There’s a joyful, childlike side of college athletics, where student-athletes bond over a sport they enjoy playing. Then, there’s the dirty side.
Sports Illustrated published a five-part series this past week on Oklahoma State’s football team, going back as far as 2001. The report concluded that between 2001 and 2010, there were many instances of abuse or violations of NCAA rules: cash bonuses awarded to players, academic misconduct, inconsistent enforcement of drug policies and more.
A saga spanning two big-name coaches, Les Miles and Mike Gundy, during which the team won 75 games (including three bowl games) is now tainted. Once the NCAA concludes an investigation, the program could receive massive punishments. The “death penalty” is not out of the question and would shut down the football program for a certain number of years, thereby crippling it for the next couple of decades.
So that’s the dirty side: drugs, academic misconduct and more. If the report is true, the NCAA should, and will, hammer the program with sanctions.
Money and college athletes have always been a touchy subject, but the NCAA has kept a firm stance: No student-athlete can ever receive any kind of money. The rule is flawed.
Consider D.J. Fluker, who fled his home with his family in Biloxi, Miss., looking for safety. Their house had been torn to shreds by Hurricane Katrina. The family of five was forced to live out of their car, surviving off a $25 Wal-Mart gas card and loose change.
Fast forward eight years: Fluker is now a 6’5, 330-pound behemoth of a man. In April, he was drafted No. 11 overall to the San Diego Chargers and signed a monster deal worth $11.4 million over four years, with a $6.6 million signing bonus.
Fluker’s story is the perfect example of rags to riches.
But Fluker is also is an example of an outdated rule in need of much change. Last week, the former Alabama tackle was listed in a Yahoo! Sports investigation among other former SEC players as having received payments from agents and financial advisors while still in college, violating NCAA bylaws.
If the report is true and Fluker did receive payments, Alabama will be retroactively stripped of all wins during Fluker’s tenure on the football team, which would include the team’s two BCS National Championships.
Can we really blame this kid who’s had to watch his family struggle for years, who had never slept in a bed alone until he was 15?
If any of us had been through what Fluker or so many of these elite athletes had to go through growing up, we’d take whatever money we can get. Student athletes playing college sports aren’t allowed to receive any money, but the universities they play for make millions. I understand that these players do have their education paid for in the form of an athletic scholarship, but they still can’t make money off of their own names.
By now we’ve all heard of Johnny Manziel and how he allegedly made a lot of money by signing autographs. So what? If someone saw me around campus and wanted to pay me $1,000 for my autograph, that’d be perfectly fine. But because this kid is really good at a sport, he can’t do the same thing any regular student could.
The reason no change has yet been made is that there is no logical solution. So here’s my patented solution to fix all problems: Let the kids take money from agents. Let them sell their autographs.
They should not be paid for their performance on the field, but if they are offered money because agents want them to sign with them when they go to the NFL, that’s fine.
Any one of us would do what Fluker allegedly did, and the fact that it may cost his university two national championships is outrageous. These are young adults, many who have seen and endured such hardships. We shouldn’t let the fact that they are talented take away from their right to make money, any way they can.
As a Division I program currently experiencing a high rate of success, ASU must be cautious of these rules as well. If the 2013 team lives up to expectations and has a landmark year, possibly culminating in a trip to the Rose Bowl as we hope they will, it will be seen as the best season the team has had a in a long time.
But as USC found out after the Reggie Bush fiasco left it stripped of its 2004 national title, one player’s mishaps could have a large effect on the program even after the player leaves.
ASU has avoided such controversy thus far, but it’d be a shame to have a landmark season just to find out five years down the line that a star player took money, nullifying all he and his teammates had accomplished on the field.
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