« on: June 28, 2015, 12:35:22 am »
A provocative and articulate read, written by St. John's University President Michael Hemesath, fund its way into my IN box (thank you S Lois):
This past March, I, like millions of other sports fans around the United States, followed the NCAA Division I men's basketball tournament, also known as March Madness. The tournament had a special draw this year as the University of Kentucky entered the competition undefeated and it was the favorite to have the first undefeated season in nearly 40 years.
Interestingly, early in the tournament, a friend said to me, "I'm just not that into the tournament in the way I was when I was younger — mostly because of schools like Kentucky."
What he was referring to was the Kentucky model of success, which has been built in recent years on a "one and done" philosophy. "One and done" used to refer to a team that entered the NCAA tournament and lost in the first round, thus playing only one game and then being done in the tournament. Now that phrase has come to refer to exceptional freshmen basketball players who play in college for a single year before jumping to professional teams in the NBA.
Some teams like Kentucky, and even academic power Duke, have had incredible success with this model, but it does not generate much loyalty for individual teams as fans barely get to know their favorite players who are gone after a single season.
As a college president, what I find even more problematic and ultimately damning of the "one and done" model, is the complete decoupling of academics and athletics, making the term student-athlete an oxymoron. While I can hardly blame the incredible athletes who understandably choose to make millions of dollars in the NBA, the system also treats the players who are not quite of professional caliber (the vast majority) quite unfairly. Furthermore, the Division I big-money sports system generates cynicism about student-athletes and makes the notion that athletics and academics are compatible a joke.
Yet there are institutions where these two things are not incompatible. At St. John's University and the College of St. Benedict, we firmly believe that athletics and academics can go together and even be mutually reinforcing. As part of the NCAA's Division III, St. John's and St. Ben's and our peers in the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference are filled with passionate student-athletes who truly compete for love of the game as there are no scholarships or other inducements to play. Our coaches might best be characterized as educators who care about the holistic development of their student-athletes, including their success off the court or field and ultimately in life.
St. John's legendary basketball coach, Jim Smith, recently retired after 50 years of educating young men on the basketball court to be successful — personally and professionally — long after they had left Collegeville. At St. John's last home game this year, dozens of players from Jim's first year all the way through his last class were there to honor Jim for all he had done for them. The loyalty of the doctors and lawyers and CEOs in the group was built on what Jim had taught them on and off the court that had played an important role in their personal and professional successes.
Jim Smith is the winningest collegiate basketball coach in Minnesota at any level, yet he never sought to move on in the basketball world for more money or prestige, preferring to stay and teach basketball and character at St. John's. Of his many successes and awards, one of the things that Jim is proudest of is the fact that only one of his basketball players in the past 50 years has failed to graduate with a degree from St. John's. Only one not done.
So if you don't find yourself quite as drawn to Division I athletics as you once were, consider coming out to Collegeville or St. Joseph and watch some MIAC student-athletes who will be going "pro" in cities throughout Minnesota and beyond as they use what their professors teach in the classroom and the lessons their coaches offer outside of it to make their communities and the world a better place.