Now that a committee of college presidents has stepped into the college athletics debate, there are about as many statements and good intentions flying around as were occasioned by disclosures of corruption in the government's Internal Revenue agency. But now the statements have been made and the breasts beaten, there is still the same basic problem in athletics as there is in Internal Revenue-enforcement of some sort of "sanity code."
Arthur S. Adams, president of the National Council on Education, put it succinctly enough: "Everyone has to believe in this or else it won't come off." Tht temptation to a college to have an excellent team in one or more important sports is in its way just as strong as the temptation to a tax collector to supplement his small income by accepting favors from tax-paying individuals. But there is also another difficulty. The tax collector is responsible directly to the government and indirectly to the people, very few of whom will condone dishonesty unless it redounds to their benefit. College administrations are responsible to relatively smaller groups of people, of whom a relatively larger proportion value winning teams and Rose Bowl bids above symbols of "amateurism."
The eleven-member committee of presidents included the heads of institutions more noted for their athletic prowess than for perhaps anything else--colleges such as Notre Dame, Michigan State, and Southern Methodist--and this seems to bode well for a general awakening to the dangers of professionalism in college sports. The program the committee adopted was a generally good one. Some of the six points, such as abolition of out-of-season practice and limitation on the kind of financial aid that can be given to students who are also varsity athletes, may limit legitimate and desirable practices, but the principles and the general tone are all right. Some coaches claim that spring football practice is an aid to the team which is strictly amateur and does not go after all the top high school players. But they cannot argue with the principle that intercollegiate athletics should be made as easy as possible for a student who does not want to throw away the educational possibilities of his four years at college.
If the college presidents had succeeded in drawing up a code to enforce amateurism, they would have "passed a miracle." It is as difficult to legislate honesty as it is to legislate fredom, and the best that regulations can do is to create a situation where the temptations to honesty will flourish and the temptations to dishonesty will wither. If coaches are put more in the position of professors and judged more on their teaching ability than on "the results," if post-season games and tournaments are cut out, and if sports are relegated in every way possible to the status of an adjunct of education, then the atmosphere will be much clearer and healthier. There will still be cases, of course, where eager alumni provide funds secretly to put outstanding athletes into their alma maters, but short of a complete change in our standards of value, there is very little that can be done about that.