It’s a shame Tig Bunton won’t be playing basketball for the Clovis Wildcats.
Not for the Wildcats, but for Bunton.
The Wildcats will survive the loss of the talented but inconsistent Bunton, a 6-foot-6 junior who was rated the second-best player in New Mexico by a Sporting News publication.
Justin Pinckney, Dominique Easterlin and Bud Willis have already helped pick up the slack for the Wildcats, who are off to a 2-0 start, and help is on the way now that the football season has ended.
But will Bunton survive without the Wildcats?
Not likely. Athletics were his ticket to a college education.
Bunton failed a class during the first nine-week grading period, making him ineligible for the first part of the season, according to Clovis coach J.D. Isler. He failed despite knowing the consequences, Isler said. He failed because of lack of effort not lack of ability, the coach said.
Bunton has since withdrawn from school in Clovis and is living with a relative in Florida, Isler said.
Judging by the numerous conversations I’ve had over the years, a fair portion of the public feels that Bunton and high school students like him who are good at sports and weak at academics have no business going to college.
“The only reason he’s going to college is because he’s good at basketball,” the shortsighted and long-winded will protest. “He’s just going to flunk out any way.”
But that’s the point: Without basketball or sports they would never even have a shot at a college education because the academic playing field is not nearly as level as the athletic.
It’s all about expectations — or lack thereof.
Continuing education is a foregone conclusion for most children of college-educated parents.
But in many low-income families, secondary education takes a back seat to economic survival.
Isn’t it better for someone go to college and fail than never go at all?
Even if they don’t finish college, they’re still better off for the experience, mostly because it will be passed on to the next generation.
Just like my parents were the first to finish high school and made sure that was the minimum for me and my brothers and sisters.
Just like my sister expects nothing less of her children than a college degree, so too will the failed college athletes raise the education bar for their offspring.
Athletics can expedite the process.
Bunton’s inability to stay academically eligible might cost Clovis a shot at the state title, but unless circumstances change for Bunton, he will likely pay an even higher price — a chance at a college education.
CNJ sports editor Rick White can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.