The EPIX documentary “Schooled: The Price of College Sports” has a couple eye-opening and shocking revelations, even to someone like me who has college basketball and college football “scandal fatigue.” After Jerry Sandusky and Joe Paterno, all other scandals pale in comparison to Penn State.
The primary revelation in “Schooled” revolves around the North Carolina Tar Heels academic services.
Mary Willingham, learning specialist at UNC-Chapel Hill, (Photo Credit: EPIX) talks about the “paper classes” that North Carolina Tar Heels on the football team take. These courses are simply: write one paper and turn it in.
You don’t have to go to class. Just turn in the paper and you pass.
I have a friend who’s a Literature Professor for a Big East school. He once told me off-the-record of offering the same exact deal to a guy who went on to play point guard in the NBA for over a decade.
That future NBA baller told my Prof friend he was illiterate, and “your class is an ocean of words. You’re throwing me directly into the ocean and I can’t even swim.” Rather clever, especially for a guy that couldn’t read or write.
Related: Tar Heels announce future home and home series with the Illini
Back to the North Carolina Tar Heels, Willingham said she had to tutor football players that required working on basic letters and sounds. Basic skills we all pick up in kindergarten. Another academic tutor in the film talked about a football player that “wanted to go into Engineering because he liked choo-choo trains.”
Other worthwhile snippets from “Schooled” beyond the North Carolina Tar Heels academic fraud:
-Walter Byers, first executive director of the NCAA, serving from 1951 to 1988, invented the term “student-athlete” simply to keep Universities protected from paying workman’s compensation benefits, or wrongful death benefits. That’s all the phrase “student-athlete” means. It’s just a legal definition protecting schools from being potentially sued by players.
-In one of his final public appearances, Byers had a sort of Dr. Frankenstein remorse for what he created, referring to the system he had so much influence in building as having a “neo-plantation mentality.”
-The notion of amateurism was started by the nobles in England; simply to keep all other classes out of sports. The aristocracy wanted to keep athletics for themselves and shut out the working man and lower classes. What group of people have the time and energy for an activity that doesn’t pay? Only the rich leisure class. (actually sounds a lot like the media industry by the way)
This notion of amateurism was then brought over to the elite institutions of the Ivy League, which founded college athletics, and the other schools picked it up from there. “Schooled” also tells us about the notion of the ancient Greek Olympics being romanticized amateurs is total b.s. Greek Olympians were proud and well compensated mercenaries.
Paul M. Banks is the owner of The Sports Bank.net, an affiliate of Fox Sports. An analyst for 95.7 The Fan and 1620 The Zone, he also writes for Chicago Now. Follow him on Twitter (@paulmbanks) and FacebookFollow paulmbanks