NCAA, SSAC off base

When I was growing up, one of the fixtures on Sunday television was Issues and Answers.

I was reminded of that long-forgotten program -which last aired in 1981 -by the raising of several major issues that could change the faces of both college and high school sports.

Start with the NCAA. Rather than waiting until the all-important issue of college athletes forming unions is settled, college athletics’ governing institution decided to wade in even deeper by proposing colleges can provide their athletes with unlimited meals and snacks.

The proposal must be approved by the Division I board of directors on Thursday. Indications are it will pass.

On the surface, it makes sense. But the existing rule is athletes may be provided three meals a day or a food stipend. Isn’t that enough? It’s pretty obvious that today’s college athletes -other than not receiving a paycheck -are professionals. They’re receiving a free college education. They don’t have to pay for meals. In other words, the “institutions of higher learning” they represent say they are more valuable than the straight-A medical student who must provide their own funding for classes, housing and food.

Those medical students -in order to achieve their career goal -must make a major multi-year commitment. Yet, elite athletes can play one year of college basketball before turning pro and signing a contract for more money than the future physician may ever see.

It’s the system we have created -or we have allowed others to create -while we sit back and watch it happen.

On the state scene, the members of the board of directors of the West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission recently approved a proposal that will allow “voluntary” practices for all but one week during the summer for high school athletes.

Before the proposal becomes policy, it must be approved by the state Board of Education. Let’s hope that body soundly rejects it.

West Virginia already allows three weeks of summer practice. Yet, here’s what happens over those three weeks. Virtually every coach at every school wants their athletes at their practice. So if you are a multi-sport athlete, you may have football, basketball and baseball practice all in the same day. And if you don’t show up for one, that coach will question your commitment and make an example of you to your teammates.

I remember shortly after the three-week proposal became policy receiving a phone call from a concerned parent whose child had been told he must be at the practices of all three sports in which he participated. He would come home at night exhausted.

We must remember we are talking about youngsters who likely never will be professional athletes and most of whom won’t receive a college scholarship.

No one loves sports more than do I. But it must be kept in its proper perspective. Let’s hope both the NCAA and the state Board of Education understand that.

Contact Dave Poe at dpoe@newsandsentinel.com