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I was amused by the hypocrisy of the most recent revelations regarding the Ed Martin basketball scandal and the University's response. President Mary Sue Coleman's remarks include, "There is no excuse for what happened. It was wrong, plain and simple." Was it really so wrong and so simple? Where is the damage here that justifies a federal investigation? What this scandal reveals is the lack of moral foundation for NCAA rules that are in large part arbitrary and discriminatory.

For starters, on what basis does the NCAA or the University of Michigan reserve the right to determine how an adult borrows money? Are all scholarship students barred from getting loans? Can they receive loans from more legitimate lending institutions for cars, housing or other expenses? On what legal basis does the NCAA bar adults from entering into contractual agreements based on future earnings?

If these are the terms of scholarship athletes, the high-profile athlete would be better off paying full tuition. Many of our students receive grants and loans to pay for college and other expenses. Under the guise of protecting the student athletes' best interest, the NCAA rules are nothing more than gentlemen's agreements among universities that at the very least could be considered violations of anti-trust law. That esteemed institutions of higher learning would stoop to such collusion already has been demonstrated by the recent salary cap episode involving vulnerable assistant coaches.

If it is so wrong for student athletes to accept money, either as gifts or loans, how can we justify the institution profiting from athletic endeavors? We teach by example and our behavior as an institution speaks for itself. When students lacking academic credentials are admitted solely because of athletic prowess in the big-money sports of football and basketball and asked to spend 30­40 hours a week on training and travel, why are we surprised when they do not graduate?

Lately, we have seen great furor over affirmative action admissions. At least we can morally justify lowering admission standards slightly, if indeed that is what occurs, to create a diverse student body and to rectify past discrimination. These outcomes are in the public
good. What is the moral justification for admitting athletes who are unqualified academically? Such students would be better off at less rigorous institutions and with more time to study. I can only guess that admission to the high-profile athletic programs is not about the students' best interests. Rather, it is about winning. Winning generates profits, it placates alumni who donate, and it sells Michigan sweatshirts and hats. Head coaches in basketball and football, among the highest paid employees, are hired and fired based on their winning percentages, not graduation rates.

I do not wish to imply that the coaches and athletic administrators have no integrity, rather that the system under which they operate is fundamentally flawed. If "integrity is Michigan's top priority," perhaps it is time to stop the hypocrisy and allow students to profit from their talents. Alternatively, we could return to true amateur status; let us field teams of students who have been accepted based on academic credentials and let the University divest itself from the profits generated by its sports teams. The current system perpetuates the "hoop dreams" of vulnerable student athletes, it profits from their talents, yet it limits their educational and career opportunities and denies them legal adult status all under the moral pretense of protecting their best interests.

Greg Dressler
Associate professor, Department of Pathology


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