Let’s fix college sports, shall we? We do it like this:
1) Eliminate all athletic scholarships. (What’s that you say? Athletic scholarships have been key to getting people from poor and otherwise marginalized communities into the nation’s colleges? Then let’s take the scholarship money that now goes to athletes and send it towards those communities without asking whether the young people involved can run fast or kick a ball accurately. Since big-time sports are money-losing propositions for almost all schools, there may even be some extra money for scholarships.)
2) Keep all the sports that universities currently sponsor, but treat them largely as clubs. Or, if the varsity/club distinction must be maintained, limit the number of coaches and pay them on the same scale used for, say, theater or dance teachers.
3) Disband the NCAA.
4) Encourage the boosters who have poured millions of dollars into their favorite universities’ sports teams to work with the NFL to create something like England’s Football Association. Ideally, the NFL would become the equivalent of the Premier League, with only the twenty best teams in the top tier, and a promotion/relegation fight each year. The boosters would likely be far happier as team owners, able to shop for and buy talent without having to try to dodge onerous NCAA regulations. At the outset, the second tier of FA-USA would be made up of the twelve weakest current NFL teams plus eight teams located at the sites of long-standing college football powerhouses: Austin, Tuscaloosa, Baton Rouge, Pasadena, Norman, Columbus, Ann Arbor, and so on. With the application of some marketing skill — including shrewd color choices and the signing of local heroes — fan loyalty could relatively easily be transferred from the universities to the new professional teams. And the universities could make some money by leasing their stadiums to the new leagues.
5) The promotion/relegation model could be applied to basketball and perhaps baseball as well, again drawing on local fandom and university arenas. (Imagine how much fun it would be to see the Tar Heels promoted and the Bobcats relegated in the same year. Talk about rivalries!) Connect the traditional basketball powers to the NBA’s developmental league — assuming the NBA eventually gets its act together — and the traditional baseball powers to appropriate levels of the minor leagues.
6) Eliminate aluminum bats at all levels of competitive baseball. (Yes, I know that’s not really relevant here, but while I’m dreaming. . . .)
7) Encourage the FA-USA to create college scholarships for their players, to be taken advantage of in the off-season or after retirement. Let those who like the current system because they are concerned about the athletes having opportunities after college make contributions to this fund.
There, it’s all better now. You’re welcome.