In honor of signing day, we wanted to post Lewis’s take on the tightening of NCAA standards. So today while we’re watching these young men sign with UGA and the other big schools, don’t overlook the ones who will be at Hargrave and Valdosta State and the other small schools next year.
The Kid Who Could Have Been Somebody
This kid has eight brothers and sisters. His father is dead. His mother finds work where she can, mostly as a domestic.
The family lives cramped in a small, run-down house in a mostly rural county.
Sometimes, the kid shows up at school. Sometimes, he doesn’t. School is hard. The teachers talk about things of which he knows nothing. Maybe he would try if he understood what the other kids seem to understand.
He comes home at night and nobody asks, “What did you learn in school today?” His mother is too tired from too many years of walking against the wind to care.
But there is at least one thing that is special about this kid. He is big and he is strong and he can run fast.
His teachers promote him along because they don’t think the kid has the ability to learn.
But he can play the game. And when he is playing, only then is he living. He finds he is better than others in at least something, and that something is playing the game. Everybody needs a little self-esteem. Grade-point average a joke
He still isn’t worth 2 cents in the classroom. But on Friday nights he owns the world.
Nobody in his family has ever been to college. That’s a laugh. Nobody in his family even made it out of high school with a diploma.
But his coaches tell this kid he might have a chance. He might have a chance to get an athletic scholarship. Maybe even to one of the big schools. Oklahoma. Alabama. Ohio State. Georgia.
But there is a problem. This kid is a senior in high school and he can’t compose a simple sentence. He reads on a third-grade level.
His grade-point average is a joke. He takes the Scholastic Aptitude Test. He doesn’t understand the questions because he can’t read them. He doesn’t even understand the test monitor’s instructions. He bombs.
Perhaps a few years earlier, he might still have been able to go to college and play ball. The National Collegiate Athletic Association had not raised its academic standards for student athletes back then. Could have been somebody
But now it takes a 700 on the SAT to be eligible for an athletic scholarsh ip. This kid couldn’t have scored a 700 with two brains.
Before the changes in standards, maybe this kid could have accepted the scholarship and have been enrolled in some sort of developmental studies program where instructors gave him special attention, which might have just been able to fill the gaps left by his high school instructors and his home life.
The kid could have played ball. He could have been somebody. And maybe by playing ball, maybe by having his horizons broadened by travel and by being around and learning from his coaches and teammates, he could have seen where he could go if he could learn to learn.
Granted, it would have been a long shot, but stranger things have happened.
But what’s the use of such conjecture? The NCAA finally got tough on academics and this kid got caught under the steamroller.
Serves him right for being born into a no-win situation.