Story and Photo By Ken Krayeske • 1:25 AM EST
Jesse Jackson speaks to a few hundred people at the International Bowl luncheon on Friday, January 2 in Toronto.
Jesse Jackson says that we should include graduation rates in collegiate football rankings in order to refocus the need for academic success in sport.
During a press conference at the International Bowl festivities on Friday, January 2 in Toronto, I asked him if he thought that we should pay college basketball and football players.
He wasn't ready to go the pay route, but acknowledged considerable issues with the system. I'll post the video from the interview soon. I really wanted to ask him how Fred Hampton would have viewed college sports today.
Maybe Jesse Jackson needs to read the story about Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Derrick Brooks, in the December 1, 2008 edition of Sports Illustrated. The cover of this edition of SI highlighted a story about Oklahoma football whupping Texas Tech.
While seeing college football grace the cover of a major magazine, seems indicative of its importance in the professional sports hierarchy, the grandest evidence of the NFL using the NCAA as a free minor league in this edition comes from a pro: Brooks himself.
Long-time football writer Peter King scribed a story about all of Brooks' thoughts and preparation that went into one tackle in a game, called "What the 'Backer Sees." This gem of a piece explains how Brooks, a veteran defenseman, views the NCAA:
For years, Brooks has mentally catalogued the moves and tendencies of college players he might have to tackle one day. On that October afternoon in 2004, (running back Adrian) Peterson, then a 19-year-old Oklahoma freshman, burned Texas for 225 yards. On his third carry of the game, he broke off a 44-yard misdirection play.
He runs from color.
It may be surprising that a 10-time Pro Bowl linebacker would study players who are still three or four years from making it to the NFL. But even now, the day before he faced the Vikings, the 35-year-old Brooks settled into his den again to watch Florida quarterback Tim Tebow and running back Percy Harvin in the Gators' rout of South Carolina.
"Some people relax or get recharged by going to the Europe or going to the beach," Brooks said. "For me, it's studying young kids. The one edge I feel no one will ever have over me is the mental edge of knowing players."
If that isn't enough, how about this story in the Saturday, January 3, 2009 New York Times: "Barely Teenagers, Already Groomed for Stardom." The piece, filed under "NCAA" on the Times' website, discusses a new developmental all star game for talented middle school kids who seem bound for professional glory.
While at least one NCAA coach thinks it is pressuring kids too early, at least the organizers of this game are up front about their aims of creating professional players.
Organizers are billing the bowl as an event similar to the Little League World Series, but coaches and others say it opens a path toward professionalism already traveled by other sports, like basketball, golf and tennis. It is another example of America’s seemingly endless search for the next great star.
And for those who see organized, violent sports like football as creating a culture of tribal warfare that grooms kids for military life, look no further than this connection:
"The Football University Youth All-American Bowl is the brainchild of SportsLink Inc., a sports-marketing company based in Wharton, N.J., that operates the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, an annual all-star game for the nation’s top high school seniors.
I know I am a lonely voice out here talking about college sports as pro, when even Jesse Jackson doesn't agree with me. But to me, the evidence overwhelmingly shows that our society treats NCAA football as professional, but the students going through the NFL's developmental mill don't receive any of the millions of dollars it generates.