A tough decision in football

What will you remember most about college football in the 2000s? Maybe it was the stars, household names like Tim Tebow, Reggie Bush, and the others that I’m purposefully failing to mention. How about the countless number of college quarterbacks that didn’t pan out? Here’s one more option: the number of players being paid under the table and the big names that receive these “benefits.”

The latest news to break on this topic has been the massive scandal surrounding the Miami Hurricanes football team. As far as the Miami scandal goes, it’s just the latest in a long and controversial line of incidents that the Hurricanes have been involved in.  All of a sudden, rumors of the NCAA’s legendary and mystified “death penalty” have surfaced, once again.  I use the terms “legendary” and “mystified” sarcastically, of course. The “death penalty,” which would ban a university’s football program for at least one year, has been used only one time in Div-I college sport in the last 25 years. The lucky recipient was none other than Southern Methodist University, for the entire 1987 and part of the 1988 season.

After unearthing several recruiting violations (which is becoming the norm for almost all Div-I schools), the NCAA decided to make an example of the Mustangs. In 2005, Baylor’s Men’s basketball team was given somewhat of a “death penalty,” when they were banned from playing any non-conference games because of several rule violations, were discovered after one of the players was found murdered in 2003. Baylor player Carlton Dotson was found guilty of murdering teammate Patrick Dennehy. That wasn’t the issue though.The way head coach Rick Bliss handled all of the violations was the problem. After it was discovered that Bliss was paying for Dennehy’s and another player’s tuition, he then claimed that Dennehy paid his own tuition by dealing drugs. The fact that Bliss ignored constant abuse of drugs and alcohol by players, including Dotson, was also a very serious offense. But still, they got off with only a fraction of the punishment that SMU received.

How is it that a man involved in such shady activities and that looked the other way while his players destroyed themselves physically can walk away from it and start over somewhere else? SMU paid their players. Who doesn’t now? Does the NCAA really have their players’ best interest in mind? The Miami scandal is an unfortunate mixture of both illegal activity and NCAA infractions. So where should they stand? Obviously the crooked booster, Nevin Shapiro, should and will be reprimanded, although from a different scandal, a Ponzi scheme  in 2010. Shapiro allegedly paid players for big plays and put bounties on opposing players, something that would surprise me if it came from any other school except The U. But what about the student athletes?

 I hear quite a few people claim that they are “kids.” Many say that they should just get off easy.  Being in the same age range as these “kids,” puzzles me. I guess I can take money from shady people, party, abuse so many drugs that I look for new ways to get high and pick up prostitutes and not get in trouble, right? Yeah, I’m just a kid. I don’t know any better! I wish it was that easy. The point is that these young men know right from wrong, yet they still hide behind their “youthful innocence.”

This brings me to the ultimate question. Should college players be paid or not? It’s the million-dollar question in college sports. Student athletes put a lot of time into their craft; so much so, that they probably wouldn’t make much money from any side job they had. On the other hand, is a free education not enough?  I know plenty of people that struggle to pay their way through college, and these players are blowing money like they’ve already received a pro contract.

What if schools were allowed to pay the student athletes? How much would they make? And what about in the NBA, where the “one-and-done” rule has ruined the fun of college basketball? What if more of them take the route that Milwaukee Bucks star Brandon Jennings took and head straight from high school to Europe? Why don’t more kids do that now? It’s bad enough that they are being offered these legal payments. It’s even worse that these players are put in positions to make a decision based on so much temptation. Crooked boosters who want nothing more than to win add fuel to the fire when it comes time to start recruiting the next class of what has become “professional amateurs.” Maybe the adults of the game need to grow up before we start expecting things from the kids.