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franklin county times

College athletes need chance to defend recruiting

By By Stan Torgerson / sports writer
June 14, 2004
It seems to me we've beeen hearing from everyone associated with the ills of recruiting college athletes other than the athletes themselves.
The university presidents have spoken out. They say they are going to toughen the recruiting rules and create a punishment if colleges continue to pursue kids who are not academically prepared for college.
They threaten to take away scholarships from those schools with low graduation rates. By golly, they say, these kids are supposed to be student-atheletes, not just athletes, and we're going to make them that way come hell or high water.
The media has had a field day. Should Colorado fire their coach because of the way football players have allegedly been recruited at that school? No self respecting journalist has had any problem finding officials or others with an opinion. Try to find someone without one.
The problem is the assumption that what happened at Colorado, or in the SEC with the number of schools we have on probation, is universal. Surely every school recruits that way and every conference is filled with cheaters. But do they and is it?
Recently the NCAA News, the organization's official newspaper, published a letter from Melvin Bratton, a former student athlete at the University of Miami (Florida). I found it interesting enough to bring it to you.
And there's the problem. Recruiting is not done on a level playing field. Knoxville gives Tennessee an advantage with it's clubs, the big city party scene, the shows that come to their civic auditorium and the beauty of the nearby Great Smoky Mountains. The same is true, at least in part with Baton Rouge, Columbia, Tuscaloosa, Lexington and Nashville.
But what do you have to counter if your school is in Starkville, Oxford, Fayettville or the other small towns in which some SEC schools are located? A Pizza Hut or McDonald's?
Mark Womack, associate commissioner of the Southeastern Conference puts the problem this way in the NCAA News.
Regular students don't take their tests in front of 60,000 people with a 200 piece band urging them to do their best on their biology exam. And regular students don't get their test scores in the newspaper every Sunday morning during the fall.
Call them statistics if you like, but those are test scores you see in the sport section the day after the game. How many tackles did you make? How many passes did you throw and complete? How much yardage did you gain running the football? Those aren't test scores?
Of course they are.

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