Corruption in high school sports

Michael Burke

Thursday, June 07, 2012    

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WE all know the importance of sports to the development of our young people. Sports teaches discipline and co-operation as well as keeping the body healthy. Corruption in sports can undermine the teaching of discipline and co-operation. Lascelve Graham is running a one-man band against corruption in high school sports. His main emphasis is the business of importing talent into the schools, or as some call it, the buying of talent.

The practice is immoral, no matter who does it. And worse, it teaches the students in the high schools that it is OK to cheat. We love to complain about corruption, especially if it is believed that someone is living off ill-gotten gains, which has not been shared with everyone, including the complainant.

How do we expect to stop corruption if it is at every level of the society, and if the corruption is perpetuated by teaching the next generation that nothing is wrong with it? It is bad enough that there has been a summer school racket in several schools for decades, not to mention a graduation racket. Add to this the corruption in high school sports - and there is indeed a huge problem.

Small wonder then that when there are all sorts of pronouncements against corruption, many do not take them seriously. We hear on radio and TV and read in the newspapers that the police theorise that certain crimes occur in a particular way. It is my turn to theorise and I do so with respect to corruption in high school sports.

And in arriving at my theory, I ask who benefits when athletes are imported into a school. To me the main beneficiary is usually a North American university. There are very good universities in the USA and there are others that would not amount to a good Grade 9 form in a Jamaican school.

The not-so-bright and the not-so-rich end up attending low-grade universities which tend to have large numbers of students. Those so-called universities can make quite a large profit, but to do so they need to advertise on a large scale which costs money that they might not be able to afford.

According to my theory, they advertise by importing talent in their universities to compete in inter-university athletics. And winning races is the easiest way to get themselves splashed across the sports pages of the leading daily newspapers and in the TV sports news all over the world.

But here is the problem. Successful American and Canadian athletes can go to any university they choose. I theorise that the shady universities simply import talent from the Third World where athletes are only too happy to go to a university in North America.

Again, according to my theory, agents are appointed in the targeted Third-World country. And these agents receive a commission upon the presentation of the athletes to the university. And part of the contract of being at one of those universities is that these athletes are obliged to run races for the university track team.

It so happens that many of the fastest runners do not attend traditional high schools, so the first thing that the agents do is to get them into the traditional high schools so that they can get into the training programme in schools that stand a good chance to come in the top three schools in terms of winning.

I further theorise that the agents work on those schools that have very strong past students' associations, and this is usually the case in all-boys' schools where the camaraderie is so great that the past students and boards of directors are expected to want the importation of talent.

Is it easy to point out the agents? I do not know but I look at the people who are always at the beck and call of the athletes. This includes personal service, even down to helping athletes to put on their running shoes. And theorise that this could well be a good indication as to who some of these agents are.

One can also take a look at those who get on the defensive whenever anyone complains about corruption in sports. I am not aware that there are such agents in the administration of any school, but it is quite possible.

The universities abroad and their agents here do not care that such actions destroy the discipline in schools. How many realise what it does to the discipline of schools when some students believe that they can do as they please because the school needs them to run?

The best argument to use is that winning boosts the morale of the school (which is true), although stated for the wrong reason. And here I am not theorising at all, because I have been at old boys' meetings of my alma mater, Jamaica College, as much as 40 years ago and heard such arguments used. At that time, JC rejected all such proposals.

How many in authority in the high schools have the strength of moral character to say no to this sort of thing? I am not aware that there are many. Congratulations to Lascelve Graham for leading this campaign.





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