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The New York Post

 

August Madness.

It may as well have appeared in the classified section under Situations Wanted: "Itinerant high school basketball superstar seeks college scholarship for one season, no more than two."

Time will tell if the TV-delivered and sustained myth that Duke basketball is a high-integrity, uncompromising program that produces championships and legitimate student-athletes will persist this season.

In the flooded cesspool that drives college basketball and NCAA TV contracts, Duke, we've so often been told, succeeds where Don Quixote and Pollyanna failed.

Duke, last week, landed the nation's top recruit, 6-foot-11 Marvin Bagley III, the kind of does-it-all player for whom coaches and colleges sell their souls to even briefly call theirs.

Bagley is already regarded as a Top 3 NBA draft pick - next year! Technically a high school senior, he's hoping the NCAA will grant him "reclassification" status so he can play this season at Duke then enter the draft.

And he'll arrive at Duke having played for three high schools in two states, Arizona and California.

While such a transient high-school career may strike the normal instincts as abnormal, it's the new normal for many promising basketball children. Dubious "academies" and "prep schools" now exist in large part to serve as work-on-their-games, fill-out-their-frames warehouses inventoried by big-time college coaches.

Bagley and his loved ones must forgive my cynicism, but I wasn't born cynical; big-time college sports are simply not be trusted.

Still, given that it's Duke, we're supposed to regard Bagley as a legitimate, Duke-qualified full-scholarship student-athlete who meets with coach Mike Krzyzewski's heralded high standards - at least as heard on TV, especially CBS and ESPN.

Imagine what those desensitized, TV-celebrated "Cameron Crazies" would do to Bagley if he played at Duke for UNC, North Carolina St. or Kentucky. They'd mob-trash him as a one-and-done rent-a-star.

Then there's the decades-long rationalization that "If we didn't recruit him someone else would." Southern Cal finished a deeply disappointed - as in crushed - second to Duke for Bagley.

And by now you know the other rationalization: It's a business.

It's a business that escapes examination and courtroom adjudication. If an ostensibly clean business serves as a false front for a criminal enterprise, it's called racketeering; accused offenders can be imprisoned for long stretches if convicted.

That our colleges - many of them taxpayer-funded and growing prohibitively expensive - serve as fronts for expensive basketball and football teams that only provide full-scholarship recruits with legitimate college educations by accident, also fits that - my - definition of racketeering.

And with college coaches by far the highest-salaried employees of colleges and state governments, those most richly rewarded serve nothing more or better than further serving the schools as fronts.

What a racket.

phil.mushnick@nypost.com

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August 21, 2017
 
 
 

 

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