Story By Ken Krayeske • 10:30 AM EST
Oklahoma senior journalism major and hoops star Courtney Paris has vowed to repay her scholarship should she not win a national title. Photo by Sue Ogrocki of the AP, but I de-branded the photo - removing the omnipresent semicircle of one particular sports manufacturer.
Okay, so I was wrong. My prediction that number one seed UConn would lose to number four seed Washington in the third round of the NCAA tourney fell flat when Purdue beat Washington.
Oh well. I'll suffer that indignity, considering that I may have been right to bring up the question of Coach Calhoun's salary, in light of the number of stories that have recently arisen discussing paying players and coaches' salaries. Not only that, Courtney Paris, a star player from Oklahoma, has vowed to repay her scholarship should she not win a national title.
This is madness. It was only two weeks ago that the 40-Year Plan suggested that football running back Donald Brown of UConn should give some of his professional signing bonus to UConn, as it lost money in the International Bowl earlier this year. The press is catching on.
"The Real March Madness" from the Wall Stret Journal, March 20, by Richard Vedder and Matthew Denhart (with a h/t to Joel for pointing it out to me):
The economy may be tanking and our pocketbooks are slimmer, but we can rejoice in one thing: March Madness is here and we can watch our favorite teams participate in the annual NCAA college men's basketball tournament. Behind all the hoopla, however, is the reality that the players who entertain us receive compensation that amounts to only a very small percentage of what they would have earned if they sold their services in a competitive market.
Take Kevin Durant, for instance. After a stunning freshman season with the Texas Longhorns in 2008, Mr. Durant elected to forgo his final three years of college and entered the NBA draft. Selected by the Seattle Supersonics (now the Oklahoma City Thunder), he agreed to a contract paying $3.5 million in the first year. By contrast, his yearly compensation (in the form of room, board, books and tuition fees at Texas) amounted to about $33,120, less than 1% of what was offered by the Supersonics.
Vedder and Denhart suggest what organizers for youth rights have known for a long time, that it is nearly impossible to organize oppressed young people because they eventually grow out of their oppression.
"March Money Madness", from the New York Times Room for Debate Blog, March 18, 2009, by the Editors:
For millions of Americans, nothing makes for better television than the N.C.A.A. college basketball tournament, which starts this week. The perennial powers, the cinderella teams and those irresistible brackets make for a sweet combination. The network advertisers know it, too. CBS paid the N.C.A.A. $6 billion for an 11-year contract to carry the men’s tournament through 2013.
Of course, this entire commercial bonanza is made possible by the student athletes, who are barred from receiving salaries by N.C.A.A. rules. Should they be paid — just as college students on work-study or otherwise hold campus jobs are paid? If not, are there ways to ensure that more of the revenues benefit the students?
The Times asked six people to write about the concept of paying players. Of course, none were black, or players. Among the opinions were professor Allen Sack and sports economist Andrew Zimbalist. Ellen Staurowsky, a professor of Sports Management from Ithaca College in Central New York pegged it: "Despite N.C.A.A. rhetoric, the Division I men's basketball tournament is no place for amateurs — and business executives know it."
But Prof. William C. Dowling from Rutgers provided the best critique:
The various proposals for “reforming” college sports — by paying a stipend to the athletes who provide television profits, say, or diverting some of the money to academic purposes — show just how oblivious we’ve become to the damage commercialized Division IA athletics has done to American universities.
Over at Slate, Josh Levin calls Jim Calhoun on his messianic complex in a piece called "Teams We Hate" (and another h/t to Joel for this one, too).
After securing his 800th career victory last month, Connecticut's Jim Calhoun explained his philosophy of coaching. "Any day that I sat down on a kid and didn't really push them, and then loved them as much as I possibly could and backed them, then I'm not really doing my job," he said. "That's the only way they're going to give you the type of performance they gave me tonight." A decent man credits others on the occasion of personal success. Jim Calhoun discusses his players like a jockey talks about his mounts.
Levin's kicker to end the piece: Calhoun "feels compelled to turn his life story into a fantasy in which Connecticut, if not America, is saved by a coaching messiah."
We don't need a messiah, we need people with guts, like Oklahoma Lady Sooner Courtney Paris, an All-America center and journalism major who promised that she would repay her scholarship should she not win a national title. The Times' Jere Longman has more from March 23, "Putting a Price on Title Run Stirs Debate."
The vow has raised questions about personal responsibility in sports, the emphasis placed on winning and an athlete’s obligations in fulfilling a scholarship contract...
While Paris has completed her course work toward a degree in journalism and entered the N.C.A.A. tournament attempting to become the first player, male or female, to collect 2,500 career points and 2,000 rebounds, she said her ambitions would be fulfilled only by winning a championship.
David L. Boren, the president of Oklahoma, said Paris was apparently so serious about her vow that she checked beforehand with university officials to make sure that repaying her scholarship would not be a violation of N.C.A.A. rules. Since then, Paris has repeated her promise to follow through, presumably using money she will make playing professionally in the United States and perhaps overseas, and from endorsements.
“This program and university have given me so much support,” said Paris, who is from Piedmont, Calif. “I feel like I want to give them something back that’s really special. If I can’t do that with a national championship, I want to give back my scholarship because I don’t feel like I’ve earned it.”
The university has said it would not hold her to her promise. News reports have placed the cost of an Oklahoma scholarship at $64,000, but according to the university’s Web site, out-of-state tuition would put the value at more than $100,000.
It's amazing to see how the discussion has taken off. And every time I think I have a new favorite part, like the fact that the Times editorial board is pursuing these questions, I find a young leader, like Courtney Paris and learn that she is a journalism major. Courtney, if you're out there, I love you.