At one table, West Virginia’s Marcus Goree sits nervously as he listens to a question from a lone reporter who wants to know how his team will cope with the loss of all its starters. The 20-year-old who, with five starts last season, is the most experienced player on his team, nervously answers the question, admitting that it will be tough to compete in the Big East with little to no big-game experience. While he responds carefully, his eyes dart, avoiding those of the reporter who listens while holding a tape recorder. When the reporter thanks him and moves on, Marcus sighs and smiles softly to himself, as if he has done well, sounded good and successful in not blowing it. A few tables over, Connecticut’s Richard Hamilton, one of the country’s most highly touted players, is surrounded by more than 20 middle-aged reporters from some of the East Coast’s most respected papers. They all act quite interested in how the 20-year-old is coping with the challenge of high expectations, whether he’s glad he didn’t leave for the NBA early and if he enjoys going home during the summertime. Hamilton is confident with the reporters yet rough around the edges. He says the “right” answers but it is almost as if they were scripted. “We’re all part of the same hypocrisy,” Michael Corleone says in Godfather: Part II. That quote could have easily been made by any of the administrators, coaches or reporters at the Big East Conference’s men’s basketball media day, held Wednesday at the New York Hilton. The event brought together all the coaches and about 30 players from the 13 members schools of the league. But on a Wednesday. On a school day. Held by a league of schools pulling its athletes out of school and thrusting them into the cameras and glitz to make the conference look good. At this same school-day event, Georgetown Head Coach John Thompson fielded questions about junior [guard Shernard Long, who is ineligible during the first semester due to academic concerns]( “It’s the time of the year when you’ve got to go to school, you’ve got to do your work,” Thompson said. On Wednesday. A school day. “If you go to school and do your work, you’ll play; if you don’t go to school and do yourwork, you won’t play. It’s as simple as that.” Is it as simple as that for Georgetown’s Joe Touomou and Jameel Watkins, who missed class to be at media day? The mere existence of this media day, especially one on a school day, proves Thompson’s arguments flawed. First and foremost, these guys are ballplayers. Certainly if they were students first, these media events would be staged at a different time. But instead the players are pulled from class and thrown in front of the world to say the right thing, to look good and not blow it. While the media will always be around in high-profile sports like men’s basketball, some of these players are, like Marcus, forced into the uncomfortable job of school spokesman, even if not equipped to do that. Then they are put right under the eye of a media that cares only about getting a good story, not about the person being interviewed. What coaches and administrators alike should do is stop with the lies that these athletes, especially ones in spotlight sports like men’s basketball, are students first. Keep on giving them their scholarships, the easy classes and the free tutors and in return they’ll try to keep up some minimum grade requirement and earn their schools some money. Keep on ignoring the fact that they are young and still learning – in school and in life – so that they can be pulled from the classes that are supposedly so important to go to a press conference. Keep on teaching them important lessons like media relations so that ESPN has something nice to say on Big Monday. But while we’re sitting in class on Wednesday, don’t tell us that they are regular students.

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