2018 seems to be access to the information, and the sophistication of the cover-up. In 2018, the FBI is investigating the illegal actions of coaches and institutions that in the past may have skirted the law, this isn’t the NCAA deciding whether to take a banner down. The talking-heads on your favorite sports networks are lamenting about how the players need to get paid, enough is enough, they aren’t even discussing whether the player should be taking money. Of course they should be, we all know that.
There seems to be a tide change. The audience is souring on the old guard. Fans, players, and now even some of the professionals in the industry sense the grave inequality. They understand a basketball player given an education in exchange for being an “amateur” athlete for a professional, billion-dollar business is not an equal exchange. Let’s be honest, besides the fact that Sean Miller would be careless enough to allow himself to be recorded discussing these details, the most shocking part of this story is that even at $100,000, DeAndre Ayton was grossly underpaid. He’s being touted as potentially a #1 overall pick. The NBA #1 overall pick this year will be paid over $5,000,000.
I can’t tell whether the change in opinion regarding the NCAA is generational or not, but it’s hard to not see the correlation between these scandals with the NCAA and the larger and societally more important movements that are happening all over the country. The Black Lives Matter movement, the #MeToo movement, the #NeverAgain movement. It would appear in 2018, gross inequalities will be exposed, and with the vast spread of information through social media, they will go viral.
These microcosms are an interesting study to see how our country talks about these issues. It’s easy to be cynical these days regarding well, everything, but I see a shift in perspective happening, and I see a change in culture, and I think a lot of it is for the better.