Impelled by runaway spending and rampant corruption, America’s much-beloved games of college basketball and football have not been so threatened since the widespread cheating scandals in the early 1950s. The specter of billion-dollar sums being showered on imperial coaches, voracious athletic directors, hordes of support staff and lavish comforts for fat-cat fans has led to a near-deafening roar to pay the players. The injustice of such sums being amassed, in the main, from the labor of young men of color—many of whom come from disadvantaged backgrounds—cannot be justified; and yet, American society has allowed this intractable problem to fester for more than half a century. Lured by the glitter of untold riches, naive young players enroll year after year in colleges and universities expecting the ultimate reward of a highly paid career in the NFL or the NBA. Only a miniscule few will advance that far; even fewer will reap significant financial rewards. Instead of educating them, colleges and universities force them into full-time athletic “jobs” in which their labor is shamelessly exploited.
Small wonder that outraged critics demand compensation for the players—but these same critics only present vague answers when asked how such a radical change would work. Marching Toward Madness cites twenty-one reasons why the pro-pay positon is wrong, among them the near-certain prospect that the player talent pool will be concentrated to even fewer rich schools; recruiting wars will lead to greater and more frequent scandals, with the potential for endless litigation under Title IX; and the regulatory powers of the NCAA, an organization sorely lacking in public trust and authority, will exponentially increase. Worst of all, pay-for-play will encourage colleges and universities to shirk even further the imperative to educate the young athletes who generate so much of their windfall sports revenues.
The authors bring complementary capabilities to the writing of this book. After coaching two varsity sports at Duke University, John LeBar served as the school’s director of undergraduate studies for fifteen years. Allen Paul has been a life-long writer. His book Katyn: Stalin’s Massacre and the Triumph of Truth was a bestseller in Poland and elsewhere in Eastern Europe. Their book profiles scholar-athletes who defined that once-revered term: Paul Robeson, a Rutgers All-American and valedictorian, who became America’s best-known entertainer in the 1930s and '40s; Supreme Court Justice Byron “Whizzer” White, a consensus football All-American and Rhodes Scholar in 1937; and Nancy Hogshead-Makar, a Duke swimmer who overcame PTSD to win three gold medals and become the most decorated swimmer at the 1984 Olympics.
LeBar and Paul also define seven qualities reflected in the character of scholar-athletes: intellect, discipline, courage, passion, empathy, faith and the ripple effect of high-impact lives. These traits are brought to life in vivid profiles of seven of LeBar’s players. And finally, Marching Toward Madness presents comprehensive reforms to end cheating and corruption in college sports, to put academics first and to end the peonage of non-white athletes once and for all.