Back when movies were often black and white and people went to colleges near where they were from or had ideological connections to. And they played sports for those school’s teams. Undoubtedly allowances made for the jocks – they always are – but still the kids had to attend classes and get passing grades.
Pretty quaint, huh?
Larger schools drew larger talent pools and often fielded superior teams. And some schools specialized in sports like golf or ice hockey or even the un-American sport of soccer. And tiny midwestern flyover states like Kansas – however unlikely – managed to attain a measure of success in “major” sports like football, basketball, even track.
Ever heard of a kid from Wichita named Jim Ryun, the first high schooler to break the four minute mile in 1964?
Athletes usually went to college all four years (if they measured up) before turning pro and state university athletics officials were expected to be entirely ethical if they wanted to keep their jobs.
All of that of course was long before Joe Paterno and Lew Perkins.
And before the expression, “Just win, baby!”
Which brings us to the KU basketball of today and coach Bill Self…
Because now, even in the sleepy city of Lawrence, Kansas, the future of KU basketball is being decided by proxy by men with fat wallets and questionable ethics. Men who dictate that basketball at Kansas will be conducted on a win at all costs basis, regardless the consequences.
And that quarter million dollar plus apartments must be built to attract “one and done,” high school athletes like KU freshman Andrew Wiggins who only intend to play one year of college basketball before – knock on wood – heading to the NBA.
Because otherwise the mighty Kentucky might lure those players with its new Wildcat Coal Lodge, a dorm so luxurious it has no couches in it, only recliners. A living quarters for the school’s prized basketball recruits that’s stocked with pool tables, flat screen televisions, even a private chef.
So now KU’s big money boosters insist that Kansas too must have such a facility.
That way KU can spoil its one year wonders to the tune of $265,000 per apartment and then lose to lesser teams with lesser players who win because they’re in it for all four years and can beat the inexperienced superstars of tomorrow. Because the one and dones are still just kids – future superstars perhaps, future millionaires maybe – but still just young, inexperienced, barely-out-of-high school kids.
Kids who don’t care what state they play for or in, or what uniform they wear. They want recliners and private chefs and a taste of the trappings of their hoped-for tomorrows as multi millionaires.
Because otherwise basketball coach Bill Self would have to recruit players based on things like the school’s storied legacy, his acclaimed coaching skills and on the value of getting an education. Because not everyone who looks like a potential future millionaire gets to become one. And because many of those that do fritter away those earnings foolishly because they were ill prepared to handle the trappings of money and fame.
And perhaps because – unwisely – they based their decision on where to go to college on the bait laid before them by sleazeball basketball boosters in a flyover state. At a school that didn’t have the guts to say no to a multi millionaire basketball coach with a wildly expensive home and hairpiece.
A school and a coach that otherwise well might be able to attract and build teams that would blow away that of the Wichita States and Stanfords – schools that are attaining similar and at times better results for pennies on the dollar – by doing things the old-fashioned way.
You know, ethically.