You say you still believe in the ideal of the amateur student-athlete in big-time college sports?
Sorry, could you repeat that? We couldn’t hear you over the College Game Day crew.
If this ideal was teetering, then allegations of NCAA rules violations at the University of Kansas might finally kick amateurism off its pedestal. It wouldn’t be such a bad thing.
This week, the NCAA levied multiple notices of serious violations, most of them involving KU basketball and its ties to Adidas bagmen who provided money to families of top recruits.
We’re not sure about the validity of these allegations, but we do know that one possible defense from KU’s administration might be, “Everyone else is doing it.”
That’s not so effective from a legal standpoint, but it does get to the core of the problem. Fans watching big-time college football today, or college basketball later in the year, have to feel a little uneasy about what they are seeing.
We’re not talking about the action on the field or the court. It’s the other part of the game, the sordid underbelly that the NCAA and universities were happy to keep out of sight and out of mind. At least, that was the case until Adidas representatives were caught up in a federal investigation of improper payments to players’ families.
Many of these players come from underprivileged backgrounds and make millions of dollars for athletic departments. Coaches are rewarded with seven-figure salaries, and let’s just say the team locker room seems to have newer stuff than the science lab.
The players? You can say they get a free education and star status on campus, but their labors pad someone else’s bank account. At least that’s the case until the pro draft or the next time someone hands out an envelope stuffed with cash.
Maybe it’s time to cut the pretense of amateurism and drain the swamp that is big-time college sports (as opposed to Division II schools like Missouri Western, which hold closer to the concept of student-athletes who put education first). California took action with legislation that would allow college athletes to profit off of the marketing of a player’s name or image.
The NCAA opposes this measure on principal. It seems to us like a step in the right direction, although a law limited to certain players in just one state doesn’t seem to fix the overall problem.
Many fans will view this latest NCAA investigation through the prism of whether they root for the Jayhawks. That’s the wrong response. These ugly allegations are bad for all of college athletics and show that major restructuring is in order.
Paying athletes might not be ideal, but then neither is the sight of an impoverished young man who shows up on campus in a new Cadillac Escalade.