Hard lessons

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(HOST) Commentator Brian Porto has run across a story that he’s sure will be of interest to young people hoping to attend college on athletic scholarships – and their parents.

(PORTO) Amanda Brown of Richardson, Texas learned a hard lesson last spring about the business of college sports. It hap-
pened in March, when the women’s basketball coach at Oklahoma State University, from whom Amanda had accepted a basketball scholarship in November 2004, resigned after her third consecutive losing season. Oklahoma State hired a highly successful junior-
college coach from Texas to replace her.

For unknown reasons, the new coach did not want Amanda on his team, even though she had signed a National Letter of Intent bind-
ing her to play for the Cowgirls. He acknowledged that under NCAA rules, he had to honor her athletic scholarship for one year. But, according to Amanda’s father, the new coach said, quote, “She’s not going to play for us.” “I won’t let her practice, dress, [or] travel. But I’ll pay her because I have to. She’ll never play for me as long as I’m the coach at Oklahoma State.” End quote.

These statements are puzzling because Amanda Brown is a talent-
ed basketball player. A 5-foot-6 guard, she earned all-district honors as a junior in 2003-04 and, as a senior, was named district player of the year in Class 5-A, which includes the largest schools in Texas. She chose Oklahoma State over the University of Califor-
nia at Berkeley, Iowa State, and the University of Southern Califor-
nia, each of which had offered her a basketball scholarship. Understandably, Amanda’s father was dumbfounded by Oklahoma State’s sudden disinterest in his daughter. “How can they do that?” he asked. “She did nothing wrong.”

For its part, Oklahoma State did plenty wrong. Athletic-department personnel pressured Amanda to sign a form releasing her and the University from the scholarship agreement and they even sent the release form to her by overnight mail without telling the Brown family that it was coming. Eager to play college basketball somewhere, Amanda signed the release, thereby enabling other colleges to recruit her.

Wisely, she chose to attend Bucknell University in Pennsylvania. Bucknell plays in The Patriot League, far from the glare of the media lights, but in an environment where Amanda’s dream of attending medical school four years hence is unlikely to be compromised by basketball.

College is often a time when dreams change, and if Amanda has realized that practicing medicine for forty years hence is more important than playing college basketball for four years, then she’s already learned a lesson as valuable as anything she’ll learn at Bucknell. Similarly, if she now knows that adults often act mean and petty when money and recognition are at stake, then she will be pre-
pared for life after college whichever career path she chooses. What a shame, though, that she had to learn these lessons the hard way!

This is Brian Porto of Windsor.

Brian Porto is an attorney and a free lance writer. He spoke from our studio in Norwich.

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