Implied Dissent

Thursday, September 07, 2006

In which I criticize Gladwell but basically agree with him

Gladwell has written about the NCAA a bit recently, criticizing it's treatment of amateur athletes. In this most recent blog post, he makes some good points, but I have to disagree with one thing:

We all accept the fact that if we attend a high school or a college, that institution can impose a certain behavioral code on us when we are attending that school. But a high school that forbids its students to wear miniskirts or jeans or torn t-shirts cannot extend those restrictions to the way students dress when they aren’t at school. Authority is necessarily tempered by the question of jurisdiction.

This probably sounds reasonable, but it isn't. If we were talking about a public school, then he'd be right. However, we're not. The closest comparison is to a private school, that is, a school that you apply to knowing that they require you to do (or not do) certain things while associated with it. You don't have to comply with the rules if you don't want, because you don't have to attend the school. It is similar with playing under NCAA rules.

Now, I will admit that if an athlete doesn't play under NCAA rules, he probably doesn't have a lot of other options. More importantly, whether or not the NCAA can legitimately govern athlete actions outside of the sports arena, I absolutely agree that they go way too far in doing so. Furthermore, treating the athletes as amateurs but nothing else about college sports that way takes a lot of chutzpah. I think there's an opportunity for a competing organization to try a totally different strategy.


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