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Is Nick Calathes hurting the Florida Gators basketball team? Plus a rant about the NCAA

IN MY OPINION...

GAINESVILLE -- About a month ago, I asked Florida basketball coach Billy Donovan a serious question, "Is Nick Calathes hijacking Florida's recruiting process?"

The answer came today. Yes.

High school point guard Eric Bledsoe of Birmingham, Ala., committed to coach John Calipari and Kentucky on Wednesday after a long courtship by several schools, including Florida. Bledsoe was leaning towards signing with Florida until the final few weeks of his recruiting process. Instead, Calipari swooped in and stole one of Donovan's recruits at the 11th hour.

How did this happen? I know what you're thinking, but you can use the Bledsoe-couldn't-qualify-for-UF excuse on someone else. When Florida admitted John Brown and Torrey Davis, the university proved it was willing to contort its rules into a pretzel for potential athletic stars who could make UAA a little cash. (OK, a lot of cash.)

No, grades had nothing to do with this. Calathes did.

Point guards are staying away from Florida as long as there is a possibility that Calathes might return to UF. Of course, Bledsoe's choice on Wednesday becomes moot if Calathes returns to school. Then again, if Calathes leaves, Florida could be left with just one point guard for next season. (I just checked the UF roster. Yep, Erving Walker still can't ride Space Mountain at Disney World. He's that short.)

Last month, when I asked Donovan the "hijacking" question, the coach deftly tip-toed around the subject by explaining that the NCAA is to blame by allowing college players to announce their intentions to enter the NBA Draft immediately after April's Final Four. As Donovan put it, NBA teams wait until June to do most of their scouting and individual workouts. This slow process coincides with college basketball's late-signing period and adds further confusion to something that is already absurdly flawed.

All that might be true, but the fact remains: Calathes' flirtation with the NBA is handcuffing UF during the late-signing period. In not hiring an agent, Calathes is essentially saving his starting spot at Florida at the expense of the team's development. Hiring an agent would compromise Calathes' status as an amateur athlete in the eyes of the NCAA. Not hiring an agent allows Calathes to return to school for one more year if he isn't drafted or isn't drafted high enough for his liking (the first round). You can't really blame Calathes for this. He's just taking advantage of a system that needs a major overhaul.

MEANDERING RANT IN 3 ... 2 ... 1 ...

OK, we're about to go waaaaay off topic here. (It's the offseason, of course. I got time.)

The NCAA needs to grow a backbone and win back some of the power it has relinquished to the NBA. Players should have two options -- either go pro out of high school or go to college for three years. It's that simple. The original intent of collegiate athletics -- you know, the part about scholastic achievement, self awareness, personal growth, apple pie and all that big-picture stuff  -- becomes farcical when players like Calathes have the option every year to enter the NBA Draft and then return to school.

I realize this is just a small part of a bigger problem (money has corrupted the NCAA and its member institutions) but it's a problem nonetheless. Requiring basketball players to stay in school for three years would be a small step in fixing the bigger crisis, but every little bit helps.

THE BIGGER CRISIS...

Here's the de facto mission statement of the NCAA, according to its website: "The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) is a voluntary organization through which the nation's colleges and universities govern their athletics programs. It is comprised of institutions, conferences, organizations and individuals committed to the best interests, education and athletics participation of student-athletes."

Now, when it comes to football and basketball, we all know that's a joke, right? Can we all agree on that, if nothing else?

Here's the reality of the NCAA's mission statement when it comes to football and basketball: The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) is a voluntary organization through which the nation's colleges and universities can manipulate their athletics programs and admission standards to make money. It is comprised of institutions, conferences, organizations and individuals committed to fooling themselves by creating smokescreens like the NCAA Clearinghouse when everyone knows the best interests, education and athletics participation of student-athletes takes a backseat to the almighty dollar.

That's probably a little bit over the top -- too cynical -- but it's a better assessment of the current situation than the nonsense the NCAA is spoon-feeding itself.

On a micro level, the current system hurts the game of collegiate basketball. College coaches can't fill out their rosters and team cohesion suffers. Most people agree that college basketball has regressed in recent years thanks to the trickle-down effect of the NBA. But that's not the real problem, is it?

