April 1, 2013, - 12:01 pm

Kevin Ware Injury a Stark Example of Why Colleges Shouldn’t Be in the Sports Biz

By Debbie Schlussel

Kevin Ware’s horrific basketball injury is yet another stark example of why colleges shouldn’t be in the pro sports biz.

On Sunday afternoon, you might have been watching the NCAA Midwest Regional final in the March Madness basketball tournament, when Ware, a University of Louisville player suffered a Joe Theismann-esque injury. He broke his shin bone, and the injury was so grotesque that physical trainers immediately used a blanket to cover up what was reportedly a shin bone protruding out from Ware’s leg.


On TV, you could see coaches and fellow players–grown men all–crying visible tears. It was that bad. And despite being rushed to the hospital for surgery, it’s probably a career-ending injury just as Theismann’s similar bone-break was career-ending with regard to his career as an NFL player. But at the time, Theismann was an NFL player with the Washington Redskins. And even though he didn’t make the money NFL players make today, he could have had a good cushion at the time, had he spent his money right. (I’m not sure he spent his money right, because he went on to sue his ex-girlfriend, actress Cathy Lee Crosby, for half her estate in some sort of pseudo-palimony kind of action, which was settled.)

But, unlike Theismann, Ware is not a pro player, and unless he took out a giant insurance policy on himself–which I’ll bet he did not–he just gave up any big money he might have hoped to make in the NBA. And that’s the thing. Until 2006, basketball players could go straight from high school to the NBA, bypassing college, where most college basketball players do not belong and cannot compete academically. But the NCAA and its college presidents–geeks who fancy themselves CEOs of major sports programs–didn’t like that, as star players like Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, and Amar’e Stoudemire bypassed college and went straight to the pros. Colleges–most of them tax-funded in major ways–wanted to remain the tax-subsidized free farm teams for the NBA and get their cut.

Before the NBA’s 2005 Collective Bargaining Agreement was inked, Kevin Ware could have gone straight to the pros, assuming he could make it there via the NBA draft and so on. He’d probably have a very generous insurance policy (not the paltry one the NCAA provides), and he’d already have big money from multi-million dollar contract.

Now, he’s got nothing. And he’ll probably have to go through life wondering what might have been because the NCAA got the NBA and its player association to agree to new rules which force basketball players to be at least age 19 and be a year out of high school to qualify for the NBA draft. This gives the players no choice but to play for colleges for a year so that they can showcase their talents and not be out of sight, out of mind to NBA scouts. And the colleges make mega-money off of them, but not enough money–most college basketball programs operate in the red, so it’s not profitable. That’s aside from the fact that it has nothing to do with academics whatsoever. Why are we paying for this? (If you are a taxpayer, you’re paying for it at all public universities and colleges, and if you pay tuition at a private school, you’re paying for it.) Let the NBA team owners pay for their own farm team system.

Many college players talk about unionizing and demanding salaries from colleges and universities. But no one forced them to sign up or go to college. And if the NBA had its previous rules in place, allowing players to go straight from high school, taxpayers might not be forced to pay for free farm teams and showcases (which is what basketball is) for the billionaires who own NBA teams to use to their benefit.

It’s too late for Kevin Ware. Even if he heals from this injury, few NBA teams would take a second look at him, or even a first look. None will take a chance on someone with that kind of major injury, because the odds are, it will fester and become a re-injury. You just don’t recover from that. Just ask Joe Theismann.

Colleges and universities shouldn’t be minor league NBA feeder apparati, and basketball players should go straight to the NBA from high school, or try their wares elsewhere in real basketball minor leagues, where they don’t have to pretend they know how to read and can identify George Washington (I don’t exaggerate–former NBA player Voshon Lenard didn’t know the answer when his Minnesota history prof asked him why Washington is considered one of the Founding Fathers).

And the Kevin Wares of the world should be able to show their abilities on the basketball court, where they and NBA owners can pick up the tab for career-ending injuries like the one Ware endured yesterday. If Ware, like most college basketball players, isn’t good enough for the NBA, fine. He would have had the chance to find that out, and get a job in another field, instead of pretending to be a qualified college student (most college basketball players aren’t qualified and never graduate, even with easy, Mickey Mouse courses).

Get colleges and universities outta the pro sports biz. And get fake students like Ware, who are there as “meat,” outta the college biz.

We’d all be better off with an actual free market in pro basketball. And Kevin Ware would be better set for the rest of his life.

