Editor’s Desk

Column: Plenty of basketball madness left

March 28, 2014 

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Johnny Whitfield, columnist The Eastern Wake News and The Clayton News Star.

TAKAAKI IWABU — tiwabu@newsobserver.com Buy Photo

If you’re receiving this newspaper and you’re not a basketball fan, you may be among the happiest people around. In one quick weekend every reason Old North Staters had to watch the NCAA basketball tournament shriveled on the vine.

The tournament, fondly referred to by CBS as March Madness goes on, but we just don’t care.

But don’t worry your pretty little head about it. There’s still plenty of madness going on around here as March finally ends its tortous run through 2014.

Much has been made in the past couple years or so about the academic scandals unfolding at the University of North Carolina. Athletes, most of them football players, received preferential treatment and help from faculty and staff to remain eligible to play their sport.

That whole matter breeds contempt among rank and file North Carolinians, because we like to think we don’t have to resort to cheating to put out a good product.

Truth is, you could backpedal a few decades and replace North Carolina with North Carolina State and talk among the same problems involving players getting things they ought not to. Dig into the wayback files a little more and you can learn about the death of a popular early-season tournament that died an ignominous death because of a cheating scandal.

But in all those cases, we’re talking about people breaking rules. There are some other instances of madness that fall within the rules. Yet they still defy all sense of propriety to everyone except those immediately affected.

Case 1: N.C. State phenom T.J. Warren seems likely to skip his final two college basketball seasons for a chance to play professional basketball, where he’ll get paid real dollars. Lots of them.

If I think back to when I was 20 years old at that same institution, I will readily admit I was not seeing dollar signs in my future. And, if someone had offered me a seven-figure salary, I likely would have kissed school good-bye as I looked at it in the rear view mirror.

The problem here lies within the NBA the professional basketball league that readily accepts such early departures in an attempt to improve their product.

Barring a catastrophic injury – and let’s face it, there are not that many of them – that same kind of money awaits Warren in just a couple years anyway. The NBA and other professional sports leagues should take a hands-off approach to college athletes.

Then there are the people advising athletes like Warren. Dayton University coach Archie Miller – himself a former N.C. State hoopster – just got a big contract extention after he got his team into the Sweet 16. Another Sweet 16 coach, Florida’s Billy Donavan signed his own new contract this week. He will make $3.6 million per year for the next six years.

Yes, $3.7 million. Per year. I did a little math. That comes out to a little more than $71,000 per week. Per week.

That’s a lot of incentive for someone to stretch the rules or to break them outright and do everything humanly possible not to get caught.

I’m a big fan of capitalism and letting people get all they can in the open market. But something’s wrong when our open market pays a basketball coach $3.7 million per year and tempts a 20-year-old with millions more. But a teacher in North Carolina has to get down in the mud with elected officials to beg and plead for $45,000 per year.

Yeah, there’s plenty of madness left in this year’s March.

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