THE REAL PROBLEM ...

On a macro level, the idea of one-and-done players (or two-and-done players) has made a mockery of the educational system (Among other things, of course. Like, for example, coaches' salaries, stretch limousines for recruiting in Alabama, Urban Meyer's new Twitter account, World Wide Wes and absurd TV contracts). The current system flies in the face of any university's mission statement, stunts the development of student-athletes and, to some extent, is detrimental to society as a whole. (False dreams, skewed perspectives on life and what's really important, all that jazz.)

Some people still care about the unimportant stuff ... like, for example, that the athletically gifted youth of this country can actually still learn something in college other than: Oh, no. I learned I might have to play out of position next year, so I'm going to transfer schools to help me get into the league.  

Now, it's not all bad, of course. Most of what is done by the NCAA and the athletic arms of its member institutions is good. But it could be so much better. That's the point I'm trying to make here.

Take for example Florida. UF's athletics department (the UAA) gives plenty of its surpluses to the university. This year, the UAA gave $6 million dollars to the university. That's great -- amazing, really -- and I'm sure that money will be put to good use, but why can't the UAA give, say, $1 million each to the boards of education in Orange, Miami-Dade, Duval, Broward, Palm Beach and Hillsborough counties?

Earmark the donations for educational use only. Foster growth in the classroom at the grassroots level. Universities can't pay its players for obvious reasons but those same universities that are making millions thanks to this state's wonderful athletes can most certainly give back some of the wealth. Recycle the money on the back end. Make this whole thing circular.

Instead of spending millions on recruiting 40 times and vertical leaps, spend millions on after-school learning centers in our state's inner cities. Coaches like to say that players are born with speed. Well, the 40 times aren't going to change but neither is anything else unless someone starts thinking outside of the box.

Is this idea too preposterous? Sure, anyone who reads this can make a lengthy list of its flawed logic. But perhaps more preposterous is the Southeastern Conference getting rich on the backs of amateur athletes who are admitted to universities despite sub-standard academic qualifications. The SEC recently signed deals with ESPN and CBS guaranteeing each member institution $20 million a year over the life of two 15-year deals. Giving some of that wealth back to the communities that helped make the SEC rich isn't such a bad idea. It actually might do more good in the long run besides just making the SEC even more money.

As it stands now, college basketball and football at many universities only serve as moneymakers and farm systems for professional athletics. Some players succeed in the farm systems and make it to the pros. Some players graduate. Many more people -- some who never even make it to college -- are marginalized and, in the end, handicapped intellectually from a childhood molded by a false reality that is, to some degree, incubated by the greed of universities. It doesn't have to be that way.

-jo-

Comments

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Once again we see Goody swinging BIG lumber. Nice.

Seriously you are about as dumb as they come. Exploiting the athletes? Why don't you do some research on what Urban has done with our team GPA and graduation rates?
UF has been a model program both on and off the field and you put this dribble out there. You realize the it would be the NBA that would enforce the 3 year rule not the NCAA, right? Why don't you realize that you are lucky to be covering the best athletic program in the south and use it to your advantaqe instead of constantly trying to be a fly in the ointment?

"Why doesn't UF give $1 million each to the boards of education in Orange, Miami-Dade, Duval, Broward, Palm Beach and Hillsborough counties? "

You my friend are crazy....again. Most schools are losing money rather than making it on with athletics. Trying too hard....again.

Here's a good example of how academics are sacrificed, especially in basketball. You'll notice a lot of athletes have their majors listed as "Social and Behavioral Sciences."
That's not actually a major, it's just a general education track that kids can go into for two years before they have to declare a major.
So, if a basketball player leaves after one or two years, he may never even have to pick a major and can just take (mostly) cupcake gen-ed courses.
I believe Marreese Speights was one of those and that he never had a major while at UF.

So, what you guys are trying to say is that the meat grinder is perfect, doesn't need changing and anyone who discusses change should be attacked and called names. Gotcha. That's brilliant. We will now return to our regularly scheduled programming of glorification and consider ourselves lucky. Please...

