Turn back the clock to 1991 when I first stepped foot on Clark Atlanta University’s Campus as a student, athlete, and musician. I was already on a full academic scholarship so playing saxophone on the university’s band and playing outfield for the inaugural baseball team was something I chose to do because I loved these activities. I wanted to travel to different venues, schools, states, cities to meet different people and to see different places. I had no idea that boosters and schools were paying top recruits money to enroll in their alma maters to play for their teams. I guess I wasn’t a recruit so I would not have known about that aspect. I came to the school mainly as a scholar and I received a stipend of $800 a month, room and board, books, and opportunity.
Fast forward to now, November 18, 2010, and you find another top athlete enrolled at a power house university under investigation for asking for payment to play for an institution. Cam Newton, leading Heisman candidate, All-American quarterback for an undefeated Auburn University Tiger team, and student is being investigated for asking for $180,000 to play at Mississippi State University after being dismissed from the University of Florida for numerous arrests and violations such as stealing laptops from other students’ rooms and pawning them.
This is not the first incident of this type nor will it be the last. Just recently several players from the University of North Carolina Tarheels football program and the University of South Carolina Fighting Gamecocks football program were dismissed from their respective teams for accepting trips, jewelry, and money from sports agents. The University of Georgia Bulldogs’ All-American wide receiver, AJ Green, was suspended four games at the start of the season for selling his jersey for a $1,000.
In 2005, the University of Southern California’s All-American running back, Reggie Bush, accepted a home for his parents, cars, and $290,000 in gifts. In April 2009, the NCAA merged its investigation of Bush and former USC basketball player O. J. Mayo, who reportedly accepted $1,000 and a roster spot and scholarship for Romeo Miller(Lil Romeo of Master P and Nicklelodeon fame), to play for the Trojans.
This is nothing new. Players and parents have always been paid to have their sons and daughters play for these mega schools. These schools make millions and millions of dollars. The NCAA is a multibillion dollar industry that does not pay its most important employees, the student-athletes that make the games possible in order to rake in such tremendous amounts of money from advertising, lucrative television deals, licensing endorsements, etc.
Most of these players are teenagers that come from low socioeconomic backgrounds. They have parents or a parent that worked two jobs or more to take care of whole families and other children. Almost all of these children have never experienced the finer things in life, let alone having the idea of earning a degree at division 1-A university. They are vunerable. They are being used by an institution that promotes greed and instills the concept that more is better but does not want the student-athletes to practice what they are preaching. What do the powers that be expect these kids to do when they are offered money and other items they have never been able to receive if they were not athletes at these huge universities.
The NCAA continues to punish the athletes for an environment they created. The schools are allowed to pay coaches whatever the school can afford, and many times these contracts are in the millions for head coaches and six figures for assistant coaches. They provide homes and cars for the coaching staff and opportunities to make more income by doing endorsement deals and speaking engagements. What do they offer the athlete for risking injury, health, and grades but a scholarship, room and board, and transportation to play for their school. Of course there is the opportunity to make it to the professional level but that is not a guarantee. What kid is not going to accept extra benefits that could help them take care of their family NOW? What kid is going to turn down a car, some jewelry, and money when they were not use to even having nice clothes or a decent pair shoes on their feet?
If the NCAA wants to curtail what they deem is illegal benefits then they should start paying these kids that make these millions of dollars for these institutions, the moneys that pay these high salaries of coaches and athletic directors, and the capital to build these monuments they call stadiums and arenas. It is only fair. To continue to punish these children is ridiculous. The coaches commit acts of wrongdoing and the schools get suspended and the student-athletes get penalized long after the deed was done. And the coaches are allowed to move on to another job and start the whole process again. It just is not fair to these kids, the student body, and the fans. They all suffer from these investigations and suspensions. But the money train just continues to roll on for the universities, the NCAA, and its cronies.
The end to these means is to just pay these kids and stop penalizing them for something they have no control over, their upbringing and backgrounds.