A familiar headline graced the front page this morning; another football program is being investigated amid allegations of improper benefits received by student athletes. The developing situation at the University of Miami is one of several major stories surfacing in recent months. The Ohio State football program has suffered a major blow to their program, losing head coaching legend Jim Tressel to resignation after he admitted to keeping the lid on major infractions by players. Boise State, famous for their artificial blue turf, recently fired their long time athletic director Gene Bleymaier, after allegations of NCAA rules violations surfaced around the football program and other sports. Now Nevin Shapiro, former Miami booster, has come forward and alleged that he has paid out hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash and other benefits to dozens of players over the past several years. Yes, he is naming names, and the list is as illustrious as it is long.
These infractions aren’t all that surprising, it has been happening for years and it will not stop now that major football programs are being busted all over the country. These schools will be investigated and they will be punished severely, but it will do very little to solve the problem. The players care very little for the impact their actions have on the program after they have departed, that’s actually a major selling point and incentive to take improper benefits in the first place. Very little can be done to the players once their time at the university is completed, ok, Reggie Bush was asked to return his Heisman, big whoop millions of dollars later. That would be a major blow if integrity mattered in college athletics, sadly, it doesn’t matter much at all these days. It’s about winning, the boosters and the athletes understand that better than anyone, and that’s why they play the game outside of the game. The University of Southern California, along with the players representing the school after Bush’s departure will suffer a great deal. Meanwhile, Bush is busy scouring Miami for his next multi-million dollar mansion, I doubt he is losing much sleep over his days at USC.
The NCAA has two options really, change the rules regarding improper benefits to college athletes, or begin paying the athletes themselves. The latter of the two seems the most reasonable as it doesn’t require the NCAA to give in completely. In order to deter athletes away from accepting cash and other prizes from boosters, football programs should be able negotiate contracts with college players along with their athletic scholarships. For example, the NCAA could implement a pay scale based on a student’s year with the program. Incoming freshman could receive up to 1,000 dollars per game plus incentives based on performance. Fifth year seniors could make up to 5,000 dollars per game plus incentives based on performance.
Before the Miami story broke I would have considered 5,000 dollars a game to be outrageous, however, after learning that players may have received as much as 50,000 dollars at one time I feel differently. The schools have the money, there is no disputing that. Bringing cash into the fabric of college sports and actually incorporating the players directly will change the NCAA forever. The question is, Is that such a bad thing? Would it not be better to control the distribution of funds to the players as opposed to catching wind of cash being handed out under the table amounting in the hundreds of thousands of dollars?
It is entirely too easy to convince young athletes that they should be getting more for the services they provide to the college or University. That is because it’s true. College ball players are aware of the millions of dollars being made from their play on the field. Yes, the players are receiving a free education and if this was the 60’s more of the student athletes would probably be satisfied with that. Unfortunately, we live in a different era, at the end of the day it’s about the money! The NCAA understands that college football is as much a business as it is a friendly sporting competition. Are we na¯ve ourselves for calling these college athletes amateurs while the universities jockey for million dollar bowl prizes and TV contracts? The time has come for the NCAA to make major changes to their rules regarding benefits. The only way to take any semblance of control over this situation is to begin paying the players in-house. They can’t sanction everyone; imagine what that would do to the record books.
Jim Tressel & NCAA wrap up infractions hearing site title: USA TODAY
Boise State AD Fired site title: ESPN.com
No Miami Hurricanes suspensions yet site title ESPN.com