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Published: Friday, 4/26/2002

NCAA saved face by tabling loan plan

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.

Grandstand-ing:

  • A tip of the hat to the Mud Hens for designating unofficial street names surrounding Fifth Third Field in honor of Gene Cook, Ned Skeldon, Henry Morse and Monsignor Jerome Schmit.

    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.

  • Now, if only the University of Toledo could come up with a similar way to honor ex-coaches Bob Nichols and Frank Lauterbur, the two men most responsible for putting the school's basketball and football programs, respectively, on the map.

  • Condolences to Tim Smith, among the very best high school coaches for many years and currently the expert prep basketball analyst for Channel 24, on the loss of his wife, Sharon.

  • Much was made, and rightfully so, of Chester Taylor being selected in the NFL draft by Baltimore, but a former Rocket who wasn't drafted may have the best shot of playing on Sundays. Kicker Todd France, the Springfield grad with the long-distance leg, will get a free-agent gig with Minnesota.

  • Is there a better defensive center fielder in the big leagues than Torii Hunter of the Twins?

  • A great day trip for local golfers would be to Shepherd's Hollow in Clarkston, Mich. The 27-hole layout - designed by Toledo's Arthur Hills/Steve Forrest Associates - was built on property owned by the Society of Jesus, a Roman Catholic order of priests, about 15 miles northwest of the Pontiac Silverdome. Golf Digest's 2002 rankings list Shepherd's Hollow as the nation's sixth-best new course that is open to the public.

  • Two baseball managers who have little time to right their sinking ships: Jerry Narron of the Rangers and Buddy Bell of the Rockies. Neither is a lock to be around past mid-May.

    Dave Hackenberg is a Blade sports writer.



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