College athletics — particularly men’s football and basketball programs at major universities — is a sham. When universities are making mind-blowing amounts of money by exploiting college athletes, “amateurism” becomes an anachronistic concept that just doesn’t make much sense. If you follow college sports, you’ve probably heard this by now; there have been countless articles that have argued these points already.
Still, when I hear many try to defend college athletics, the concept of the “student-athlete” is invariably brought up (even though it’s a myth). Leaning on this term, apologists for the NCAA will argue that the scholarship is the athlete’s payment, and should the athlete not take advantage of the free education, it’s their own fault. The problem with the idea of the student-athlete, however, is that universities could not care less about whether or not their “student-athletes” receive an education. The only time academics become a concern is if an athlete is ruled ineligible to compete. Not convinced? Take a second to consider the cases of Will Muschamp, the now lame-duck head coach at the University of Florida, and Urban Meyer, his celebrated predecessor.
Meyer was an instant success at Florida, winning the BCS National Championship in 2006, only his second year after taking over for Ron Zook, and again in 2008. Despite all the winning, Florida’s football program was slowly falling apart, due to the culture that Meyer fostered. Arrests piled up during Meyer’s six seasons, and even he admitted the program was “broken” when he left.
Muschamp was hired in part to be the anti-Meyer, and he was in terms of how the program was run. Before his first season as head coach began, Muschamp kicked his best player, All-American cornerback Janoris Jenkins, off the team.
“If Coach Meyer were still coaching, I’d still be playing for the Gators,” Jenkins told the Orlando Sentinel after being dismissed from the team. “Coach Meyer knows what it takes to win.”
Under Muschamp, the Florida Gators’ team GPA was the highest it has ever been, the graduation rate was the best in program history, and the team had had less than half as many arrests during Muschamp’s time as it did during Meyer’s. As far as the student portion of the fabled “student-athlete” concept was concerned, Muschamp had fixed what Meyer had broken.
By all accounts, the higher-ups at Florida agreed with this.
“Coach Muschamp was dedicated to developing young men both on and off the field,” Athletic Director Jeremy Foley stated in a release announcing the coaching change. “Our student-athletes showed tremendous growth socially and academically under his leadership.”
“I would love for my son or my grandson to have the opportunity to be coached by Will Muschamp,” Florida President Bernie Machen said.
Unfortunately for Florida and for Muschamp, he could never match Meyer’s success on the field. As the last four seasons have proven, Muschamp is a mediocre head coach. Although he made his name as an excellent defensive coordinator and Florida’s defenses were strong during Muschamp’s tenure, his 27-20 record (as of November 18) was nowhere near Meyer’s 65-18 record, and a disastrous 4-8 season in 2013 basically sealed his fate.
For all his success with the student half of his student-athletes, Muschamp couldn’t figure out how to win consistently. He couldn’t take the athlete portion of the program to the levels it had risen to under Meyer. And that’s all that matters in college sports.
Meyer, running a morally bankrupt program, could have stayed at Florida as long as he pleased. Arrests could have continued to stack up around him, but as long as he won, nothing else would have mattered. Money would have continued to pour in, the stands would have been full, and everyone would have continued to look the other way. Had he stayed, Meyer would have had a bronze statue outside of The Swamp.
Muschamp succeeded where Meyer failed, yet he was only given four seasons with the Gators. As time goes by, he’ll slowly fade into Florida football history until he’s largely forgotten.
That’s all you need to know about the college sports landscape.
Charlie Crespo (@Little_Utopia) is the editor-in-chief of Little Utopia.
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