abuse scandals

Can a Catholic Hoops Conference Save College Sports?

Photo by Saed Hindash/The Star-Ledger

Seton Hall Pirates v. Rutgers Scarlet Knights on Feb. 12. Photo by Saed Hindash/The Star-Ledger

March Madness ended with an exhilarating April flourish on Monday as the Louisville Cardinals defeated the Michigan Wolverines and became the new kings of college basketball after a tense 82-76 win in Atlanta.

But the euphoria that always accompanies the popular NCAA tournament may be short-lived this year, as media attention returns to an unprecedented spate of crises that have prompted grave concern about the ethics of college sports.

Chief among the outrages is the ongoing backlash over an abusive basketball coach at Rutgers University, but the sex abuse scandal in the Penn State football program also remains fresh in the public’s mind.

A litany of other alleged acts of malfeasance involving the NCAA, big-time schools, high-profile coaches and student athletes also continues to undermine the credibility of college programs, while concerns are growing about the pernicious influence of huge television contracts, especially for college football games.

Yet amid this tumult, a brand-new basketball conference composed almost entirely of Catholic schools is set to emerge this summer, which some say could point the way toward a new, or perhaps old-fashioned, model of college sports — and maybe even burnish the church’s image along the way.

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