I think it was Henny Youngman who said, “I never bet on anything that can read or write. That’s why I stick to horse racing and college football.” Funny, yes … but good humor is usually rooted in reality.

I thought about this after watching the University of Florida brutalize the invincible Ohio State Buckeyes in the NCAA national championship game Monday night. If it would have been a boxing match, the referee would have stopped the fight on a TKO. But for those who enjoy seeing gators tear people’s limbs out of their sockets, it was quite entertaining.

That is, until the post-game interviews started. I turned off the TV after the first two Florida players were interviewed, because I couldn’t understand most of what they were saying. All I could pick up were a lot “diz’s” and “daz’s” … as in, “Diz is a great team” and “Daz what it’s all about.” Nothing else that came out of their mouths was decipherable.

Which begs the question, why are we so hard on Mexican aliens who can’t speak English when millions of born-and-bred Americans can’t speak the language either? It further begs the question, why doesn’t our illustrious public-school system teach students how to speak the queen’s English? If an alien from another galaxy were to watch college or professional athletes being interviewed, he would assume that “ebonics” was the native tongue in the USA.

When I was a kid, teams from schools like Florida, University of Miami and Florida State were considered second rate. So, how did they become the athletic powerhouses they are today? Simple. They figured out that the shortest route to the top of the basketball and football worlds is to recruit illiterate inner-city thugs.

It all makes perfect sense. After all, since Western Civilization has devolved into an anything-goes society through the magic of gradualism, who’s to say that college athletes have to be serious students? Some kids go to college to learn; others go to play ball; and still others go to play ball and commit crimes. Who’s to judge what’s right and what’s wrong? After all, aren’t values relative?

The gang-style brawl that broke out between the University of Miami and Florida International back in October was a natural consequence of transplanting thugs from the hood to college campuses. Maybe it’s as good a time as any for the powers that be to reassess big-time college sports and think about the underlying cause of such savage behavior.

When the National Collegiate Athletic Association adopted Proposition 48 in 1986, it sparked intense debates. The measure required that freshman athletes have at least a 2.0 grade-point average in 11 “core courses,” along with minimum scores on the ACT and SAT college aptitude tests, to play varsity sports in college. Then, in 1995, Proposition 16 went into effect, raising the requirements to a minimum grade-point average of 2.5, with the number of core courses increased to 13.

All of which is nice, but, as is the case with most of the issues that expose America’s cultural decline, no one is asking the really important question: Why are college athletes given any kind of special treatment?

The reality is that, even with elevated standards, there are still way too many illiterate and semi-illiterate thugs on big-time college football and basketball teams nationwide. A college athlete’s being arrested for rape, robbery or even attempted murder is no longer big news.

I’ve always been at a loss to understand what slamming a basketball through a metal ring or running fast with a football has to do with education. When vulgar no-brainers are revered by adults because they can run fast or jump high, what kind of message does that send to academically serious students?

In a sane world, the NCAA and its member universities would muster the courage to give college athletic programs back to the students. And the only way to accomplish that is through the complete elimination of athletic scholarships. Heresy, to be sure, in today’s world of big-money sports programs.

After Proposition 16 went into effect, I recall a faculty member from Grambling (whose name, unfortunately, I did not record) getting right to the heart of the matter by saying, “After you have made it impossible for so many of these kids to get into your colleges, then your teams will not be as attractive to fans and to television, and you will start losing the money they bring you.”

Good for him. He didn’t try to mimic college coaches who babble incessantly about what “good kids” his illiterate troops are. He was honest enough to say, straight out, that there’s far too much money involved in college athletics to eliminate hoodlum athletes.

Personally, I don’t buy into that rationale. I believe fans would enjoy watching college sports just as much, if not more, if athletes were legitimate students. It’s all relative. If everyone is running slower and jumping lower, who can tell the difference?

On the other hand, if individuals with poor learning skills want to play sports for money, they certainly have every right to do so. Let the pros draft them right out of high school rather than having colleges perform the function of farm teams.

When it comes to professional sports, of course, education is not an issue. The profit motive of owners determines what athletes are worth, and that motive in turn is driven by fan demand. To be sure, you still have the same unintelligible interviews after games, but the average fan is too busy guzzling his Bud Light to care.

If the marketplace deems that a player who can’t speak English is worth $2 million because he can run for touchdowns, more power to him. I say, go for it. Please, go for it – and let universities start making heroes out of real students who excel academically.

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