Tate | As times change, so do morals in college sports

Tate | As times change, so do morals in college sports

Steadily, as a people, we are shaving away at our moral values ... slipping to the unprincipled side of right and wrong.

Our worst instincts have led into an opioid crisis ravaging the Appalachians and elsewhere, growing state-by-state acceptance of marijuana, tolerance of pornography and four-letter language, and unrelenting racial and political divisions.

A microcosm of this behavior is the world of collegiate sports. Consider how we've ...

— Loosened in permitting gambling on college events, multiple states diving in at a time when the basketball world is alerted to under-table payments by shoe companies and coaches to influence the choices of "unpaid" athletes who might be receptive to another point-shaving crisis.

— Loosened in breaking a long-held policy of denying public alcohol sales at college events, Illinois becoming the sixth Big Ten school to join the trend (beer is now available at UI baseball games).

— Loosened in creating a portal whereby more than 1,900 college football players and 700-plus basketball players have made themselves available for transfer.

Athletics being sullied

— Loosened, even though the regulation itself hasn't changed, in allowing major-sport transfers to gain immediate eligibility via waiver appeals by attorneys who have learned how to manipulate the system. It is a virtual certainty that players will be approved when their head coach moves, as many do. An early report last month showed 50 of 63 appeals had been approved by the NCAA committee.

— Loosened by allowing basketball players to retain agents and still have the option of returning to school after they test NBA waters in May.

— Loosened by providing money, as is appropriate, beyond tuition-plus for student-athletes. The school-determined cost-of-attendance stipend at Illinois amounts to $2,900 for a full-scholarship athlete. Some schools, like Tennessee and Louisville (once again under NCAA scrutiny), worked their cost-of-attendance figure to a point where they provide a stipend of more than $5,000 annually.

What's next for NCAA?

A blind man can see where we're headed. All these athletic loosenings are new or, as with the stipend, relatively new. It's a landslide trend.

And the big item on the docket, the insoluble one that has basketball tongues flapping, is the outright payment of players. Or, more accurately, athletes being granted permission to earn money — like the Olympic system — based on their name, image or likeness.

Such a bill was presented in the North Carolina legislature last month. To be sure, companies would willingly employ star athletes to promote their products, an act strictly forbidden by the NCAA's amateur bylaws.

Savvy politicians might be able to cleverly work around Title IX. But the biggest question is: How would you prevent endorsement payments from getting out of hand? How much might the next Zion Williamson be offered in a recruiting showdown between the wealthy, do-anything-to-win alumni from Kentucky, Duke, North Carolina and Kansas?

Somewhere down the line, with the loosening of our standards, this could happen. I can't wait to witness those $100 autograph sessions.

Loren Tate writes for The News-Gazette. He can be reached at ltate@news-gazette.com.

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