Austin Murphy wrote a column today on Courtney Paris, the transcendent Oklahoma women's basketball senior center who has vowed to return every penny of her scholarship if she doesn't win a national title this year. (Look here for another article, including a video clip of her actually announcing it.) According to Paris, she feels that by not winning a title, she's breaking the implied promise she made by accepting the scholarship in the first place. I have no doubt that she means it, as she's generally come across in her four years at Oklahoma as being someone who takes what she says seriously. I'm not sure if the Athletic Director will accept the money back though; I'd imagine he'd just make it another "foundation" scholarship like so many of the other named ones there.
Of course, everyone writing on this seems to be calling it the ultimate noble gesture, even if it does give unnecessary bulletin-board fodder for the other teams in the tournament. But that's not what my first thought was. After all, this is the NCAA, where Kelvin Sampson can show a blatant disregard for the rules and still end up promoted to not one but two NBA teams (first as a consultant for the Spurs, now as an assistant coach for the Bucks). So while Murphy muses -- somewhat tongue-in-cheek, I suspect -- that the NCAA will try to find some way to view this as a violation of some arcane by-law, my question is this: what's to stop coaches from trying to make this the norm? Sure, for the truly transcendent players, they'll almost certainly find a school who won't make them do this. But what about the borderline guys? Very few serious players will choose to be a big fish in a small pond by going to a D-2 school as opposed to struggling to find court time at a D-1 school. What's going to keep D-1 coaches from saying, "Well, I don't know that you're really good enough for my team, but if you want to go here, I'll make you a deal: if you win a championship in your time here, you keep your scholarship. Otherwise, you owe it when you leave?" And is that really all that different than the six-figure debt I just went in to just to get through law school? Schools would definitely love it; the odds that they'd be getting some of their money back are incredibly high.