Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Free Reggie!

As the whole world probably knows by now, Reggie Bush has been stripped of his Heisman Trophy for receiving improper benefits while he was at USC, essentially making him no longer an amateur athlete and thus making him ineligible to compete in the NCAA. Now I'm not here to argue that NCAA players should get paid, or that Reggie Bush is the only player to do this, or anything like that. What I am here to argue is that if the NCAA is going to rule Reggie Bush ineligible as an amateur athlete, they should rule themselves ineligible as an amateur institution as well.

College sports, especially college football is a business. The fact that the University of Michigan can fill up a 110,000 seat stadium at an average of maybe $50 a ticket gives you an idea of just how much money college sports can bring in. The NCAA claims that they are an amateur institution, but they in fact are very similar to the NFL in how they are run, and their players are essentially locked into contracts that can be terminated in order to produce money for the "company." The only difference being that NFL players are paid. College football has gotten so big over the years because it is a huge money maker for schools.

As I said, I'm not here to argue that college players should be paid. But the balance in the phrase "student-athlete" has swung way towards the athlete side for these kids. You might argue that a college scholarship is just as good as payment, and I would agree with you there, but how is an athlete (talking primarily about football and basketball here now) expected to use that scholarship when they have games on weekdays and are constantly traveling and training? Moreover, a player can lose their scholarship for poor play, or even getting injured. Does that not sound like sports being run like a business to you? If the NCAA is going to impose these rules on players, and take swift action in punishment of them, they should take a look at themselves as well.

One thing I would like to see the NCAA do is give players a full ride no matter what. If a player gets injured, or doesn't perform to expectations, the school should do their best to bring that player along or at least let them get their education. Then the players get the scholarship they were promised, and the school gets their athlete to bring them in all the money they make. I guess that this post is less a demand for immunity for Reggie Bush than it is a condemnation of the NCAA. If they are going to come down on players like they do currently, I think they need to drastically re-think some of their policies and decide just whether or not they are an "amateur" institution after all.

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