Joe Nocera wrote a terrific piece in today's Sunday New York Times Magazine on college athletes:
They should be paid, he says, and thereby end "the hypocrisy that permeates big-money college sports."
He is totally right and the only thing missing from the piece, at least to me, was a paragraph that traced the current mess right back to the beginnings of college football about a century ago. For some of that backstory, read my biography of Jim Thorpe, NATIVE AMERICAN SON: THE LIFE AND SPORTING LEGEND OF JIM THORPE (Knopf, 2010).
Thorpe stepped onto the gridiron just as the rules of football finally settled into the form we would recognize as the modern game. His coach, Glenn S. "Pop" Warner, was a master manipulator of those rules. He also set up a football machine at Thorpe's Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Carlisle, Pennsylvania that is a precursor of today's collegiate football enterprise.
Not that he was the only one. The coaches at Yale, Harvard and other top-level football schools turned a blind eye to alumni payments "under the table," not to mention to other perks that made the financial situation of top collegiate athletes very comfortable indeed.
Fascinating stuff. Let's see if Nocera's tough thinking produces concrete results in the NCAA...