Breaking News Bar
updated: 8/20/2014 9:04 AM

Imrem: College athletics keeps getting slimier

hello
Success - Article sent! close
  • Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly talks to the media during media day for the NCAA college football team Tuesday Aug. 19, 2014,  in South Bend, Ind.

      Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly talks to the media during media day for the NCAA college football team Tuesday Aug. 19, 2014, in South Bend, Ind.
    Associated Press

  • Notre Dame players huddle up at the beginning of practice during media day for the NCAA college football team Tuesday Aug. 19, 2014, in South Bend, Ind.

      Notre Dame players huddle up at the beginning of practice during media day for the NCAA college football team Tuesday Aug. 19, 2014, in South Bend, Ind.
    Associated Press

 
 

The latest scandal at Notre Dame was easy to -- no, not ignore -- to reserve comment on.

But then what happened Tuesday was just so exasperating.

Just as Notre Dame continued to be submerged in the alleged involvement of four football players in academic cheating ...

Fighting Irish administrators showcased the football team's new uniforms designed by Under Armour.

Couldn't the school delay the unveiling until the rustling of academic impropriety quieted down? Couldn't the apparel company?

Well, no, apparently neither side could resist.

So college athletics just keep getting bigger.

And they just keep getting slimier, too.

Under Armour pays a lot of money to sponsor Notre Dame athletics, just as a lot of other apparel companies pay a lot of money to sponsor a lot of other college teams.

To justify the compensation, Notre Dame must feel compelled to be a super power in football and to some extent in basketball.

The better a team is, the more people watch it play and the more bang the sponsor gets for a buck.

High-caliber athletes are required to win football games against the likes of Oregon and Florida State.

So while Notre Dame might be particular whom it admits to play sports, some so-called student-athletes might not be as academically qualified to matriculate in South Bend as their high-school transcripts indicate.

Some athletes are more comfortable competing against Alabama in football and Kentucky in basketball than against classmates in the classroom.

The next thing you know, athletes are cheating to stay on the field.

So one year Notre Dame's starting quarterback is dismissed from the team for academic transgressions and the next year four more players are under investigation.

Is anybody connecting the dots that college athletics are too important right now?

Despite reforms being proposed, the model essentially will remain the same. Nothing much will change, at least not for the better.

Some of our greatest universities still will operate under the premise that to be all they can be academically they need to be all they can be athletically.

It's the old sick comment coming out of the University of Oklahoma in the early 1950s: "We want to build a university our football team can be proud of."

Or the new sick comment that a member of Baylor's board of regents reportedly told an incoming school president: The key to building a great school is to "win football games."

To build a great school a great football team must be built and to build a great football team a great training facility must be built and to build a great training facility a bigger stadium with more revenue streams must be built ...

The notion is that's the only way to attract more students, more alumni donations, more media attention, more and more and more of everything.

Somehow -- nobody is quite sure how -- the University of Chicago dropped big-time football and managed to survive despite producing fewer NFL players than Nobel Prize winners.

The only options anyone seems to have concocted are to drop big-time football or to engage in a race toward compromised academics that has no finish line on the horizon.

Notre Dame either was above that fray for a long time or marketed itself so well that nobody noticed what was going on there.

Now no institution of higher learning, great or otherwise, is immune to scandal. A skeptic might surmise that only the fortunate avoid being caught.

In other words, "But for the grace of God goes our school's reputation, too."

But even if a school is tainted, an apparel deal will provide the funds for a public-relations firm to rebuild the school's image.

mimrem@dailyherald.com

Comments ()
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.