Saturday, August 20, 2011

Pay for Play, No Way In The NCAA

Modern college athletics has become a major focus of egos, finance, investigations, corruption, cover-ups, infractions, penalties, suspensions, dismissals and scandals.  At the root of all of this, money, luxuries of life, cars, jewelry, and even tattoos and drugs.  The problem is said to be the NCAA and its member schools who are making tons of money on the backs and skills of the many student-athletes of its member institutions. Along with the coaches who are making millions of dollars and have no true commitment to the student-athlete.  The student-athlete is left to attend class, practice, work-outs and games with no opportunity for them to work and sustain any sense of fiscal or financial comfort while attending school and playing the sport of choice under scholarship.  A great surface argument and rationale for the recent consensus attitude, "if you place it in front of me, or make it available I'm going to get mine, nobody else is looking out for me".  So the stage is set for over zealous and selfishly driven boosters,  agent's or runners, to place these valuable luxuries of life, through cash and goods, into the hands of less than naive student-athletes who then have been tainted and become rule violators, ineligible players, and often an embarrassment to their family, community, institution and self.  Instead of the disclosure of such violations and atrocities, along with the sanctions that follow, becoming a deterrent, we find that the cycle of events is increasing and becoming more prevalent.  That's right, it is becoming the rule, rather than the exception.  

So, how do we fix a system that appears to have penalties in place for such infractions that hinder the violators from easily advancing their careers in many cases, and places sanctions that incur financial consequences, while placing burdens on many from advancing the momentum of program success.  We first have to look at the perception of college athletics.  No longer is a great value placed in the opportunity for a free education, once we devalued the asset of an education, we established the altered view of the role of the student-athlete, the institution and amateurism.  We have forgotten what a college is meant to be in the life of young adults and the improvement of our society.  We overlook the thousands of enrolled students who support the institutions with their tuitions for their education.  Many who have to work their way through school just to pay for tuition, books, food and lodging, all of which is paid for the student-athlete on scholarship.  We tend to overlook the academic responsibility to attend college and the reason we go to college to improve our opportunity in life for the future.  Athletics provides the same forum for those athletes who have an opportunity to move on to a profession that will pay them millions to perform in their sport of choice.  And to qualify, all they have to do is attend class, practices, workouts and perform to the best of their ability.  The reward, they move on to the job of a lifetime, their dream, the unbelievable, professional athletics.  The college or university becomes their nurturing showcase, without it they are just another athlete with dreams and desires, but nowhere to exploit the skills or display their talent.  With such a gift, an opportunity, why is it necessary to make this group of special humans any more human than the general scholarship student who has to maintain a much higher grade point average than the average student-athlete to retain their scholarship?  The ROTC scholarship student has to make class, make military drills and maintain a higher grade point average, along with being obligated to a three-year stint in our Armed Forces upon graduation.   Most will say, they chose that route, and the controverting response is that the student-athlete chose that route as well, with many more concessions than any other scholarship or non-scholarship students in all NCAA member institutions.

Now let's find the flaw in the NCAA, where student-athlete scholarships are for only one year, renewed annually based solely on the discretionary ruling of a head coach.  A student-athlete is vetted and recruited to an institution based on his or her athletic performances in high school, which the coaching staff is hoping will translate into a quality and even star-like performance at the college level.  If that does not happen then a student-athlete could lose that scholarship because the speculated potential of the respective student-athlete was not reached to the expectation or need of the coaching staff.  This is unacceptable as it contributes to the devaluation of the student-athlete philosophy.  If a student-athlete accepts a scholarship and enrolls in an institution and meets all the requirements in the classroom, works out at their maximum capacity, and contributes to the best of their ability they should be allowed to complete their education under scholarship regardless if they fail to meet the speculated performance level aspired by the coaching staff.  This of course being that all moral and ethical standards of both the institution and society are maintained.  That institutional obligation should be a part of the complete commitment of the NCAA member schools, as they should be viewed as equitable students and athletes.  This consequence to the coaching staff, institution and school, is a mere fiduciary responsibility to the results of vetting, recruiting and signing of a student-athlete to scholarship, that should be viewed as a contract.  A contract that is mutually sustained by the services of the student-athlete and the consideration extended of a free undergraduate education, that they have up to five years to complete.  If this is not changed, then a student-athlete should be allowed to change institutions without the inconvenience or penalty of having to sit upon changing institutions at the Division I level.  While the ambiguity of many of the NCAA rules need to be changed or amended, the next major flaw is the penalties for rules infractions having entirely too much to do with the program and the student-athlete and not enough to do with the coaches and athletic directors.  This needs to be overhauled promptly, as we have created a detour from the true destiny of our educational and amateur athletic system.

