The madness of collegiate athletics

By Jeffery Armstrong

It's March all over the country and yes, you know what that means - millions of women around the world who watch their afternoon CBS soap operas and those who love the show Survivor on CBS will be upset because the NCAA basketball tournament will be on instead of their favorite programs.

It's March Madness time and everyone who doesn't like it needs to get over it. This tournament is awesome beyond belief and this is my favorite time of the year, when college basketball rules the universe for the next three weeks. But instead of waxing on an on about certain teams, players and coaches in this tournament, I'm going to go another way in this column. The nickname for the tournament, March Madness, made me ponder the thing that's really maddening about college sports: the way athletes get treated as opposed to regular students.

As I'm writing this column, ESPN is having a town hall meeting where notable people in sports are discussing whether collegiate athletes should get paid for the millions of dollars they make for their particular universities. Now athletes have a lot to deal with when they're in college - they have to dedicate a lot of time to play their particular sports and also try to make time to study. But to think that these athletes have to get paid or they won't survive is a bit much. Sure, it would be great if the athletes' stipends would be increased so the athlete could maybe buy a suit for a road trip or something important like that, but it's not life and death.

The question is what about the regular student who's not an athlete? What about the journalism student, the drama student, the engineer, the band member or the education major who doesn't make much money on campus? Shouldn't they get something, too? There are other college students who make money for their universities as well and they get bypassed because they aren't athletes. One athlete on the town hall meeting panel was saying that athletes, especially those who come from poverty stricken homes, should get some extra money so they could be like "other" students and take a girl out to eat or buy soap and deodorant for themselves. Is that really a problem for athletes? There are college students who are single mothers trying to get an education and take care of a child at the same time and there are regular students with partial scholarships who don't get even a per diem, like athletes do, to eat off campus. Who cares if an athlete can't take a girl out to eat? If a girl likes an athlete, I'm sure he won't have a problem getting her to possibly help him pay for a meal, do his laundry or other things. Athletes eat better and are treated like royalty much more than the regular students, and I know because I was a Sports Information Director on a college campus. The math major doesn't get a per diem from his dean to make sure he gets a chance to eat well; that person isn't pretty much guaranteed millions after he graduates. Regular students are on their own.

One thing I will never forget is what current Denver Broncos football player Champ Bailey said in a magazine article I read. Bailey said he was going back to school to get his degree and realized how hard it was to make good grades as a regular student than it was as an athlete, where outstanding grades weren't stressed as much.

He said he now understood what regular students went through and had more respect for them than ever before. That's an interesting statement.

Jeffery Armstrong is a sports writer for the Daily and his column appears on Thursdays. He can be reached at jarmstrong@news-daily.com .