Terry Holland, director of athletics at East Carolina University, is a longtime friend of the Money Players Blog. He responded to my earlier post, "The wins have left the building."
From Terry Holland, director of athletics, East Carolina University
You are on target. In this particular case, Memphis is only guilty of doing what everyone else does - accept student-athletes who have been cleared by the NCAA's own "Clearinghouse". Memphis just happens to be doing so for more talented players than most schools.
The "Clearinghouse" was established with the very best of intentions but it has been obvious for some time that it is not working in the very situations it was designed to address - the less than 10% of recruits annually who have borderline grades and/or test scores.
So we now have this cumbersome and expensive process that is unnecessary for 90% of the student-athletes recruited by NCAA institutions and ineffective for the other 10%.
The 2009-2010 school year will be my 50th year on the "front lines" of intercollegiate athletics as a scholarship basketball player at Davidson (4 years); as a coach of nationally ranked teams at Davidson (10 years) and the University of Virginia (16 years); and in athletic administration at Davidson (5 years), the University of Virginia (9 years) and East Carolina University (6 years).
Many of the 10% on the borderline have received a lot advice and help from many entities (high school or prep school coaches and teachers, AAU coaches, SAT prep courses, etc.) in order to reach the Clearinghouse minimums. It then becomes impossible for individual institutions to ascertain the level of help (possibly including having someone else take their tests) the student-athlete may have received to enhance the student's chances of becoming certified by the Clearinghouse.
The membership has handed the NCAA an impossible task in today's world - to certify students who may be presenting enhanced information as well as to certify the burgeoning private high schools created strictly for basketball players.
One such high school is named after a large booster of a particular institution who recruits young men from all over the world to play for his "high school." There are no classrooms or teachers at this high school but that does not matter. The players simply attend another private high school in the city while playing games all over the country.
If the NCAA and the Clearing House can not stop this kind of blatant abuse, how can they pretend to have the ability to certify students and/or high schools who are not so obvious?
There is truly only one standard that counts - Will the student-athlete do the class work necessary to be successful at the particular institution where the student-athlete is enrolled? And the only way to measure this standard is by requiring the student-athlete to present a full year of grades before being allowed to represent the institution in competition.
This would return the determination of eligibility at each institution to the faculty members of that institution who teach the students and grade their coursework.
Adopting a "year of academic residency" requirement before being allowed to represent the institution in competition is the most effective method to certify students for competition. And, an added blessing would be that those students who do not want to be in college would attermpt to become professionals after high school. The NCAA should provide a safety net that would allow these individuals to reclaim their NCAA eligibility if they return to college within two years of trying the professional ranks.
Will we continue to sit on our collective hands for another decade before we act to curb blatant abuse or will we simply continue to try to punish a few institutions who are only doing what everyone else is doing - accepting the NCAA's own certification process?
There are always plenty of excuses to do nothing. Devra Lee Davis in her book, When Smoke Ran Like Water, references a Jewish Midrash (story-telling) traditional parable:
A group of workers is asked to something quite difficult and complicated. They protest, "the day is short"; "the work is too hard"; "the project is too big"; "we do not have the right tools"; "and anyway we will never finish this job!" Their teacher replies "it is not for you to finish the task. But.....you must begin."
We (the NCAA) must stop making excuses and begin the task.