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Unlike other countries, where clubs and junior leagues precede the pros, American colleges serve as feeders — and unholy ones at that.
BOSTON — It could only happen in America.
On Thursday night two undefeated teams, the University of Alabama and the University of Texas, from two of the most storied American college football programs will meet for the national championship.
The game is being contested at a time when public universities here are facing tuition hikes, scholarship shrinkage and wage freezes. Yet Texas football coach Mack Brown just got a pay hike to $5 million annually, tops in the nation's college football ranks, while Alabama's Nick Saban makes do on $4 million a year.
Though there is genuine outrage about this game, it has absolutely nothing to do with warped priorities or fiscal irresponsibility. Americans seem to reserve all their outrage for the fact that football's national title is decided by a computer-generated pairing rather than than, like in other collegiate sports, a playoff system featuring a larger field.
Rather their outrage should be aimed at the Faustian bargain struck by universities here. Unlike other countries, where elite athletes navigate a path to pro sports careers through professional club systems or junior leagues, American colleges willingly abandon their primary mission of education to serve as a feeder system for major pro leagues, most notably the National Football League and the National Basketball Association.
The inevitable result of this unsavory alliance is that schools, which can reap tremendous financial rewards from football or basketball success, create a culture of impunity for athletes that is, inevitably, ripe for scandal. In recent weeks, here are but a few of the shameful