That this byzantine system–really an anti-competitive conspiracy between NBA gazillionaire owners and the NCAA–goes on . . . that’s the real March Madness.


Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

20 Responses

Free market is always better.

As goes, so goes... on April 1, 2013 at 4:35 pm

Kevin Ware’s situation is all the more appalling because Louisville is one of the elite college basketball programs. If a player is thrown under the bus at Louisville, think how much worse it is at the rest of the schools.

This is kind of a test for the liberals and the feminazis. They have been talking about the horrors of football and slowly trying to ban it in favor of soccer.

Will they take a similar stance towards basketball, where the racial composition is more African-American? Will they criticize the colleges that constitute their political base?

Little Al on April 1, 2013 at 4:42 pm

“That this byzantine system–really an anti-competitive conspiracy between NBA gazillionaire owners and the NCAA–goes on . . . that’s the real March Madness.”


DS_ROCKS! on April 1, 2013 at 5:00 pm

This was a terrible and heart-breaking injury. He will be undergoing years of physical therapy after his surgical procedures.

Of course, this is not the first time that a young basketball player has had career-ending injuries. For example, Marques Coleman was a very promising high school basketball player who was being heavily recruited by the Ivies. Brown University, in particular, was very interested in recruiting Coleman. When Coleman suffered career-ending injuries, Brown offered Coleman a coaching job.

Perhaps Louisville will later do the right thing here and do the same for Kevin Ware.

Ralph Adamo on April 1, 2013 at 5:01 pm


I seriously doubt if *any* mainstream sports writer will address this. The NCAA is truly a sick joke.

But…the academy has been evil for a very long time. Your tax dollars at work.

Red Ryder on April 1, 2013 at 5:28 pm

The doctors inserted a steel rod and he’s already up and walking on crutches. They’re all saying that he will be able to get back into the game. He’s young and in great shape and medical technology has improved greatly since Thiesmann’s day. He’s several years younger than Thiesmann was as well and Thiesmann played football, using his leg muscles differently and putting different stresses on the bones. You can’t compare them just because they’re both compound fractures of the femur. Physical therapy techniques have also improved greatly. They used to push the patient too hard, like your worst high school gym teacher and they often did more damage than good. They’ve learned to start out gently and work up to greater intensity.

Italkit on April 1, 2013 at 6:37 pm

Sorry, it wasn’t the femur. It’s the tibia.

Italkit on April 1, 2013 at 6:40 pm

High school basketball stars can always sign with pro clubs overseas, which I predict many more will do in the future.

NCAA football is even worse, because there is no alternative and you have to be three years removed from high school. The case of Jadeveon Clowney is a good example. He would be a top 5 pick in this year’s NFL draft, but he’s forced to return to school and incur tremendous risk for absolutely no pay.

Adam on April 1, 2013 at 7:37 pm

“Colleges and universities shouldn’t be minor league NBA feeder apparati, and basketball players should go straight to the NBA from high school, or try their wares elsewhere in real basketball minor leagues, where they don’t have to pretend they know how to read…”

Why should the players bother with college? The actors don’t.

skzion on April 1, 2013 at 8:02 pm

    Agree, skzion.

    Italkit on April 2, 2013 at 5:03 am

This is why I have absolutely NO problem with athletes that want to get paid.

When you engage in sports, your body is your marketing chip. Most of us in regular jobs that do not require intense physical ability, talent, or work cannot understand the tenuous position many of these athletes are in every day. Even something as simple as running up the steps at your house could result in a serious injury…. and end your moneymaking prospects if you are an athlete.

If a fellow can make it in the pros at 18, as an adult he ought to be allowed to try.

PitandPen on April 1, 2013 at 8:22 pm

Debbie, I was watching the game yesterday afternoon and I couldn’t believe what the hell I saw when Kevin Ware broke his leg when he jumped high & attempted to block a shot from a Duke player, when he landed I was stunned and everybody in Lucas Oil Stadium was stunned and depressed.

You’re right DS, this horrific and eyesorish injury may end the kid’s career as a sports player, I think when this young man graduates from Louisville University, he may either become a basketball coach or get a career in a non-sports field.

Also I’ve heard about the policies of the NCAA as you mentioned in this piece Debbie of some high school basketball players going straight to the NBA, also you can do that in high school baseball, of bypassing playing NCAA Baseball (and taking college courses) and go straight to Major League Baseball (by starting out in any MLB teams farm system), and also you can do that in high school hockey, if you’re very good, you can go immediately to the NHL (and/or go to farm teams in the NHL), but high school football doesn’t do what basketball, baseball and hockey do.

