- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 15, 2000

The foreign presence in college basketball is insulting on a number of levels.
Many coaches pretend they are in the business to save the youth of America. At least that is their disingenuous claim after it is discovered that one of their players is only one evolution step up from a vegetable.
Their transparent spiel would be somewhat more palatable if the same coaches were not trying to save the youth of Europe, Russia and Africa as well. Apparently, their selective brand of compassion is not restricted by international borders.
The hypocrisy is not limited to the coaches.
The NCAA suits, when they are not counting their network television money or investigating Erick Barkley and his family, hide behind the wonderful educational opportunities that are available to America's cash cows in short pants.
But if these educational opportunities are so wonderful, so precious, how can the sport's governing body justify these opportunities going to a significant number of foreigners?
You don't give away a precious resource, in this case an athletic scholarship that could have gone to an American youth.
Foreign countries do not extend the same opportunities to America's basketball-playing youth. You do not see recruiters from Siberia U. pursuing the latest American basketball phenom. That is because the basketball system abroad is different from America's.
The basketball precocious in foreign countries advance up a multi-tiered club/ professional system that functions apart from the universities.
By the time many of these foreigners land at an American university, they are quasi-professionals, having played at the professional level in their respective countries but supposedly without the usual compensation. But who really knows how they were compensated, and really, even if they are compensated with a nice salary, why should America object? That's their business, their way.
The NCAA suits certainly don't have a clue. They are too busy trying to determine if one of Barkley's former AAU coaches once bought the St. John's player a Big Mac meal.
There is a certain level of reciprocity between countries in other university departments. U.S. students study abroad. Foreign students study here. The foreign exchange program is beneficial to everyone.
But in basketball, the playing field is one-sided, even at the professional level. The NBA and WNBA impose no limits on the number of foreigners permitted on each team. Yet the professional leagues overseas routinely set limits on their basketball imports, usually no more than one or two per team.
Title IX, the 1972 federal welfare law of sorts, adds another dimension to this upside-down practice.
Women usually turn misty-eyed at the mention of Title IX and all it has done for little girls across America.
Equal opportunity is what it is all about, women say, even as the bleachers at most women's basketball games are filled with only the parents of the players, criminals on the lam, the homeless and three or four bound-and-gagged victims of a kidnapping.
Yet women, in following the lead of the men, also are tapping the markets overseas, granting federally funded "opportunities" to players who don't know Title IX from Y.A. Tittle. Little girls in foreign countries apparently can dream, too. And hooray for Richard Nixon.
To put it another way, no one likes a welfare cheat, and the welfare recipients in women's basketball routinely cheat the system, doling out the public's dollars to imports in exchange for bad basketball.
This is not to denigrate the basketball-playing youth of the world. It's not their responsibility to increase the perspective of myopic Americans. They would be stupid not to accept a free education.
But that hardly eases the insult.
Americans should be responsible to themselves first.
Isn't that how it works in other countries?
You don't see the OPEC countries giving away their black gold.

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