Let’s get one idea off the table right away: This little chat is not meant specifically as a slap at our friends up the Kaw at the University of Kansas.
Recent events have put KU in the crosshairs, and deservedly so, but we shouldn’t kid ourselves.
The silliness and outright absurdity that seems to have completely infected intercollegiate sports is all over the map. Yes, even here, although Kansas State comes across as saner than most.
Anyone remember his major?
OK, we’re agreed. No one is squeaky clean. So what do you say we move along to the complete craziness, and ask if anyone cares to stop the nonsense sometime before university libraries are named after point guards?
The matter at hand is KU’s decision to build a $17.5 million palace to house its staggeringly gifted basketball players.
Coach Bill Self, arguing passionately that this resort for exceptionally tall guests was desperately required, never suggested that college athletes NEEDED accommodations equivalent to penthouse suites in Monte Carlo.
No, what Bill sold to the Kansas Board of Regents was that KU itself actually needed this Taj Mahal — not the individual athletes. It was about recruiting, he said, because all those other elite programs (Kentucky, North Carolina, Louisville, yada, yada…) were building luxurious spas to attract the very top, top players.
In the midst of a passionate plea to fund this 5-star resort, Self uttered the phrase: “We have to take care of our student-athletes.”
And how many “student-athletes” might we find in the KU starting lineup? Or playing key roles for any other Final Four aspirants?
Is Kansas truly selling freshmen stars Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid and Wayne Selden as “students”?
Wiggins was quoted last week saying, quite emotionally, that he only had eight more games to play at Allen Fieldhouse, and he wanted to enjoy them.
KU and other tip-top programs aren’t out recruiting students. They’re after studs good enough to play right now in the National Basketball Association—but are forced to spend a season in exile on a college campus before becoming millionaires.
To be honest, Self’s only sin was acting like he believed the “student-athlete” charade. He doesn’t — and he isn’t to blame for the most absurd rule in college athletics.
For entirely selfish reasons, the NBA decided it would benefit from forbidding high school grads jumping straight into pro ball. Let them develop for a year at someone else’s expense.
Remember, going directly to the NBA from high school was perfectly fine for decades — just ask Kobe Bryant or LeBron James.
Then the league conspired with university administrators to make potential draftees spend ONE year in college.
The whole notion is nuts. Pure and simple.
Not just at KU, but everywhere. A “one-and-done” star at K-State would be just as silly.
And now we see the next step in the madness: an arms race among the biggest programs to recruit with luxury living.
Can’t any of these prestigious universities just say no and maintain a shred of dignity until the rule dies of sheer foolishness?
Steve Cameron is executive editor of The Mercury.