(By Mark David Blum, Esq.
(An open letter to Sheldon 'Shelly' Saltman, retired President of Fox Sports in response to his column about the ending the One and Done and other NCAA college basketball issues. The link to his essay is below).
Shelly, as an alumnus of Syracuse University College of Law and a 25 year resident of Syracuse, New York, I have the good fortune to be in love with and married to one of the NCAA’s perennial premier powerhouse basket programs. Check out the pending Final Four. We also have the history of being one of the NCAA’s serial offenders when it comes to scandals and problems with rules violations. Bernie Fine and the pending sanctions investigation are just the current mess with which we are dealing.
I have to respond to your comment about “one and done”. As home to Carmello Anthony, his 2003 NCAA National Championship here at Syracuse while a freshman, and his jump to the NBA right after, I have some perspective on this. Some of the best players in the NBA had to pass through Syracuse en route to their good fortunes.
There is nothing wrong with one and done. Universities are educational institutions but they are not the places where we end up. They are training grounds for lawyers, doctors, engineers, McDonald’s cashiers, and yes even professional sports. An athlete’s marketability and career as a professional is very short lived but in many cases lucrative beyond imagination. But college is just a way station; a place where people pass through as they move on to bigger and better; say for example, to be President of Fox Sports. Imagine if you had to wait four years and turn down a contract because of a huge financial penalty from your alma mater should you secure your career before your degree.
For that reason, why would anybody seek to hinder someone’s chance to start their professional career before they have completed a college degree? Let the athlete be free to garner as much gold as they in the time frames allotted. Most of us never get that chance. Why deny the student athlete or punish them for their good fortune and talents which have an expiration date? A college degree can always be secured later.
As an alum, it is heartbreaking when you have your One and then he is Done after one year. But he owes me nothing and I have to encourage him on having a long and illustrious career.
Where most schools seem to run afoul of NCAA is in the question of payments to student athletes. Their scholarships are not the issue; it is the hidden money that is so offensive. The jobs, the cars, the free meals, all the goodies coughed up by alumnus to recruit and retain the big name players at the schools. If you want athletes to stay four years, bring the daylight in and let schools pay players. Everybody wins and the NCAA can pack up its toys and go home.
Right now, I am in basketball heaven. Not only is Syracuse about to tip off in the Final Four men’s tournament, but my undergrad alma mater, CAL is about to tip off in the Women’s Final Four. Let me just close by saying: March Madness; it’s INSANE.