Why not make athletics a major?


There may not be three more intelligent people that write about college basketball than Jay Bilas, John Gasaway, and John Infante. Their latest
discussion circles around the state of amateurism in today’s NCAA climate.

Gasaway and Bilas
have essentially argued the same point — that the collegiate athletics has changed, and that allowing college players to retain their
amateurism while dealing with an agent would be beneficial and, more importantly, fair to these players that generate such a massive volume
of revenue.

Infante, formerly of the By Law Blog, disagrees. His argument is absolutely worth the five minutes it takes to read it, but that is not the most interesting point he makes in the piece. This is: The rules could be updated to address this change by expressly allowing, even promoting two majors: sport performance and sport education (i.e.

Such a move would reinforce the idea that college should prepare you for a professional career. It would acknowledge the idea that professional athletics is a viable career, even if only for a minuscule portion of the student-athlete population. The relatively small number of graduates making a living as full-time artists, musicians, or philosophers has not killed off those majors.

It would also promote the idea that the study of athletic performance is a meaningful academic endeavor, just as the study of musical or artistic
performance is. That would open an avenue for increased study of issues like concussions and overtraining. And it would provide a new source of
professionally trained coaches, particularly needed as specialization, injuries, and money continue to grow at the youth level.

Infante nails it. I’ve been making this point for quite a while now.

There is a lot of money to be made in the world of sports, whether it is as a player, a coach, a trainer, a journalist, a broadcaster, a television producer, sports management, a front office executive, a ticket salesmen, a hot dog vendor, what have you. Like it or not, at this point sports truly are a profession; there are careers that
involve so much more than simply being the guy that can dunk a basketball or throw a football 50 yards on a line.

There is a reason they are called “professional” sports.

Different educational programs can be developed for the different caliber of player. Maybe as freshmen, these kids could be forced to take classes in money
management, contract law, and any other class that will help them avoid going broke five years after their career is over. Players can be trained in CPR and emergency medical treatment so that if a situation like the one involving Emmanuel Negedu or Herb Pope should arise without a trainer or doctor present, these kids are
prepared to save a life. Wouldn’t it be great if all the players-turned-coaches at the lower levels of basketball — the levels that can’t afford a ten-man training staff — were prepared should one of their athletes collapse? How big of a difference is there between training a person to recognize excellence in a piece of art and potential excellence in a particular player?

As Infante says, these days college is about getting you prepared for whatever career you want to pursue.

What is wrong with training these kids for a career in sports?

And what, exactly, is the difference between a career in sports and a career in acting? Or dance? Or art?

Aren’t those “real” majors?

VIDEO: Kris Dunn wills Providence to win over No. 11 Arizona

Kris Dunn, Elliott Pitts
AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
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Kris Dunn spent the first 35 minutes of Friday night’s game against No. 11 Arizona in foul trouble, splitting his time between sitting on the bench and trying to avoid finding himself, again, on the wrong side the whistle.

With 11 minutes left in the game, and with Dunn yet to find a rhythm, the all-american point guard was whistled for his fourth foul as he battled for a rebound with Arizona’s Mark Tollefsen. Head coach Ed Cooley say his superstar beside his for six game minutes, time enough for Arizona to turn a 49-47 deficit into a 58-54 lead.

There were just over five minutes left when Dunn reentered the second semifinal of the Wooden Legacy, and he proceeded to show everyone in the country why he was named the NBCSports.com Preseason Player of the Year. Providence had nine possessions after he reentered the game. Dunn scored 11 points and had a pair of assists on those eight possessions, and if Ben Bentil had stuck a wide-open three — that was setup by Dunn — the Friars would have scored on all nine.

In total, Dunn was responsible for all 15 Friar points in a game-changing, 15-7 run in the final 4:30. It was capped off by this Kobe-in-his-prime-esque game-winner:

The win for Providence is huge for a couple of reasons:

  • Dunn showed a killer instinct against a marquee opponent, something that we didn’t necessarily see out of him a season ago. He wasn’t going to let his team lose, and given that Providence doesn’t have anyone else that can consistently create good shots, they are going to need that from him a lot this year.
  • It makes a statement for the Friars. Arizona is overrated at No. 11 in the country, yes, but going out on national television against an elite program and getting this kind of performance from Dunn is a confidence-booster and a tone-setter. Providence hasn’t been accustomed to winning in recent years. This is a way to set a trend.
  • Ben Bentil continues to play like a star. Dunn had 19 points and eight assists on Friday, but Bentil followed up a 24-point performance in the win over Evansville with 21 critical points on Friday.

This win sets up a matchup between No. 3 Michigan State and Providence on Sunday night, which means that Denzel Valentine and Kris Dunn — the two best players in the country, sorry Ben Simmons — will be going head-to-head.

Oh. Hell. Yes.

No. 14 Cal goes 0-2 in Las Vegas Invitational

Jaylen Brown
AP Photo/Ben Margot
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After midnight on the east coast on Thanksgiving, No. 14 Cal blew a 15 point second half lead against San Diego State, allowing the Aztecs to use a 30-6 run to put away the game and advance to the final of the Las Vegas Invitational. That’s the same San Diego State team had scored 43 points in a loss to Arkansas-Little Rock last week.

Not 24 hours later, the Golden Bears were shredded defensively by the Richmond Spiders, losing 94-90 in the consolation game of a four-team tournament they were considered to be the heavy favorite in.

It’s a disappointing two-game stretch for Cal, who entered the season as a Pac-12 favorite and had looked the part for the first four games of the season.

And the issue appears to be on the defensive end of the floor.

Richmond is a good Atlantic 10 team. Terry Allen and Marshall Wood are high-major big men, Shawn’Dre Jones is a jitterbug at the point and Chris Mooney runs a Princeton-esque system that is very difficult to prepare for without a day in-between games. So it’s not really surprising that the Spiders gave Cal a fight.

But 94 points?

On the heels of giving up 44 points in the second half against the offensively-challenged Aztecs?

That’s a problem, one that I’m sure that Cuonzo Martin is going to address this week in practice. Martin has managed to put together a roster that is build for small-ball, with four talented perimeter players surrounding a first round pick in the post. But that’s not the style that he’s known for. Martin played his college ball at Purdue in the Gene Keady days. He cut his teeth as a head coach at Missouri State in the Missouri Valley. His team’s at Tennessee were known for being tough and physical defensively.

That’s how Martin coaches, which is part of the reason Cal had such hype entering the year.

The talents of Tyrone Wallace, Jaylen Brown, Ivan Rabb, Jabari Bird and Jordan Mathews on a team with a coach that gets teams to defend the way Martin does? It’s no surprise that pundits would be optimistic.

But as of now, they have some work to do defensively if they want to live up to that hype.