Sanford D. Horn: College gridders already paid

After reading Donald H. Yee’s recent column in The Washington Post, “Show Them the Money,” in which he supports paying college football players and laying out a 10-step plan, it is painfully obvious he is in dire need of a 12-step program of his own.

Yee, a lawyer and partner in an Los Angeles sports-management firm, rightfully indicates that there is a corrupt system in place mingling agents with collegiate coaches and so-called student athletes. However, instead of suggesting ways to clean up the system and end the culture of corruption that has infested not just college football, but other high-ticket college sports such as basketball, Yee calls for a further perversion of college athletics by turning over the football programs to outside institutions and corporations and paying the so-called student athletes.

Such a transition would forever damage the concept of college athletics as well as the psyche of the so-called student athletes who are already treated as demi-gods on numerous campuses across the nation.

The worst of Yee’s 10 points, and the most offensive to the concept of the student athlete is to remove the word student from the mix altogether.

“Academically gifted players could take regular university courses, if they could have gained admission on their own merit. Others may be more interested in vocational training or other specialty classes. Either way, average students would no longer lose a chance at admission because the university made an exception for an academically less qualified athlete. And athletes would have a broader array of course offerings. Some may even choose not to attend classes and simply focus on honing their football skills.”

This is a disgusting and disgraceful notion. As it stands today, the NCAA is already a de-facto minor league for the NFL and the NBA. Yee couldn’t be more wrong about this particular point as to allow what would then be a non-student-athlete to roam a college campus without being a registered, class-attending student on some supposed degree track would be even more detrimental to the current status of the so-called student athlete. They would be strutting around campuses with bigger britches than they have on now with their over-inflated sense of entitlement.

College athletes, most notably football and basketball players, as they represent the big revenue generating sports, already get paid. Their pay is the scholarship that covers their tuition, books, tutors, room and board that often leads to players leaving school early for the NFL (or NBA) or not earning a degree prior to their eligibility expiring. There is no policy in place to demand players not staying in school four years to repay the scholarship in full.

Make no mistake, this is not a case of sour grapes, as I play and pay into this system as a season ticket holder to University of Maryland football, my alma mater, as well as being a member of the Terrapin Club, “the scholarship fund for Maryland athletics that helps offset scholarship costs of over $10.2 million in annual scholarship support for many of the 700+ student athletes who compete on 27 varsity teams representing the University of Maryland. …we receive no state financial support for our scholarship programs.” (www.terrapinclub.com/about/membership-information)

Yee calls for the elimination of university involvement with the football programs and turning them over to corporate entities to run. This would only further corrupt the system by removing the university, the organization responsible for bringing such student athletes to the campus in the first place.

Additionally, Yee suggests eliminating football programs that are perennial money-losers. Such black holes are no good for the university, Yee suggests. This defeats the lessons team sports teaches and would take away the vehicle for which genuine student athletes have for continuing to play football at the collegiate level even if they never enjoy a winning season or a trip to one of the myriad bowl games that only requires a six-win season (another issue for another column).

Team sports participants tend to make strong leaders in the corporate world as well as in government and politics, just as the Boy and Girl Scouts.

Yet, the bona fide suggestion of eliminating the unqualified so-called student athlete from the university system in the first place is never addressed by Yee. His answer, as stated earlier, is to allow the lesser qualified “students” to play football without attending any classes whatsoever. That is detrimental to both the university that would condone such a perpetual underclass and more so to the athletes who will never see the inside of an NFL (or NBA, since ultimately this would be the next sport to be drawn into such a myopic system) locker room.

Under Yee’s system, the non-student athlete would play football for four or five years then leave the university with nothing to show for the efforts, except perhaps a paycheck, most of which would have already been squandered by the 18-22 year old who had no skills in money management. Couple that with a less than two percent chance of playing in the NFL or even the CFL, what does Yee expect that former college athlete to do with no marketable skills?

Yee refers to the “coveted” high school athlete as being allowed to enjoy the “fruits of American capitalism.” Those fruits are offered in the form of scholarships, and is also one of the reasons student athletes are given more than four years to complete a degree program. With all the time allotted for practice and travel during the football season, as well as spring practice, football players should be afforded a lighter academic load during the fall semester, but conversely make up the load during the spring and summer sessions.

Those so-called student athletes unable to qualify for admission on their academic merits should be denied admission. If these athletes are so coveted, there should be a minor league system for them to hone their skills paid for by the various NFL or CFL teams interested in developing these players into professional athletes. For those who would argue that such a system would dilute the NCAA football programs across the country’s campuses, it would no doubt be felt on a relatively equal scale. This way universities would no longer have to turn an already blind eye to the academically unqualified under the guise of calling them “student athletes,” who will merely take the place of an academically qualified student who may major in engineering or political science while bringing no revenue to the school.

Yes, I recognize the student athlete generates revenue that he or she does not pocket in the form of a paycheck. But these same athletes are demonstrating their wares and skills on the gridiron or hardwood floor in the hopes they will be drafted by the NFL, CFL or NBA.

There is already a corrupt system of coaches in cahoots with boosters and agents on the sly with a knowing wink and a nod providing players with the various unspoken perks of being a coveted student athlete. This is done all in the quest of winning national championships, conference titles and bowl games.

Make no mistake, those of us who support our alma maters or local universities enjoy the winning seasons and post season play and are equally disappointed when the former does not occur on a regular basis. But we also know the importance of seeing those same student athletes who march down the field in victory, march across the stage in a cap and gown in the victory of earning a degree.

Clearly Mr. Yee’s column does not support the notion of educating our student athletes and that will only have long term deleterious effects on them for which we as a society will ultimately pay.
 
 

Column by Sanford D. Horn. Sanford is a writer and political consultant living in Alexandria. He is also a Maryland football season ticket holder and member of the Terrapin Club.



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