Story and Photos By Ken Krayeske • 3:05 AM EST
University of Connecticut running back Donald Brown straight arms a hapless University at Buffalo defender Saturday afternoon, January 3, 2009 at the International Bowl in Toronto's indoor football stadium, fka the SkyDome. Brown ran for some superlative 261 yards, and with that total, he joins an elite club of college running backs with 2,000 yards for their career. He did it in three years, and announced that he is foregoing his senior year to enter the NFL draft.
Is NCAA Division I football a minor league for the NFL? The collegiate career of UConn running back Donald Brown answers that question affirmatively.
Brown led the nation in rushing this year, and capped his All-America 2,000-plus yard season by plowing the University at Buffalo defense for a career best 261 yards Saturday, January 3, 2009 in the International Bowl in Toronto.
More than 40,000 flocked to Toronto to pay to see Brown rack up more than 260 yards rushing. ESPN2 broadcast the game live, showing cable TV and sports land that Brown was now one of college's all-time great rushers. The press breathlessly reported on his decision to go pro.
The AP played it cutesy:
"OK, tell them, bud," Coach Randy Edsall said, slapping Brown on the back at the postgame interview table.
"I'm not coming back," Brown said. "I'm going to pursue the NFL."
He then apologized for saying three weeks ago that he planned to return to Connecticut for his senior season.
The nation's leading rusher said he made the commitment to return to stop speculation and negate a potential distraction for his team heading into the game.
The AP skirts the larger issue - instead of calling a fib a fib, the AP pawns Brown's school-sanctioned, coach-condoned dishonesty as taking one for the team. If he said he was going pro, we wouldn't win, therefore, it is okay for him to tell a white lie. What of the academic integrity of the school?
Perhaps our society has become a touch too accustomed to obfuscating, and justifying those half-truths to maintain order and self-interest. Before the bowl game, no matter its outcome, Brown decided he was going pro. Does Brown's mindset - his intent - cast into doubt his status as an amatuer?
Maintaining amateur status is a big deal. Shutters whir when a star high school player signs a commitment letter for a four-year scholarship offer from a big-time school. The amateur contract comes fully loaded with the NCAA's baggage: other than the academic fee waivers, players merit no payment, not even a hamburger from a coach.
Brown, though, determined that his stellar achievement opened the door for a better remuneration deal from the NFL. He utilized the bowl game as a final advertisement to NFL teams interested in purchasing his services in the NFL Draft.
I would've liked to have asked Brown about his story, which is ethically tame compared to some of the more egregious corruption we've seen in college football over the past few decades.
The International Bowl fully credentialed a two-person video team from the 40-Year Plan.com. Armed with a camera, a question, and field passes for the floor of the stadium formerly known as the SkyDome as fully credentialed press, we were ready to interview away.
After the game, we took our interrogatory to the first player we could grab - UConn cornerback Jasper Howard. Howard had an eventful afternoon, fumbling a kick return or two, but playing solid defense. Did he think this game was professional entertainment?
Howard said he felt like he was a professional, with the atmosphere of all the fans and media and attention. Then Mike Enright, the football representative at UConn's Sports Information Office, told us no interviews were allowed on the field after the game. I said we had press passes. Enright said he didn't give a shit.
My videographer dutifully turned off the camera, knowing it wasn't fit for family entertainment. Soon enough, we will post a fuller report on this topic from the International Bowl. But when Enright cursed at me, I, dumbfounded, repeated his assertion: "You don't give a shit, Mike?"
Yes, he said, I don't give a shit. I suppose that being in Canada, claiming the First Amendment as protection wouldn't help much. So I pointed out that Donald Brown interviewed with a network television camera crew right behind us, in the chaos that was UConn's midfield victory celebration.
Mr. Enright told us that UConn does things for certain people. How does a media outlet get to be one of those certain people?
Is NCAA Division I College Sports Professional Fun?