cover image The Last Amateurs: Playing for Glory and Honor in Division I College Basketball

The Last Amateurs: Playing for Glory and Honor in Division I College Basketball

Alexander Wolff, John Feinstein. Little Brown and Company, $24.95 (432pp) ISBN 978-0-316-27701-3

Army, Navy, Lafayette, Lehigh, Bucknell, Holy Cross and Colgate: these seven colleges make up the Patriot League, basketball's smallest Division I conference. In this book, NPR commentator and bestselling sportswriter Feinstein (A Season on the Brink, The Majors, etc.) gives an exhaustive account of the Patriot League's 1999-2000 season. He illustrates that exciting basketball can be played in front of crowds that can be as small as 1,000 and that rivalries such as Lafayette-Lehigh can be just as intense as those played by colleges in major conferences on national television. But Feinstein's intent is to do more than just provide details about the year's important games; he uses the Patriot League as an example of ""what college sports are supposed to be about."" Feinstein maintains that the conference's members are among the few colleges that can call their players `student-athletes' with a straight face. Patriot League colleges hold athletes to rigorous entrance and academic standards and most scholarships are offered on a need-basis (although some schools are giving a limited number of basketball scholarships). Moreover, players regularly attend class since they are smart enough to know that there is little chance they will be playing ball at the professional level after graduation. Feinstein's portraits of these players and their coaches, his exploration of why they stay in the game and their encounters playing against soon-to-be-pro athletes of other teams bring an unusual emotional depth to this accountDwhich, like Feinstein's earlier books, should make a run toward, or on, the lists. (Nov.)