Or, at least, to how we measure the success of college athletics programs. There’s no getting around the fact that winning is Number One in college sports. Which is actually OK, I think. But whenever anyone does try to get pious about the sanctity of amateur athletics (for our purposes, we’re talking football and men’s basketball), they rank schools by graduation rates.
I’m not sure this is the best measure of an athletic program. All collegiate extracurriculars exist, ostensibly, to promote the growth of young individuals. But practically, campus newspapers exist to train professional journalists, the jazz band to train professional musicians, the left-wing protest cabal to train professional anarchists. Of course, not all graduates of these activities go on to careers in these professions. But if we accept the fact that a) many top college athletes arrive woefully unprepared to take advantage of the academic opportunities a four-year college offers, and b) aim primarily to pursue a career in their chosen sport, a better measure would be how many are able to successfully pursue such a career.
Very few will make careers as players. But a good many could make careers as coaches, trainers, athletic administrators, etc. If college coaches made it a point to prepare their athletes for these careers, college athletics suddenly becomes much less of a scam. Is this measurable? Probably not. Almost certainly not. But I’d be interested to find out.
Of course, you could also just pay them.