Exploiting in the name of Jesus

basketball hoopThe New York Times ran with a great piece last weekend on schools that pose as educational facilities, but are in reality, merely basketball factories. Now don't get me wrong, I love basketball and I am all about supporting educational institutions that have strong basketball programs. But education is what most definitely should come first, not basketball. As the Times story shows, that is sadly not the case:

An investigation by The New York Times found more than a dozen of these institutions, some of which closed soon after opening. The Times found that at least 200 players had enrolled at such places in the past 10 years and that dozens had gone on to play at N.C.A.A. Division I universities like Mississippi State, George Washington, Georgetown and Texas-El Paso.

"I would say that in my 21 years, the number of those schools has quadrupled, and I would put schools in quotation marks," Phil Martelli, the men's basketball coach at St. Joseph's University in Philadelphia, said. "They're not all academic institutions."

The National Collegiate Athletic Association acknowledges that it has not acted as such places have proliferated. For years, its Clearinghouse has approved transcripts from these institutions without questioning them.

As a relatively intense follower of basketball, especially the NBA, I do not find such stories surprising. As the story tells, ever since NBA superstar Tracy McGrady went from a small 200-student academy in North Carolina directly to the Toronto Raptors, these institutions have abounded, particularly since his coach received $1 million from Adidas after McGrady signed a shoe deal with the company.

But it is one thing to have an impression that something's happening and another to have a 3,700-word story tell you about it. Here's hoping that the NCAA cracks down on institutions such as these.

One may ask, "Where is the religion in this story?" Well, our friends over at The Culture Beat caught the story and identified a religion ghost missed by the NYT:

What struck me most, besides the sham, was how many of these "schools" had religious names like "Lutheran Christian Academy," whose "classroom" is pictured above, "Redemption Christian Academy," "Genesis One Christian Academy" and, not to put too fine a point on it, "God's Academy."

I have no idea why this should be the case but I had noticed how many prep basketball powers had these kinds of names. I'm not talking about real Catholic and Evangelical schools. I mean ones that I'm pretty sure opened a few days ago and are now ranked among USA Today's "Super Prep" top 25 and whose motto appears to be "Exploiting Young Black Men in Jesus' Name."

This is the kind of religion ghost we should hope that the Times doesn't pick up on.

Again, sadly, this is not surprising. And, unfortunately, these programs may have Christians involved (one is run by a pastor) -- hence the names.

Kudos to the NYT for this excellent sports story, but in my opinion, it's a pity the Times didn't catch the religious theme. Other sports departments seem to be able to get religion, or at least know it when they see it.

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