Ron Thomas is the director of the journalism and sports program at Morehouse College and the author of "They Cleared the Lane: The NBA's Black Pioneers."
UPDATED MARCH 14, 2012, 9:35 AM
The N.C.A.A. and tournament sponsors have a vested interest in protecting themselves, which they do extremely well. Want proof? Just compare the television ad revenue generated by the 2010 March Madness ($613.8 million, according to the advertising strategist Kantar Media) to the amount of revenue that landed in tournament players’ pockets ($0).
So if players are looking for protection, they’d better look in the mirror.
One way players can take care of themselves is by making sure they choose the right college experience.
If you’re a March Madness wannabe, excel in high school academically so that you will qualify for any college program you desire. If coach Tommy Amaker’s philosophy fits you best, then you’d better have the grades to join him at Harvard. That’s what the Crimson stars Kyle Casey and Oliver McNally had when they turned down much more successful basketball programs to help Amaker bring Harvard into the hoops spotlight.
If players are looking for protection, they’d better look in the mirror.
Or base your college choice on an academic interest that could become your life’s work. Your school of choice might not be a basketball power, but if you’re as good as you think you are, you’ll lead your team into the N.C.A.A. tournament. Even if you miss that target, pro scouts will find you. They found Hall of Famer Scottie Pippen, and he played ball for not-so-famous Central Arkansas.
Perhaps match your personality to a college. Larry Bird, a small-town kid, felt overwhelmed at Indiana U. So he enrolled at much smaller Indiana State, and three years later it was “Bird vs. Magic” in the 1979 N.C.A.A. final. For family reasons, one of this year's March Madness stars, Elena Delle Donne, turned down the UConn dynasty to play for her home state, at the University of Delaware.
Be bold: Consider all options. I direct the journalism and sports program at Morehouse College, a historically black institution (HBCU). In our sports reporting class, every semester a student asks, “When will a McDonald’s All-American choose an HBCU?” Perhaps never, because black colleges tend to be small and receive little televised sports coverage.
But it may be that such a school has an academic strength, cultural focus, or some sort of personal or professional appeal. In this case, the player should dare to follow his or her heart, just like the New York Knicks greats Willis Reed and Dick Barnett did at Grambling State University and Tennessee State University.
By the way, it was Tennessee State that gave Murray State University its only loss this season. And I doubt that players at Norfolk State University and Mississippi Valley State University, Prairie View A&M University, and Hampton University, all historically black schools playing in this year’s N.C.A.A. tournament, regret their college choice today.
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Topics: Education, N.C.A.A., Sports, basketball, college, students