John Thompson, Georgetown's basketball coach, wasn't surprised at last week's fallout over the Kemp decision, but he still voiced resentment that academicians are now using athletics as what he called a scapegoat for the nation's educational problems.
"I certainly wish intercollegiate athletics could clean up all its problems so that the intellectuals would have to deal with the real problem -- education," Thompson said.
"Maybe that would give the academicians a chance to look at the tremendous educational problem in this country. It wasn't a coach who passed these kids from grades one through six when he wasn't able to read. We're just giving educators something to blame for all their problems."
Thompson said he wasn't as concerned about the decision in the case of Jan Kemp as he was the public perception that athletics are the primary problem. Kemp, formerly an assistant professor at the University of Georgia, was fired after speaking out against the "preferred" academic treatment of athletes at that school. That treatment reportedly included admitting athletes who were barely literate, then passing them through remedial courses though they hadn't completed the work, so the players would be eligible.
Although Kemp's freedom of speech was the basis of the suit in Atlanta, which she won last week and in which she was awarded $2.5 million, the priorities of college athletic departments also were on trial in the six-week period.
"Of course, there are things wrong with athletics, and they should be questioned and looked at seriously," Thompson said. "But if you want to look at the real scandal, look at the entire educational system. What about all these kids who can't read who aren't playing basketball and football?
"I'm not as concerned with the particulars of the Kemp case as I am with all these intellectuals, with their glasses on the edge of their noses, acting as if coaches are entirely to blame for the education of these kids.
"Kids don't learn to read in college, or the 11th and 12th grades when they're being recruited. Why aren't they learning to read from grades one through six? More scandalous than the fact that he can't read now is the fact that he was allowed to reach a level where he could get to college.
"All these educators are running around now, saying, 'Look how we've been tainted by athletics.' They've been tainted by the inability to educate these kids before the 11th and 12th grades."
Thompson noted that universities used athletics as a vehicle for attracting minority students in the late 1960s and early 1970s, "but that's not fashionable anymore."
"How about the fathers of those kids at the University of Georgia, who were deprived of an opportunity at education?" Thompson said. "Suppose they filed suit against the state of Georgia, or any other state?
"Educational institutions are more concerned about their images than what's right and wrong. It's part of the American myth that things are equal and fair."