I am a very proud alumnus of Duke University, having graduated in 1973 at the end of the Vietnam War. Indeed, I had worked hard to be accepted, graduating fifth in my class a Harriton High School, a sister school of Lower Merion High School on the Philadelphia Main Line, then one of the best school districts in the nation. Ironically, Kobe Bryant many years later was a product of Lower Merion.
In recent years, I have kept track of Duke both in the media and by reading its publications. It has taken a turn hard left and now has seemingly become the “Berkeley of the South.” Notwithstanding the scandalous Duke LaCrosse Team debacle, which tarred innocent white male student players as racists over false allegations of rape by African American women, the schools kowtowing to Muslim students who wanted to disrupt studies by praying loudly on the main quad, right in front of the main library, was more than disappointing. Just two weekends ago, both Duke and the University of North Carolina held a joint conference whose speakers trashed the state of Israel, ala Muslim U.S. Congresswomen Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib.
I have to confess however that I still love my alma mater — with more than fond memories of my four years there — and as any “Dukie” would do, root for its basketball team throughout the regular season, the ACC tournament and “March Madness.” Ironically, my years at Duke were among the few when the basketball team did not excel but instead was quite mediocre. This was before its current coach, Mike Krzyzewski, took the helm.
But despite this, at least during my time as a student at Duke, Duke basketball had integrity. The players, to be admitted and receive scholarships, had to meet high academic standards and could not even compete on the varsity team during their freshman year. This was to allow them to focus on their academic studies and to ultimately graduate.
In today’s world — a place marred by a lack of ethics, morality, and standards — the NCAA allows its Division One member schools to in effect become a minor league for the NBA. So-called student athletes can accept scholarships without any intention of even advancing beyond their freshman year and they compete on the varsity — indeed there no longer is a junior varsity — turning pro after their first year. There is no longer any pretext that they are bona fide students. Rather they simply compete to earn big contracts in the ensuing NBA draft.
And to make matters worse, the prima donnas who play for a chance to be drafted for “mucho dinero” by the pros, sometimes come up reasons not to play during games at the end of the season, as recently seemingly occurred with Cam Reddish of Duke during the first game of this year’s “Sweet Sixteen.” In Reddish’s case, it appeared to me to be for fear that he would exacerbate a minor knee injury that could dissuade NBA teams from drafting him at the end of the season.
Where is the true grit of years past, where college athletes would risk all for their school, much more their own determination to bring home a championship trophy for the student body?
Couple this with the recent push to pay basketball players salaries for “their services,” a regrettably serious proposal on the desks of NCAA’s officialdom, and which is supported by coaches such as Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski, and the total bastardization of the sport is just around the corner. That this is even being discussed is a testament to the near total decline not just of the integrity of college basketball but the declining state of the nation as whole.
That my alma mater, Duke supports this — one of the top academic universities in the country on a par with Harvard, Yale, and Stanford to name just a few — is really sad.
But what is also sad is that Duke, even with it becoming the equivalent of a pro team, could not advance to the Final Four this weekend with the likes of Zion Williamson, R.J. Barrett, and Cam Reddish, all freshman who will enter the NBA draft in the next few weeks. The moral to this sad story is that no matter how good a school’s players are, without a sense of pride that one is truly a part of the university and is not just there to advance one’s own NBA career, the cohesion of a team cannot be solidified.
Having mercenaries fight a war, in this case for Duke, to win a championship, did not work. As just one example to the contrary, look to the 1980 amateur U.S. Olympic hockey team, coined the “Miracle on Ice,” which defeated the professional team of the Soviet Union in the early days of the Reagan administration. It was their grit and heart for their country during a period of great confrontation with the Soviet Union that led the American team to victory against all odds, not the jingle of cash in their pockets or the prospect of later multi-million dollar careers in the NHL.
And so it was that when my once proud alma mater Duke lost to Michigan State last Sunday in a squeaker of a finish, 68 to 67, when R.J. Barrett blew free throws during the final seconds, I was both very sad but also happy in a strange sense.
For in my opinion, although I had rooted for my school to win, this abrupt loss was also Divine justice. Duke, so long as it sells out its academic excellence and the integrity of being a student athlete on scholarship, with or without legendary coach Mike Krzyzewski it does not deserve to win another national championship. And that goes for any school that puts profit ahead of being a real university.
Duke, like other national universities in Division One sports, is at a cross roads. They can either return to being real institutions of higher learning, or slither on in the dark shadows of the decline of our civilization where to line their own pockets with the considerable cash of huge television and equipment contracts, and other income sources, the ends justify the means.
Larry Klayman, founder of Judicial Watch and Freedom Watch, is known for his strong public interest advocacy in furtherance of ethics in government and individual freedoms and liberties. To read more of his reports, Go Here Now.
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