-jo-

Jo
You are about 50/50 in this article with good points mixed with...other points.

Don't want to burst your bubble but UF cannot rig the system to get any player they want in. Be honest, Bledsoe AND Painter were not going to be admitted to UF. Common.

Yes I agree with you on Calathes. He has hijacked the program.

Your logic is interesting the subsidy thing. Since UF is a state run institution as is the other levels of public education, and Florida football subsidizes all the other UF sports, then why can they subsidize the entire public school system. What you leave out is the amount the boosters put in to create the product. I am also of the thought that money is not the true problem in the educational system. We spend double what the next highest country spends per capita on education, yet we rank 9th globally. HINT HINT: We are GM.

jo, you need to stop being so sensitive...people are allowed to disagree with you. That's kinda the point...

Mike-Mike, "That's not actually a major, it's just a general education track that kids can go into for two years before they have to declare a major."

A lot of non-student-athletes do not declare their majors until or switch their majors after two years. Would you really feel better about it if they were Sociology majors rather than Social and Behavioral Sciences? The first year is still pre-reqs anyway, and you can get away without taking more than the easiest of major classes that second year. That's a non-issue, IMO.

Good job on the rant ... which is when blogs are at their best

There's a saying "lift as you climb", and if every SEC school gave back to their high-school communities you'd see tremendous growth in the South.

To your first rant ... what if the NBA made a 3-year post-high school rule, as the NFL does? Then the kids who have no interest in learning could go to Europe, just like a couple are already doing. Open those floodgates up. If they think they're mature enough to play with (less-talented) men, off they go to the school of hard-knocks. If they think they'll increase their earning potential by being on ESPN/CBS for 3 years, take that risk. College basketball would be much better for it.

have any of you seen a county education budget?

The Duval County school system alone spends $1.049 BILLION. How is dividing maybe 2 million between 50 counties worth bankrupting/eliminating all women's and most men's sports at UF? What needs to be examined is the state school system in the first place. Adding at best 0.05% to the largest 4 counties is too small to worry. That is not going to "lift anyone as you climb" anymore than putting Refrigerator Perry on the state's best 5 year old athlete's back would.

Adam-I was just using that as an example of why I like the 3-and-out rule, and I agree with Joe that it should be straight to the pros or go to college for three years in basketball.
That way, kids who are in school for three years can actually work towards a degree and get some courses done for a major, rather than just piddle around until it's time to leave.
If the NBA is going to make kids go to college, it defeats the purpose when a system like that is in place. Though that "major" does serve a perfectly honest purpose as well, the NBA and NCAA should work around it by making them stay 3 years.
And the NBA is going to have to make jumping from HS okay. More and more kids are going to start leaving for Europe, and eventually, it's going to raise the level of play and the amount of money spent in leagues over there.

I think the three-year rule is a great idea. Always supported it. Just didn't think what you said previously really held any water.

Maybe the NBA should have a supplemental HS draft like the NFL supplemental draft well BEFORE the real draft. If you don't get drafted you have to go to college for 3 years minimum to be elgible. If an NBA team uses the pick then they lose the pick in the upcoming draft- so speculation would be at a minimum. Then the undrafted HS kids would have plenty of time to commit to a college giving colleges a chance.

Ndongo,

I need your address for that hat. I lost your address and deleted the email awhile back.

Adam,

I was hoping people disagreed with me just for the sake of debate but personal insults lead the comments in the wrong direction.

KO Classic,

Nice post. Exactly, something needs to change and it needs to be drastic. We don't need a change in policy, we need a change in philosophy. Your comment about booster money, I think, is a perfect example of why the US lags behind and is getting lapped intellectually by the rest of the world. Booster money would be a problem, why? Because some people probably wouldn't want their donations to a football/basketball team being donated to foster education at a grassroots level. That's a major problem.

As for rigging the system, I think that's the wrong way to look at it. Every school in the SEC (the country for that matter) lowers their admission standards to get athletes in school, so UF isn't getting away with much more or much less than other schools in the SEC (save Vandy, of course).

-jo-

jo, I agree, no need for personal insults. But just brush 'em off.

