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Is majoring in basketball feasible?


Mike Miller

Kevin Duffy, a staff writer for the Connecticut Post that covers UConn basketball, had an interesting column go up over the weekend.

There are many criticisms of the UConn basketball program under the leadership of Jim Calhoun, but the one that made the most headlines this past offseason had to do with the “education” his players were getting. In case you have forgotten, UConn is in danger of being ruled ineligible for the NCAA Tournament when the new APR rules go into effect in 2013, which would be an enormous story given that there is a legitimate chance that Calhoun’s club could be coming off of a second-straight title at that point.

So Duffy went back and took a look at some former Huskies in an effort to see just what you can get out of a UConn education if you play basketball.

And what did he find?

That quite a few of the guys that graduate end up staying in basketball long after their playing career is over. Donyell Marshall and Ricky Moore, two of the most recognizable faces for UConn fans in the 90’s, are now coaching. Craig Austrie, who played for the 2009 UConn Final Four team, runs a business called “Basketball IQ Skills Elite Development Program”. Chris Smith, who starred for UConn in the early 90’s and played a couple of seasons in the NBA, is a probation officer now, but even he hasn’t been able to step away from the game. He’s a high school coach at Kolbe Cathedral, a power house program in Bridgeport, CT.

It supports a point that I’ve been making for a long time: these athlete should be allowed to major in basketball. Football players at this level should be allowed to major in football.

And, ideally, it wouldn’t simply be a way to get these kids to spend more time in the weight room or on the practice court.

As you all know, professional sports and high-level collegiate sports are a business, pure and simple. There are many different avenues to make a living in sports that don’t involve being the guy that wears the jersey: a coach, a trainer, a journalist, a broadcaster, a television producer, sports management, a front office executive, a ticket salesmen, a hot dog vendor, a parking attendant.

The particulars would have to be developed by someone much smarter than me. But the way I see it, training these players how to manage their money to avoid going broke five years after their careers end is not a bad thing. Teach them that, when you rely on your body to make a living, your revenue stream can be dammed with one awkward landing that blows out your knee.

Maybe we can train them in contract law so they can avoid having to pay exorbitant amounts of money to agents. Or teach them how to run an AAU program without the sleaze. Or help them develop their ability to identify talent.

Most importantly, we can teach every single player in the major how to react in a situation where a player collapses. Players can be trained in CPR and emergency medical treatment so that if a situation like the one involving Emmanuel Negedu or Herb Pope should arise without a trainer or doctor present, these kids are prepared to save a life. Wouldn’t it be great if all the players-turned-coaches at the lower levels of basketball — the levels that can’t afford a ten-man training staff — knew how to react should one of their athletes collapse?

In an ideal world, every student-athlete would be maximizing their scholarship and developing the skills they need to become a professional in a business other than sports.

But so many of these kids love the game too much to ever give it up.

Why can’t we teach them how to earn a living in the business they want to pursue once their athletic career is over?

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @ballinisahabit.