NCAA Hypocrisy

It has been awhile since my last post as this has actually become more difficult to do than I thought it would be. I actually have a lot more respect for the men and women who churn out multiple articles every week that are interesting. I figured since the college football season was wrapping up, I might throw in my two cents.

I know this is old news at this point, but recently five Ohio State football players were suspended for the first five games of the next season, including starting quarterback and future NFL draft choice, Terrelle Pryor. The five Buckeye players were suspended for selling personal merchandise and trading their signatures for free tattoos. Among the items sold by the players were gold football pants awarded to the players for beating rival Michigan and their Big Ten Championship Rings. I know, this already sounds stupid.

Now, the total value of all gifts is about $2,500 (I was too lazy to look up the total values so this is an estimate). Keep in mind that a football team of Ohio State’s caliber and size brings in the school and conferences millions of dollars every year. In fact, only men’s basketball and football actually make any money. Also keep in mind that while the players are not paid directly, they are getting a free education, room and board, books, food, and an allowance when they are traveling for road games. The cost of tuition to attend The Ohio State University is $11,298 for Ohio residents and $28,746 for out-of-state students while the estimated annual expense for room, board, insurance, supplies, and books is $13,980 (http://gradadmissions.osu.edu/Costs.html). You can do the math.

That’s a lot of money to most people. I know all of you have seen those commercials where they show all these student athletes who are going pro in something other than sports (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G40g9RTxurw). Even most football players, so it would seem that would be a fair trade-off. That’s not necessarily the issue at stake here. It’s the NCAA and the universities themselves.

The bottom line is that the players broke the rules and they deserve to be punished. I don’t buy for a second that they didn’t know they were breaking the rules (which is why they weren’t suspended for the Sugar Bowl). The rules are in place. Plain and simple. But the rules and the way they are enforced are where the problem lies.

The NCAA rules were put in place mainly to prevent the schools with deeper pockets from being able to offer the better players benefits so they would attend that particular University (See Cam Newton). Players would choose schools because of the educational value (laughing inside) and the sports programs themselves, not because of money. This all makes perfect sense. Basically, the NCAA wanted to make sure that they wouldn’t turn into what baseball has become. However, this is where the path takes a turn.

According to NCAA rules, it is illegal for any student-athlete to make money while on a scholarship. Obviously there are exceptions as to where it pertains to part-time jobs or anything like that. However, it’s basically impossible for a football or basketball player to go to practice, play games, “study”, and work a job. For the purposes of this post, we are just looking at football and basketball players.

What stinks the most about this whole situation is the punishment that was handed down by the NCAA. No, not the first five games of next season, but the fact that these guys got to play in the Sugar Bowl. And Yes, I am actually a Buckeye fan (from my grandfather, story for another time). The reason why the players were not suspended for the bowl game was because they did not receive adequate rules education prior to when these events took place (http://bleacherreport.com/articles/552013-bowl-eligible-why-the-suspended-buckeyes-can-play-in-the-sugar-bowl). Please.

These guys knew exactly what they were doing. All college football players do. Pryor basically even admitted as much the other day. The only reason the players are playing in the Sugar Bowl and aren’t sitting at home is because of one reason…MONEY! Can we stop pretending that it’s because of any other reason. If Pryor, Dan Herron, DeVier Posey, Soloman Thomas, Mike Adams, and Jordan Whiting weren’t marquee players, they wouldn’t be playing. Mainly because the game would stink. If you don’t believe me, look at the stat lines for those guys.

If those guys aren’t playing then the game is a joke. It would have ended up being a run away win for Arkansas and most people would have tuned the game out before it even started. TV ratings would have been down and people who had planned on traveling to the game might have changed their minds and stayed at home. The sponsors would have been upset as well as the bowl people and could have made things uncomfortable for next year. The NCAA didn’t want that. They would rather face a little criticism now then lose money.

For all you haters out there who are jumping on the anti Ohio State bandwagon, please get over yourselves. Especially if you are a fan of college football and cheer for any team that’s not in the same conference as Boise State. Do you see those $20,000 diamond earrings in your running back’s ear or the BMW your star point guard is driving around in? How exactly do you think a lot of those players paid for them? Maybe they have finally emptied their piggy banks when they got to your favorite SEC school. I mean, they do need to look good if they are going to be on television every Saturday. If you believe that then I have some land to sell you.

Why isn’t the NCAA asking the players how they paid for those items? Why aren’t the schools and coaches asking the same questions? The easy answer is because they don’t want to know the truth. They don’t want to suspend half of the Division I football and basketball players. The NCAA only wants to get involved when the truth has become to blatant to ignore anymore. It’s why Reggie Bush had to give back the Heisman and the NCAA had to place sanctions against USC five years after Bush had already graduated. They couldn’t hide it under the rug anymore.

The NCAA wants to pretend that they care about the kids themselves and the education they receive. That education comes first and sports come second. We all know this isn’t true. Have you ever looked at the graduation rates for the big time college factory football and basketball teams. They are pathetic. Most of those kids are there for one reason, and one reason only. To win games and make some money in the process. It’s why the conferences themselves get millions of dollars when a school makes a BCS game. Hell, it’s why the BCS exists at all, but that’s a completely different story.

So how do we fix this? It’s actually quite simple. Start paying the players. Not like professional athletes though. Institute a pay scale. Lets say that freshman get $5,000, sophomore’s get $10,000, junior’s $15,000, and seniors $20,000. A fixed scale that every single football and basketball program has to stick to (sorry swim team, you don’t count). If a school is caught breaking those rules then the first time is probation and the second is a year suspension for the university. No exceptions. I bet that would make these schools be a little more compliant. Would the competitive balance really change? Do you think Boise State’s team would look any different or be any less good?

Not only would this system cut down on some of these guys taking extra benefits once they are in school, it might actually entice some players to stay in school a little longer. The only other option would be to let these guys sell some of their stuff that they have been given. We are talking about a lot of kids who come from nothing and can’t afford to take a girl out on a date. Is it really a surprise they are trying to sell these things for a little extra cash?

Until the rules and the NCAA change, these little transgressions are going to continue to be a problem. These poor kids who come to these schools with nothing in their pockets are going to keep trying to make few extra bucks to get by. And if we are being honest with ourselves, a lot of us would most likely do the same thing. I do understand that these kids need to take some responsibility for their actions. They broke the rules and while those rules are in place, they deserve to be punished if they break them, like those guys couldn’t wait until they went pro to get their 163rd tattoo, but the NCAA needs to take some responsibility too. They need to stop treating these kids like cash cows and start actually listening to their own message that they are student athletes and education and fairness comes first.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8hGvQtumNAY

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