Last week Mark Cuban, the billionaire owner of the Dallas Mavericks professional basketball team, issued a blistering attack on the NCAA, declaring that college basketball was “horrible” and “ridiculous,” and that the college game wasn’t preparing college players for the professional game played in the NBA.
Cuban may well be right about how inadequately college basketball prepares players for the pros, but his attack illustrates two enormous problems with American colleges and universities and an equally large problem with American business.
The first problem is why colleges and universities are paying enormous sums of money to field sports programs at a time when the cost of a college education has gone through the roof. No matter what anyone claims, college sports don’t pay for themselves. No doubt some particular sports at given universities might, but given the new contract awarded to Urban Meyer [over $5 million annually] by Ohio State, I have my doubts about even that.
The second problem is that not only does Mark Cuban regard college as a vocational school, but so do most state legislatures and students, and the problem there is that in today’s fast-moving and ever-changing society and business culture most students can expect to change professions a minimum of seven times, if not more. For them to be successful throughout life, they need more than a single set of skills. They need critical thinking and decision-making skills, not to mention written and verbal communications skills – all of which are skills sadly lacking in far too many college graduates, even for a significant percentage of those obtaining graduate degrees.
Cuban’s comments also illustrate an on-going basic problem with not only the professional sports businesses, but American business in general. They all want someone else to do the hard work of training and screening potential employees, and a college education largely fulfills this requirement. In the past, a large portion, if not all, of this training/screening was paid for by state legislatures through state tax revenues, but state funding as a percentage of each student’s education cost has dropped to an all-time low.
In effect, Cuban wants someone else to train his players at their cost, and he’s complaining that the NCAA isn’t meeting his standards. So sad…