In NCAA Football, there’s no “one-and-done” policy, of you play one year in college and declare for the draft, in college football, you can play for three years or all four years and go the NFL draft, so not all collegiate sports have the same policies, college football is a little different from college basketball, college baseball and college hockey!

“A nation is defined by its borders, language & culture!”

Sean R. on April 1, 2013 at 9:23 pm

On time and on target Debbie. I used to teach high school and even saw some of this “pre-pro” attitude in coaches and players. I knew only two kids that ever went on to something even resembling pro sports (they played briefly at the farm league level). One of them was dumb as a load of bricks… his parents held him back one year to let his sports abilities come forth more at the HS level. I could only hope that he would make it pro; first, because I had a long ball he hit that he signed… it was my only retirement option at the time; second, because if he didn’t make it, he could only end up laying sod or bucket load gravel.

Russ on April 1, 2013 at 10:17 pm

Debbie athletic scholarships are generally a boondoggle. Between the high profile illiterates, the phony Title IX female athletes and the money losing sports it’s a bad deal for most of us. I’m glad your alma material is in the Final 4 but I almost have to shed a tear when I think about all the nice Jewish Southfield dentists and yappy housewives who didn’t get into UM due to the spots taken up by recruited athletes. Such a shanda!

A1 on April 1, 2013 at 11:41 pm

While I don’t disagree that a lot of college athletes don’t belong in college at all, Kevin Ware was there because he chose to be there. I don’t care what sport you play, injuries are always a possibility. This is why I believe the athletes should be “scholar-athletes” and not barely literate faux-student athletes. I don’t know anything about Kevin Ware, but I have known other student athletes, guys who were NFL caliber in their college days, who were sidelined by injuries – some NOT occurring on the playing field – in their senior year, all hopes of a professional sports career ended. Those who were actually smart kids who were studying something that would help them get a job in something other than professional sports did fine. Others never recovered psychologically from the physical injury because they didn’t have a fallback choice. It’s sad, but it’s not an indictment of college sports, except to the extent that they recruit kids who have no business being in college and don’t push them to have more in their lives than one sport.

I do have a question: Is there some kind of “farm team” system in professional basketball other than college teams? That would be a good idea, and they could probably make money on it, the way baseball does. I think the same could be said for football.

DG in GA on April 2, 2013 at 11:48 am

Debbie, there may be slight changes on the way. Former Ram Pat Haden seems to think that the NCAA is going to lose their case against Ed O’Bannon, who wants to get paid for his likeness in a video game in which the NCAA makes big money from. So concessions will be made, and I think the one and done rule might be one of them.

colt13 on April 2, 2013 at 12:00 pm

Debbie, this statement seems inaccurate to me:

“most college basketball programs operate in the red, so it’s not profitable”

Men’s football and basketball programs subsidize many of the other athletic activities at most colleges…

“Across the U.S., the most popular women’s college sport is in the red. Women’s basketball at the 53 public schools in the six largest conferences recorded operating losses last fiscal year of $109.7 million, while the men’s teams reported operating profits of $240 million, according to NCAA financial records.”

Visteo on April 2, 2013 at 1:14 pm

One change needed is to allow athletes to enter the pros before college.

Kevin Ware was a sophmore, so I assume that he could have entered the NBA this year.

Maybe players should be eligible for the draft without affecting their scholarships. I believe it is forfeited when one makes themself available to be drafted.

Visteo on April 2, 2013 at 1:52 pm

Been there done that with the leg while riding my bicycle to work one morning. Bone sticking out and everything. It certainly ended my running abilities. Notice I did not say career. That is because I finished college, got a masters, got hired and have been working for the past 30 years with insurance. My career is still going well. If Ware were me, he would begin to buckle down on studying, graduate, enter a career and live happily efver after. Hard work is most gratifying.

jake49 on April 2, 2013 at 4:03 pm

No one forced him to play basketball. He could have sat out and waited til he was 19 and tried out for the NBA. It’s called life, nothing is guaranteed and some people win the lottery. I guarantee if all the big time players didnt play big time sports it would still be popular. People have a direct connection with their university because they went there and would watch because the want to see their university do well.

HARD CORE TEA on April 3, 2013 at 4:20 am

Leave a Reply

* denotes required field