Thad Williamson's article ["Tar Heels under fire," Aug. 22] provides a worthwhile historical and trans-college context for examining the current embarrassment over sports and academics at UNC. But I take issue with his conclusion that college sports cannot be radically reformed.
Athletics and academics could become independent enterprises, both operating on college campuses. The magnificent facilities already built for revenue sports could be rented to professional sports organizations who could field teams without having to worry about academic eligibility of their players. Revenue from the media and ticket sales would pay the rent that could sustain non-revenue sports on the campuses, as well as allow players to be paid a fair wage for their efforts with plenty left over to pay coaching staffs. There is no reason to think that attendance or team loyalty for fans would decline if, for example, the Tar Heels were a professional football team.
With athletic eligibility not dependent on academic eligibility, athletes could take courses part-time or full-time at the host college or nearby community colleges to the extent that it was feasible given their heavy athletic workload. Their choice of courses would not be limited by thoughts of maintaining athletic eligibility.
With the spotlight now shining on UNC, one could hope that this institution would begin a nationwide movement to dismantle the NCAA, which is the major impediment to reform along the lines that I propose. Sports on college campuses should follow the lead of the Olympics, where professionalization has allowed athletes to devote full attention to their athletic development for a certain period of their lives with no deleterious effect on fan interest.
The college football problems outlined in the interesting ACC history in your Aug. 22 issue are of concern but are not universal. Consider Navy football, which plays to packed houses in Annapolis and elsewhere. Every year Navy plays Notre Dame, Air Force and Army. Navy has played in 17 bowl games, 9 in the past 16 years, against Missouri, Utah, Wake Forest, Boston College, California, Texas and the like.
Every single Navy football player must take physics, calculus, electrical engineering and a foreign language. The graduation rate is close to 100 percent and all graduates are commissioned in the Navy or Marine Corps. Nearly all were in the top 10 percent of their high school classes, and they practice 1.5 hours a day.
It works in Annapolis. Why not elsewhere?
James B Craven III