Tuesday, February 23, 2016


So the best player in college basketball sat out the first five minutes of his team's game the other day, and that raised a question.

The question: Why punish Ben Simmons of LSU for not being what he isn't, and what even the coach who punished him knows he isn't?

Which is, of course, a "student-athlete."

Simmons is demonstrably not that. What he is, and what LSU coach Johnny Jones recruited him to be, is a sheer mercenary, brought to campus to bide his time for a year before going to the NBA. And if he could put butts in the seats and help LSU win some games (and fatten the bottom line) while he was doing that, so much the better.

Well, Simmons has held up his end, averaging 19.3 points, 12.0 rebounds and 5.1 assists for an LSU team that, despite him, likely will miss March Madness. Which means his value as a mercenary has been negligible.

I'm not saying that has anything to do with Jones benching him for an "academic issue" the other day. But you've gotta wonder.

You've also gotta wonder why "academic issues" are even an issue for someone like Simmons, who is no more a college student than I am. Yet he's compelled to go along with the charade -- and Jones, by benching him, was compelled to go along with it, too.

It's an absurd state of affairs brought on by the NBA's absurd rule that you have to be at least 19 to be eligible for the draft. But then, the whole business of college athletics is absurd these days. Witness the furor over Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh deciding to use spring break as a business trip for his team, which got NCAA czar Mark Emmert all exercised.

I think I know why. Like Simmons missing class (or whatever he did), all Harbaugh's doing is acknowledging what everyone knows: That college football on Michigan's level really is a business, and the players are not "student-athletes" but employees. And that ruins the illusion Emmert and his fellow bureaucrats are especially desperate these days to preserve.

To coin a phrase: Busted.

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