The country's unbalanced value system is destroying professional sports and could seriously damage collegiate athletics, a Kansas University faculty member said Saturday.
"The American value system is really out of whack," James LaPoint, associate professor of health, physical education and recreation, said during a lecture at KU.
"How many times has the president of the United States called KU . . . to congratulate one of our research scientists who is that close to coming up with a cure for cancer?" he asked.
Yet, championship professional and college teams regularly visit the White House at the request of the president, he noted.
LaPoint lectured in Bailey Hall on "College Athletics: Reflections of the Past . . . Future Directions." His talk was part of Alumni Week activities.
He has spent about 20 years at the University of Minnesota and KU examining the sociology of sport. He studies how sport blends with society at large.
LaPOINT SAID pro sport won't survive if players continue to receive excessive salaries such as the $26 million package given Notre Dame football star Raghib "Rocket" Ismail.
"How do we get society to realize that men who run around in baseball suits aren't worth $4 million a year?"
And too much money in college athletics will encourage coaches to break the rules "to get his kids to play, to get the dollars that comes from winning," he said.
Money already is turning college programs into minor league training camps for the pros, which wasn't what universities were created to accomplish, LaPoint said.
"Athletes come to the university to use university facilities, classrooms, coaches, libraries to get to the sport level at the professional end," he said.
THERE IS too much hero worship of college athletes, LaPoint said. At times, athletes forget they attend college to get an education and prepare for life.
"I'm very, very old fashioned. I think that sport should be an activity that is a means to an end. Sport is not an end in itself. There is life after sport," he said.
"We've got to be careful that what we do with collegiate sport does not contribute to what's happening in pro sport," LaPoint said.
He said many people were pleased that the University of Nevada at Las Vegas didn't win last season's collegiate basketball championship.
"I'll come out and say it," LaPoint said. "We don't need programs like UNLV."
"The people probably the most happy at the NCAA championship game were the people who looked at KU and Duke two academic institutions with kids who can compete at that level," he said.
LaPOINT SAID college athletic programs will be held more accountable in the future, because the National Collegiate Athletic Assn. will require disclosure of graduation rates for athletes.
"That is going to have some major implications for accountability of the athletic department for athletes," he said.