Dr. Seuss’ Lesson For The NCAA

John Steigerwald Contributor
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“Everything stinks until it’s finished.” – Dr. Seuss.

The good doctor probably wasn’t thinking about the NCAA when he wrote that, but he could have been.

The NCAA isn’t finished yet and it sure does stink. I thought it would be a good idea to quote the author of “The Cat in the Hat” and other great contributions to American literature because I’ve seen few, if any references, to what effect the new Power 5 conferences will have on the academic integrity of their 65 members.

But I do remember seeing former University of Memphis football player Dasmine Cathey showing Bernard Goldberg of HBO’s Real Sports the stack of Dr. Seuss books he had under his dorm room bed. Cathey used those books to learn how to read after he had received his football scholarship.

I also know that a former academic counselor at the University of North Carolina has claimed that 60 percent of the football and basketball players she tutored read between the fourth and eighth grade levels.

One major college football or basketball player reading at the fourth grade level should interest the media more than any story about conference realignment or rules changes, but the media stopped paying attention to academic integrity about 20 minutes after the institutions of higher learning did.

In case you missed it, the NCAA has decided to allow the SEC, Big Ten, Big 12, PAC 12 and ACC to govern themselves.

It would be great if, when the announcement was made, your favorite college president had said, “We believe that the emphasis on football and basketball has compromised the stated mission of this great university for too long. The NCAA has failed. This partnership with the other four conferences will allow us to return to a healthy balance between academics and athletics, with the emphasis decidedly on academics.”

But the college presidents haven’t said much since the NCAA made the announcement. It’s been mostly athletic directors and coaches talking about how this is going to be so much better for the fans and, of course, the student athletes, who will be getting more money.

Meanwhile, the solution to everything that’s wrong with college football might be just two months away.

Minor league football.

You know, what Major League Baseball and National Hockey League teams have been using for player development for the last hundred years or so.

The Fall Experimental Football League starts in October. The FXFL will have eight teams playing an eight game schedule. The 40-man rosters will be stocked with players cut from NFL teams. Players will earn between $1,000 and $1,250 a week.

The long term plan is to be a developmental league for the NFL, with players being eligible at any time to be called up to the big leagues. Just like baseball and hockey.

It could eventually be an alternative to college for football players who aren’t college material.

The idea has been endorsed by several current and former NFL general managers and personnel directors.

The NFL will be careful not to be too enthusiastic about the idea right away because it doesn’t want to jeopardize its free minor league system that has been provided by colleges for the last 90 years.

Of course, the NFL would have no choice but to get behind the idea if college presidents did their jobs and returned to the days when college football was for real college students.

Dasmine Cathey could tell them what he learned in Dr Seuss’ “The Lorax”:

“UNLESS someone like YOU cares a whole lot, NOTHING is going to get better. It’s NOT.”

Pittsburgh ex-TV sportscaster, columnist and talk show host John Steigerwald is the author of the Pittsburgh sports memoir, “Just Watch The Game.” Follow him on Twitter. 

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John Steigerwald