On Monday, the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics hosted a series of panel discussions focused on the NCAA’s amateurism model. While important names like Jay Bilas and Tom Yeager served as headliners, the most refreshing comments of the morning came from the mother of former Duke standout and soon-to-be NBA player, Wendell Carter, Jr.
Kylia Carter was on the women’s basketball team at Ole Miss in the late 1980s. Now, she’s the mother of Wendell, a 6-foot-10 forward that famously chose to attend Duke over Harvard, against the hopes of Kylia and her husband, Wendell Sr. The Carter family was among those named by the FBI as having met with Christian Dawkins, the sports agent Yahoo once declared “the most dangerous man in college basketball” who actually kept the under-the-table money he was supposed to funnel to athletes.
It’s not just Kylia’s experiences as a former athlete and parent of a top-tier college basketball player that make her one of the better voices to listen to when it comes to discussing the issues in college athletics, it’s her ability to cut through the bullshit and call the problem what it is: a failure on the part of the NCAA to fairly treat and compensate its labor. The NCAA spent God knows how much money getting Condoleezza Rice to chair its Commission on College Basketball, but all Rice and her fellow commissioners did was spend six months figuring out what anyone else with a brain stem and two eyes knew six years ago. In just a few minutes on Monday morning, Kylia was able to provide some much-needed clarity.
You can watch her remarks in full here, and you can and should read a transcript of her remarks below:
As we grew in this business and we pull back all the layers, and I began to see what I was actually looking at. To be honest with you, it’s nauseating.
To have the opportunity to say this and not say this, I’ll feel like I felt when I was a student-athlete at Mississippi and my friends were in classrooms being called horrific names, having food and things thrown at them as they were walking past the union. And them saying these things to me and me telling them, ‘Surely not. theres no way thats happening. this is a wonderful place. I’m having such a great time. Everything is going so wonderful. what are you talking about?’ And so I migrated to the people that were having experiences like mine instead of those that were having trouble that looked like me, that were having real struggles.
So, I say that to say, I cannot be here now and not say that when I pull back the layers, the problem I see is not with the student-athlete, it’s not with the coaches or the institutions of higher learning, but it’s with a system like the only system that I have ever seen, where the laborers are the only people that are not being compensated for the work that they do, while those in charge receive mighty compensation. The only two systems that I’ve known that to be in place is slavery and the prison system. And now I see the NCAA. The overseers of a system that is identical for that.
So it’s very difficult for me to sit here and not say that there is a problem that is sickening. But the problem isn’t being directed in the right place. And I think that it should be. And I think that the covers should be pulled back and everyone be able to see the truth and what’s happening to the student-athlete and their family. Because once these students are recruited to these institutions of higher learning—which are fantastic; I am a proponent of academic excellence, a proponent of education, a proponent of knowledge. I love it. It’s beautiful to me. That’s why my son had such a hard time selecting between Harvard and Duke, because his mother and father wanted him to go to Harvard because of the experience for a man that looks like him. Though he didn’t choose it, I am so ever grateful that he went to Duke. It was a wonderful experience and everything that he needed it to be to get him to this next level.
Still, after the infractions that they accused us of doing—something with one of the people being investigated by the FBI. But I was still flabbergasted at the people that were being indicted. I knew some of those people.... I know for a fact that this has been going on since I was being recruited. I’m a female, so I know that the recruitment was vastly for male athletes, and it was corrupt then. I remember kids not being able to pass the ACT test. They called them Prop 48 students. And they would let the Prop 48 students come to school and play, knowing that they couldn’t pass the academic portions. But they let them in school anyway. They would tell you it was to afford you this scholarship.
No. It’s because of the money that you would bring to that institution for playing all those years. Or you being a part of that program. At the end of the day, the talent is being purchased. The talent is being purchased, but the talented are not receiving any of the benefit. The colleges are only recruiting the talented kids for their talent, not because they will excel at their academic institution. So why is that the benefit of them going to that institution. I want them to go, but I want them to go for two years. If you’re going to make them go, make them go and get something from it. Why can’t they go to college and get this two-year certificate in this professional sports, if they are that talented? So that they are aware and educated on the business of the sport that they want to [play].
Why isn’t there something to protect kids that look like my son and me, to protect them while they pursue what their talents afford them to pursue? And I’m not talking about an agent, I’m talking about a not-for-profit organization to teach them and help them, and to teach them to stay close-knit and become successful. My mission, my goal and my understanding for being here is to help everyone to surround and protect the athlete moving forward.
David Robinson, once a good basketball player and most recently a member of the aforementioned useless Commission on College Basketball, was present at Monday’s panel. He responded to Carter’s remarks and the idea of paying players by constantly reminding the audience of his limited speaking time, droning on about how he and Grant Hill (the only other player on the commission) boosted their value in the NCAA tournament, and flailing while trying to say that college is a better alternative than the G-League. That is to say, like the commission, he didn’t care to address the actual issues Carter very plainly called out, and instead spent his time talking about things everyone’s agreed on for years now.
The NCAA should take all the money it’s wasted on the Commission on College Basketball and just give it to Carter and let her mark up its outdated set of bylaws. Then again, as Carter pointed out, the NCAA should do a lot things.