BEHIND THE PLATE: Money continues to complicate college sports
Tribune news service
That No. 10 on the TV looks awfully like Colin Kaepernick slicing through the defense at Mackay Stadium.
But this college quarterback isn’t Colin Kaepernick, according to the NCAA and Electronic Arts (EA) Sports. He’s not referred to by his last name, “Kap” or even a life-size version of Will Ferrell’s Megamind character. No, this record-setter and four-year starter at Nevada is known as “#10.”
But we’re not idiots. It is Kaepernick and “#34” is Vai Taua, and so on. You get the picture.
The NCAA, the so-called governing body of “amateur” college athletics, forbids student-athletes from making a cent off their name no matter how great a star they become. The athletes’ only source of compensation is in the form of a scholarship from the school to help cover expenses from tuition to room and board to textbooks. Ten, even 15 years ago, this trade seemed fair but college sports, especially football, generates millions every season by profiting off these athletes while they angrily sit back and watch their money benefit their school, the NCAA, memorabilia and clothing companies.
They see nothing outside receiving a quality, free education.
That No. 10 jersey you saw for sale a few years ago at the Nevada bookstore or Silver and Blue Outfitters: none of the money found its way to Kaepernick because he was playing at an amateur status. Forward the clocks to 2013 and you’ll find tons of Cody Fajardo (No. 17) jerseys but nowhere will you see his last name on the jersey or even a check going to Fajardo or the junior gunslinger rolling up in a Rolls Royce. You might make the argument that because the school’s bookstore proceeds benefit the player and the money eventually circulates to admissions to help pay for Fajardo’s tuitions.
But the players don’t think this is good enough anymore.
College athletes make people rich, including you, they say.
Do you remember stopping in the casino and placing a wager on Nevada beating UNLV by two touchdowns and coming out $100 richer? College athletes don’t see any of this money and if they attempt to collect, the NCAA finds out, casts them out of college athletics by ruling them ineligible for the rest of their college career. They could always walk into Cal Neva and bet on the Wolf Pack to win, but some drunk would scoop up any chance to blackmail Nevada’s stars and sell it to the media.
They believe the NCAA is a hypocritical, monopolizing institution that does not serve the best interests of the student-athlete. As long as these sports continue generating tons of revenue, the NCAA will profit beyond its imagination but they want some of the money. EA, by not renewing its contract with the NCAA after this season, strengthened a frenzy as this body of greed tries to find another partner to put out video games. The ongoing Ed O’Bannon v. NCAA anti-trust lawsuit continues to gain steam as the suit argues that former players being used for advertisement should profit.
But since when was college sports about the individual and not the team, the school, city, county and state? These student-athletes would not have been elevated to this platform of stardom if it weren’t for those colleges visiting their homes during recruiting trips and the entire city supporting the program by filling the stadium endlessly.
If Johnny Manziel’s recent allegations of accepting money for signing photos hold true, then he’s no better than those so-called professional athletes who pretend to role model by spending their millions on fancy cars and luxurious houses. In a time where money seems to control everything in sports, everyone is forgetting these colleges do not exist for the sole purpose of entertainment. These college stars are students first, athletes second.
What this ongoing dilemma still struggles with is the need to fully compensate these student-athletes. According to a study in 2010, a full-ride scholarship doesn’t technically cover all expenses for the student-athlete, making it seem more appropriate the schools and NCAA should at least cover the remaining balances.
“It’s really deceptive to use the words ‘full scholarship.’ … There’s never an explanation for recruited athletes that the price tag for attending school falls short of the scholarship amount,” National College Players Association’s Ramogi Huma told the Associated Press.
A full-ride should be good enough. But for someone who not only has the power to help drive his team to a BCS bowl victory and can bring in money to his college, they feel that they deserve a piece of this pie. Why not give that extra money to struggling programs that feature more athleticism but can’t draw in 100,000 fans on Saturdays? What about the tennis teams? What about golf? What about the marching band?
They do not have the luxury of reeling in millions of dollars because their sport is not as popular. For football and men’s basketball student-athletes to be complaining about wanting more money when others are struggling, they are forgetting about the reason why sports are one of this country’s favorite forms of entertainment. Team comes first. Not the player, not the coach, not the athletics director.
Nevada football was just another mid-major program until Chris Ault’s prodigal son arrived in 2007 and mesmerized the country with the quadruple overtime performance against Boise State. Kaepernick put Nevada back on the college map, especially after guiding the Wolf Pack to a 12-1 year in 2010 and now starring the NFL and exposing the powerfulness of the Pistol formation.
One player can alter the school’s economics beyond belief.
And for student-athletes to not see any of that money outside a scholarship will continue to create problems like Reggie Bush at USC last decade or even Manziel. The problem will not be corrected until student-athletes are compensated better. Make the full-ride scholarship an actual free ride. Give them a better stipend every month.
If they decide to leave early because they’re too good for their school and want to earn a living as a professional, then force those abandoners to pay back that money spent on their college-related expenses. Get rid of these one-and-done freshman basketball players who piggyback on taxpayers’ dollars just so they can jump into the NBA before they’re 20. That money is for education and could be used more wisely on someone wanting to become a doctor.
Don’t be surprised if college athletes go on strike and begin boycotting the season. Saturdays in the fall are reserved for college football and an October Saturday without football on from 9 a.m.-10 p.m. would serve as an injustice.
College athletes are nothing more than the ancient Roman gladiators who fought for their lives while the government and slave owners profited for every killing. Their only compensation was being alive the next day. Life — and a completely free education — should be good enough.
Thomas Ranson can be contacted at email@example.com.
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