The exploitation of college athletes keeps him away from the NCAA Tournament
Image via Chad Cooper/Flickr Creative Commons
March Madness is a time for a bit of cognitive dissonance for me.
<p>Even though I played in it for three years, I try to avoid watching the NCAA tournament. At its highest levels, college basketball is an abusive and exploitative industry built on the backs of often-disadvantaged young people.</p><p>The argument that those young people are getting their educations paid for has never held much weight with me. When I was in college, our basketball team's graduation rate hovered around 10 percent and many of those who <em>did</em> graduate took with them nearly worthless degrees in subjects picked for them.</p><p>There is also the problem of proportionality. A college degree might have been reasonable compensation for the average NCAA tournament participant forty years ago. But when the NCAA pockets roughly a billion (with a B) dollars in exchange for three weeks of basketball, this is no longer the case.</p><p>So if not money, what of the fame?</p><p>I am told often that I should more thoroughly appreciate that I was once the subject of so many fans' adulation. While it is true that being on the court in front of 14,000 people <em>was </em>intoxicating in its way, it is also true that my teammates and I endured remarkable amounts of physical and psychological trauma in order to reap this reward. (Look no further than the recent news that my second head coach, Larry Eustachy, has <a href="http://www.cbssports.com/college-basketball/news/investigation-concludes-larry-eustachy-created-a-culture-of-fear-at-colorado-state/">created a "culture of fear"</a> at his current home, Colorado State University.)</p><p>This is not to say that all college sports are worthless. In fact, I speak often of the many traits my own college sports experience helped cultivate in me<span style='margin: 0px; line-height: 107%; font-family: "Calibri",sans-serif; font-size: 11pt;'><font color="#000000">—</font></span>things like confidence, perseverance, and resilience.</p><p>However, I believe those traits could have been cultivated without being made to feel worthless by coaches, without causing lasting damage to my body, and with a fair share of the revenue my teammates and I were generating.</p><p><em>Paul Shirley played for the Iowa State Cyclones and spent eight seasons in pro basketball. He’s now a writer living in Los Angeles. This post originally appeared on his <a href="https://www.facebook.com/paul.shirley/posts/10155104571234486?pnref=story">Facebook</a>.</em></p>
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