Sunday, April 01, 2007

The Raging Bull

While I can not prove this, I have a hunch that Maurice Clarett is laughing as he watches Ohio State's resurrection to national prominence in basketball. Most media outlets carelessly present Clarett as a thug or a pariah without ever acknowledging that not only was his decision to challenge the NFL's early entry rules legitimate, but when compared alongside what occurs every year in college basketball, it's downright sacrilegious that Clarett's case was overturned. Throughout this entire NCAA basketball season analysts have fawned over "one and done" NBA prospects Kevin Durant and Greg Oden. Many commentators speak of Oden and Durant as if they already have their NBA contracts lined up and there was a recent article pointing out that this was the better year for Durant to turn pro because if he waits until next year, he will have to compete with other stars in the making OJ Mayo and Derrick Rose, both of whom are currently high school seniors, for lucrative sneaker contracts once they've done their year of college service during the 2007-08 NCAA season.

As their basketball peers run off to the professional ranks college football phenoms must compete until either their junior or sophomore years in order to qualify for the NFL. The difference between spending one year in college versus two years may seem trivial to most people, but for star athletes like Adrian Peterson, Ted Ginn Jr., and Michael Bush, three football players who have had to work their way back from major injuries and reassure NFL scouts that they're worthwhile draft prospects, that extra year sometimes means playing in the NFL or tearing your ACL.

Although, it's not just the double standard that applies to college basketball players that I think has Clarett smiling and shaking his head, because after all the basketball players are still pawns in the same NCAA monopoly. Clarett isn't the only oracle who sees through the duplicitous nature of big-time college sports. He's the one to have been most prominently publicly undressed by his bid to challenge the NCAA corporation which treats athletes like property, chattel even, particularly when you hear broadcasters calling football and basketball players "thoroughbreds," "beasts," "horse," or "animal."

The most fascinating thing about this current NCAA tournament is how Tubby Smith's decision to leave Kentucky has caused such an upheaval in the coaching ranks. From the moment he went left college basketball analysts on ESPN have been besides themselves with glee over the potential coaching changes and insider information about how other coaches will use Smith's departure to siphon raises from their universities. This morning it was reported on ESPN's The Sports Reporters that Kentucky is supposedly considering offering Florida basketball coach Billy Donovan 4million per year to become their head basketball coach.

To put it in realistic context, that's the equivalent of IBM paying someone 4million dollars a year to run one of their internship programs. The fact that IBM would not do that even if the interns were the top programmers at MIT, Caltech and Stanford speaks volumes to the absurd and unwieldly salaries currently tended to high profile college coaches. It continues to amaze me that boosters, college presidents and athletic directors fail to realize that coaches at smaller colleges are doing the same job for much less, and the high school coaches from whom they inherited these young men, are doing it for even less. There is no rationale explanation for why two of the most non-nba coaches in the last thirty years are being so far outpaced by their collegiate peers in terms of salary. Dematha High's Morgan Wootten and St. Anthony's Bobby Hurley Sr. have been two of the best basketball coaches at the high school level in the last 30 years and neither of them command salaries that are even close to being on par with what their (sometimes lesser talented) collegiate peers make.

When Donovan's alleged Kentucky offer was raised during the Sports Reporters conversation, the response by one of the guests was "there's no way that Florida is going to pay Donovan more than 4million because Urban Meyer only makes 2.5. million."

Urban Meyer is the coach of Florida's football team, the same team that beat the Ohio State team, which if he had stayed in school for four years, Maurice Clarett would have been starring for. He would have been playing alongside classmates Troy Smith and Ted Ginn Jr., well at least alongside Smith, because Ginn injured broke his ankle on the first play of the title game, an injury that dealt a fatal blow to OSU's title hopes and a minor blow to Ginn's NFL prospects.

As this drama plays out Maurice Clarett sits awaiting trial. He's on no one's draft list for the upcoming NFL draft and has been eclipsed by Smith, Ginn Jr, Oden and Mike Conley as OSU's favorite sons. Clarett on the other hand exists as a tragic lesson about what "greed" and looking out for "your own best interests," or daring to "challenge the system" can do to a young man. And while Florida and OSU's basketball thoroughbreds get ready for their tilt on Monday night, Clarett is the raging bull who has been securely locked his pen--for whom there will be no breakout game.

The Nightshift Chronicler

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great article. Clarett is a real hero in a time when few are willing to take risks to get the country to do the right thing. We all know he was sacrificed so that no one else would dare to challenge the status-quo. But history will be on his side, he was ahead of us all.