By Richard Vedder
I read this morning that Harvard is lowering standards for persons with a peculiar talent --an ability to put a ball through a hoop. They may be even violating NCAA recruiting rules in doing it. Why? They want to win the Ivy League basketball championship. Big whoop --or maybe I should say big hoop.
The desire to win is a basic human instinct. So few places in higher education is there a true "bottom line." Basketball is one of them. Basketball coaches are hired and fired with great regularity, unlike university presidents who can screw up for years, even decades, without the slightest adverse consequences. Yet universities are not about playing with balls, and when great universities like Harvard dilute their academic standards to win, it is rather sad. The Ivy League ideal --no athletic scholarships, treating athletes like students instead of semi-professional pseudo-employees--is one I long have admired.
Does Harvard have the right to do what they are doing? I believe the answer is yes. I think the NCAA is a dubious cartel with excessive powers that needs to be brought down to size. Certainly I don't want Congress interfering. So if Harvard wants to dilute the standards of America's oldest and most prestigious university, they can do so. Let us hope that the accounts our not true and, if they are, that Yale and Princeton maintain standards of academic integrity -- even if it means they are beaten by Harvard in the fun but silly little games that are played with that little ball.