It wasn't so many years ago that Americans, ignoring the premise that two wrongs don't necessarily make a right, lowered their Olympic ideals to match some of the world's other superpowers simply because we couldn't stand being second best.
If they were going to cheat then, by golly, we'd cheat right along with them.
We built Olympic training centers and began paying our athletes, in one form or another, to train and compete. We relaxed our standards and allowed them to use their positions and fame for commercial gain, fearing that to do otherwise would prompt a mass exodus from the Olympic movement. As if that weren't enough to pollute the amateur waters, we've turned the pond yellow by sending our professional athletes to compete in any number of sports.
Yesterday, the NCAA's board of directors considered a measure that would have struck a similar blow to amateur athletics. It discussed a proposal to allow so-called “elite” college athletes to take one-time loans of up to $20,000 based on their earnings potential.
Fortunately, cooler heads recognized how this measure would shake, if not break, the foundation upon which college sports has always been structured, and the proposal was tabled. Permanently, if the NCAA is to avoid an ultimate hypocrisy.
If this was being considered as a remedy to scandal - under-the-table payments from boosters, secret early pacts with unscrupulous agents - or as a meager academic attempt to keep brilliant athletes on track for their degrees in recreational science, fine.
In large part, though, the proposal was a poorly camouflaged reaction to the growing trend that finds athletes either leaving school early or bypassing college altogether, kids whom big-time athletic departments covet as income-producing pawns.
No way can an organization that has long stood in opposition to any special treatment for athletes beyond grant-in-aid benefits prostitute itself by creating a pseudo-pro classification.
Not only would that further tarnish the ideals of amateurism, but the NCAA's own code supporting student-athletes, not just athletes.
None of them lived to see Fifth Third Field become a reality, but their unflagging dedication through the years to minor league baseball in Toledo set the foundation that made it possible.
Dave Hackenberg is a Blade sports writer.
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