Sports Commentary: An age-old problem

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What's the deal with these old guys playing college hoops?

By Mike Forster

  "They're a bunch of old men," said the wife.  

This was uttered by a woman who has special expertise in the area of old men, being married to one, and all.

The "they" to which she referred were the Minnesota Golden Gophers hoops team.  The night before, we'd watched my alma mater upset the (then) top-ranked Indiana Hoosiers.

The wife took special pleasure in the fact that I hadn't planned on watching what I was certain would be a blowout loss for the Minnesotans, as they hadn't shown much life since Christmas.  I had opted to read a book that evening.

But, the wife turned on the tube and we found the Gophers in a dogfight: one they won, much to our delight.

The next morning, I awoke flush with the feel of victory only to find the wife's pretty visage bearing a pout.

"This Trevor Mbakwe guy is 24.  What's he doing playing college basketball?"

Since I'm the resident expert on sports in general and Minnesota in particular, I told her I had no idea of what she spoke.  I was able, however, to inform her that she was mispronouncing "Mbakwe."

So, I write from the family doghouse, with Razor the Dog looking at me quizzically.

Still, the wife's complaint raises a slew of questions.  

-Aren't there rules against guys playing once they've reached a certain age?

-Is it fair to have guys in their mid-20's playing against teenagers?

-Given safety issues, surely older guys aren't allowed to play college football, correct?

-Doesn't anyone ever clean this darn doghouse?

Well, it turns out that athletes can play college sports at virtually any age.

Remember Chris Weinke?  He won the 2000 Heisman Trophy as a 27-year-old Florida State quarterback.  Weinke had been a minor league baseball player immediately after high school before heading to the college gridiron.

You may recall that in 2008, a fellow named Ken Mink briefly played basketball for Roane College, at 73 years of age.

With a nod to Paul Harvey:  You may not have known that Mink left the team after playing one game (scoring two points) because it was discovered that he was academically ineligible.  His team had to forfeit the one game in which he played.

There are many reasons why a student-athlete might find himself a few years older than his peers:  a stint in the military after high school is one of the more obvious.  Additionally, there are over 100 Mormons on the current rosters of college football teams, who had their careers deferred while they fulfilled their obligations by going on mission trips. 

There are plenty of other examples of older guys playing in the college ranks.  

On the other hand, there are young-ish basketball players going against graybeards.

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is 19 years old.  He played one year of basketball for the University of Kentucky before being taken second in last year's NBA draft.  Now he's with the Charlotte Bobcats.

When Charlotte plays the New York Knicks, Kidd-Gilchrist goes up against 40-year old Kurt Thomas and 39-year old Jason Kidd.  That's what we here in Razor's doghouse call a generation gap.

As you can see, we're all over the map here.  There are teenagers playing at the professional level and fully mature men participating in the college ranks.

How about you?  The only limit the NCAA has on participation is that one may do so for a total of four years.  That means, for most of us, we still have that eligibility.

So, I could enroll at a college (assuming one would accept me and that we could afford its tuition), try out for its football team (assuming the school had one and I didn't get gassed walking over to the practice field) and play for a full four years (assuming I don't get my head separated from the rest of my earthly vessel on the first day of pads).

Of course, this plan assumes that the wife would support it.

From where I sit, alone with Razor the Dog, I doubt it.