One of the more heartwarming stories from this NCAA Tournament, provided you can forget about the horrors surrounding Michigan State as an institution, was the big shot hit by Spartans senior Kenny Goins in their Elite Eight win against Duke. Goins, a former walk-on, nailed a three with half a minute to go that put MSU up 68-66 and ultimately got them a trip to the Final Four.
The amazing thing about this shot is how much it encapsulates everything about the NCAA Tournament—the unforgettable finishes, the heroics of unlikely players, and also the relentlessly ruthless scam that is the “student-athlete.” Brendan Quinn’s article on Goins in The Athletic today (with the very dark headline “Forever In Debt”) really lays that last part out and puts an appropriate damper on a great MSU moment. Here’s the first paragraph:
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Goins family is still paying for the decision. The loan came out to be about $17,000. That’s what it would take to send young Kenny to college for his freshman year because, at the end of the day, the athletic scholarships to Central Michigan and Detroit Mercy and Buffalo, and the interest from Ivy League schools, you know, places like Penn and Harvard, weren’t what he wanted. He wanted to go to Michigan State. Always did.
Goins walked on to the Spartans basketball team, but Tom Izzo declined to give him a scholarship for his first year. A bit further down, Quinn reiterates the point:
The loan is still being paid off, but now Michigan State is the one indebted.
Except ... Michigan State isn’t. The school is doubtless glad that Goins is still on the basketball team, and they’ll make millions off the Final Four appearance made possible by Goins’s shot, but Goins isn’t going to get what he’s owed from the school in a tangible way. Izzo got paid $100,000 by Michigan State and $25,000 by Nike for making the Final Four. Goins, who has either one or two games remaining as a college basketball player, will likely never get paid to play basketball in America. His family is still shouldering the cost for his college career. The system is and remains extremely broken.