Let Nick go and get blasted in the NBA and make a living in the Euro League...he does not seem to be well liked by his teammates...how many words of support have you heard from the locker room for the dude. Again, I for one believe Billy D needs to shoulder blame for the complete collapse of this program…those who think next year is going to be much better are delusional

34, he deserves some blame...but, again, he was left with basically zero team after 2007. He had to start rebuilding from scratch and his main piece, Speights, jumped ship to the NBA. With Speights this year, we not only make the tournament but probably win a round or two.

Jo,
I know you write for the Herald, but get over it. All the constant criticism is ridiculous. Tell me another program in the South that is run better? If UF has so many problems, then who is the model? Who sets the standard?
Manny is on the Canes blog begging John wall to go to UM, while you are constantly slinging arrows at UF.

Big D,

What kind of mental filter are you using to read this blog? I'm not criticizing UF. I'm simply pointing out some flaws embedded in college athletics that need to be addressed more vigorously by the NCAA. And when I say the NCAA, I don't mean the headquarters in Indianapolis. I mean the individual institutions that make up the NCAA. For UF's part, the Gators are the current gold standard of a system that needs some changing. UF is doing an excellent job both on the field and in the classroom given the circumstances of the current situation. But the situation should be altered to foster more intellectual growth of the student-athletes of revenue-producing sports. How can this happen? That's what I want you to answer. It cannot be changed by simply tweaking a dogmatic process that begins at the high-school level. Improving graduation rates so a football coach can spout off statistics when he's recruiting players is not the answer. Drastic steps and innovative ideas need to be developed. Athletic departments of schools in the SEC have the means and the power to help at the grassroots level. I welcome your thoughts.

-jo-

Now here's a question for you Jo...can intelligence be taught or can it only be developed under finite limits like athleticism?

If you raise the standards so all athletes are true students, you obviously lower the quality of the revenue generating sport (imagine if a school like UF had a football team with a 1400 average SAT!) and you also lower the opportunity (or incubation period to hone the athletic skills) for someone who would not normally qualify. You may be hurting more people than the current system. Obviously there is no easy answer such as "raise the standards" or "create a true minor league".

Another issue, all universities use candidate profiling as a form of admittance in the name of diversity. Isn't this just another form of it?

KO,

To your first point ... If you're suggesting that athletes are born with a limited capacity for thought, then this probably isn't the best place to express those opinions. Intelligence can be both taught and developed.

Second point ... We both agree the answer isn't to simply raise the current standards. The current system may have its flaws, but one of the positives (in my opinion) is that people are getting a chance to attend UF who otherwise would not. It's a small number, though, and to suggest this is the only way the underprivileged can attend a school like UF is insulting. A football team with an average SAT score of 1400 isn't realistic because 1400 is not the average SAT score. There is no reason, however, why the football team's average SAT score cannot mirror the average standardized-test score of the general-student population.

Your third point ... Candidate profiling is the name of the game for football coaches. It's called recruiting. Again, to focus on the current institutional conventions such as profiling and diversity is to get stuck in the same tired process. It's time to do better than that.

-jo-

Intelligence and knowledge are two different traits. One's capacity IS finite. The development or use(underuse) is the issue. Some people are more intelligent than others as are faster, stronger, taller, etc. You could have your kid personally coached by Urban Meyer from age 5 to 18. Does that mean he'd be a better football player than if he wasn't coached by Meyer...probably. Does that mean he could even play college football... not really. What if somebody coached 100 college student brains with the same intensity that Urban Meyer coached football players? Would it have an equal effect on everyone to tackle say...Advanced Calculus or Quantum Physics?

The average SAT score of an admitted UF freshman is at least over 1300. At FSU it was 1210 in 2007. You would take over 95% of the current NCAA football and basketball players out of the system if held to those standards. By general student population are you referring to the community college transfers? Do know how you could come up with the SAT data there.

Candidate profiling is the name of the game in the university system in general. My only point was if it exsists for the general student population, it is linear logic that it should exsist in some form with football players too. To debate profiling I am not trying to do.

Calathes hijacking the program?
Yeah, that is what is keeping point guards away, make no sense, how many freshman start at point guard in the NCAA?

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