The resolve or compromise can be found in more commitment to the student-athlete scholarship, stiffer penalties for coaches of programs that break the rules, giving our student-athletes the tainted personal growth and development, bankrupted of integrity and nurturing a cheating mentality, and a delusional view of life as a responsible adult.  While the outside influences of boosters, fans, groupies and yes agents, will loom as the most uncontrollable feature in the college athletic environment, it can be countered with a regulated method of allowing student-athletes, after their freshman year, to sell personally provided sports gear and achievement memorabilia for an amount to be regulated and capped by the NCAA.  The proposed sale of sports gear would be limited to the amount of gear in any one season, not to exceed an amount determined by the NCAA and reported to the member school compliance department for proper documentation of the transaction.  All students would be given the simple method of reporting such sale, requiring the purchaser to sign a simple form of acknowledgement.  If a student-ahtlete would sell an item outside of the parameters set forth, then such athlete would be deemed permanently ineligible to continue playing at a NCAA member school.  If a coach knowingly allows a student-athlete to breach such a privilege provided by abusing the cap, or failing to report, then they would be likewise prohibited from coaching for a period equal to the term of a full scholarship, which currently would be five years, with the "5 to play 4" allowance to student-athletes.  This would allow athletes to offset the much argued inability to work and generate spending money for general social luxuries supposedly available to other students, while not increasing the budget of schools with lesser internal means to expand spending on student-athletes.  The obvious funding of this potential stipend would then be based on funding from third party sources and documented for regulatory control.  Likewise, the question of value of the respective athletes in  regards to payment systems being arbitrarily proposed, would be mitigated as student-athletes would be able to either promote their value on the playing fields and courts or market their qualities within the community through speaking engagements, youth programs, autograph signing and outreach programs that would foster other respect by the public that would allow their respective logo items and memorabilia to be sold up to the maximum allowed by solid community service and character-based issues.  Example of an interior lineman spending time at reading programs and visiting hospitals, versus the well publicized quarterback or running back that is known solely by his often announced achievements on the field.

Rules are not made to be broken, they are made to stop people from taking advantage of others.  Rules are made to set a level playing field, and equitable opportunity for fairness in competition.  Rules will be broken, but when you want to stop an increase of rule breaking, establish an environment wherein it is less necessary to break that rule and more detrimental to consider the infraction.  Pay for play, no way NCAA.


  1. You know my thoughts on this. The NCAA has way more work to do than just this, but a lot of what you said is valid and should be noted or considered. Good work as always.

  2. Doc,
    You make some great points in your article? First things first though. I agree with the SEC Commissioner who says that we need to re-address academic standards! After all we are talking about student-athletes, with the emphasis ALWAYS on student. I will address this in my next article on "Frisby's Corner" Is It Time To Bring Back Freshmen Ineligiblity????

    I agree with you that if scholarships are to remain at the current 1-year reneawable status then changes need to be made to protect the athlete. The athlete should be able to transfer to another D-I school without having to sit a year, or have the option to continue his education at the current institution until graduation. Obviously the school would be able to regain an athletic scholarship under this provision. Both school and athlete are covered under this scenario.

    Obviously providing money to athletes is not an option. Athletes are able to work during the Summer. Since they are still under full scholarship t would be very easy for them to save a considerable amount of what they earned to supplement them during the school year. Yes, it would require a little budgeting, but what college student hasn't had to deal wth this???

    What is never mentioned is that a walk-on is required to participate in the same practices, film studies, weightlifting, study halls (if needed) etc as a scholarship athlete. However, they are not provided with tuition, books, lodging, training table etc. Many of these walk-ons also have jobs. So I really don't want to hear about the poor scholarship athlete!

    Doc, I could go on and on. I'm glad you wrote this informative piece!

    Pops Frisby