Image via CBS Sports
By Dalan Overstreet
The Media, especially sports media, is incredibly predictive. If you pay attention to sports outlets, you can set your watch to the narratives. We are approaching a cycle focused on “One & Done” players. There are a few select periods during the year in which everyone hits print, social media, television and the airwaves with their takes on One & Done guys: The beginning of the College Basketball season, the end of the College Basketball season and the NBA Draft. You could see my take as incredibly early or late. In either case, here it goes.
One particular stance on players that leave College after one season that has garnered my attention in recent months is the, ” It devalues education” stance. I am a Kentucky fan, so I watched the 30 for 30 on John Calipari back in April. There was commentary from George Raveling, a former College Basketball coach, in which he expressed concern about what education would mean in this One & Done Era. He argued, “What worries me more than anything about One & Done is that it devalues education. It says the pursuit of money is more important”.
He went on to say there is a difference between what we would like life to be and reality, suggesting he understood guys’ motivations for leaving school, but the value of education argument isn’t particularly new or unique. Kareem Abdul Jabbar recently had a similar take, stating, “It’s a totally different circumstance now. Kids are not going to College to get an education and play ball. It’s one or the other”.
Maybe this rang true in the 70’s and 80’s when you could pay your tuition by rubbing two quarters together, but these comments strike me as out of touch at best and insincere at worst. I am not a Hall of Famer like George Raveling or Kareem and cannot personally speak on this from a player’s perspective. However, I am a recent college graduate, which actually may give me more authority on this particular take. This idea of valuing education isn’t always extended to students that are not athletes.
While attending College, I took some Art classes. I often found myself to be the only student that wasn’t a Liberal Arts, Art Studio or Design major in the room. I noticed one common grievance among those students: No one took their majors seriously. They seem to hear things like, “Don’t you want to make money?” and “You won’t be able to get a job with that degree”, quite often. They’re not the only group that field such comments, Social Science and Media students get it also.
My take starts as a question: Why is this idea of valuing education exclusively reserved for college athletes? Students with abilities and passions in specific arenas can’t pursue those passions without answering questions about their career prospects. On the other hand, the dozen 19-year olds with world-class talent that can have a 7-figure career tomorrow is somehow tainting higher education if he elects to play professionally. Why are the elite athletes criticized for not shunning their opportunities to stay in what is a glorified unpaid internship and gain knowledge, but the students that are gaining this knowledge in any field criticized for not thinking of what will make money?
Is college about the experience and education or is it job preparation? I honestly do not want a societal standard for what a person should want from their college experience. What I do want, on an individual and societal level, is consistency. The only way this is truly achievable is if we let students, including athletes, decide for themselves what their college experience is supposed to bring. If you don’t agree with it, at least avoid openly criticizing their decisions. Just a take.