By Dennis J. Freeman Commentary
Liars. Cheats. Deceivers. Rule breakers. Getting paid well for it and getting away with it. It’s too bad that college athletes don’t have a say in getting their share of the large economic pie that now consumes college sports.
It’s time to smell the roses, people. Collegiate sports have become a billion dollar industry. Head coaches that run major sport institutions like Ohio State football coach Jim Tressel have essentially become Fortune 500 CEOs. Athletes like Ohio State star quarterback Terrelle Pryor have become nothing more than part of the assembly pieces that keep the company machine running.
For today’s college athletes, it’s all blood, sweat and fears. The fear is knowing if they have a meal with a Hall of Fame player or hock their own memorabilia for some quick cash and a couple of free tattoos, they’ll wind up being punished for being human.
Pryor and former Oklahoma State Dez Bryant can attest to this. For that matter, you might as well as have former USC and now New Orleans Saints football player Reggie Bush weigh in on the subject.
It’s good to be gifted and black. It’s even better to be white, charmastic and running a major sports program. Tressel, Tennessee’s men’s basketball coach Bruce Pearl, UConn’s Jim Calhoun and former USC and current Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll are just a few of the many beneficiaries of this bookend trend.
They are also coaches who have virtually gotten away with wrist-slaps from the NCAA for documented unethical behavior and continue to be well-compensated. Meanwhile, their star players, who happen to be mostly African American, are usually left behind to be castrated and shamed in the media and to see their characters seriously questioned.
Pryor and four of his teammates were suspended for the first five game of the 2011 season for selling off their Big Ten Championship rings and other items last spring. That revelation didn’t come out until right before Ohio State was to grab $17 million for playing in the All State Sugar Bowl against Arkansas. This is just the beginning of the NCAA bylaws hypocrisy.
Pryor, who was among the leading contenders for Heisman Trophy, an award dished out annually for the best college football player, and his boys were allowed to play in the Sugar Bowl, which essentially meant more television sets tuned in and more money for the NCAA.
Bryant, now a star wide receiver with the Dallas Cowboys, was suspended for 12 games for reportedly lying to NCAA officials about having lunch with NFL Hall of Famer Deion Sanders. In comparison, Tressel, who draws a $3.5 million a year paycheck from Ohio State, has been suspended for two games and fined $250k by the university for virtually doing the same Bryant was accused of doing.
Tressel’s punishment for this major NCAA violation does not even merit a slap-on-the wrist tag. It’s probably more like getting his fingernails clipped. Of course, everyone knows about Bush being left out to dry on an island after it was discovered that he and his parents allegedly took hundreds of thousands of dollars from a would-be agent during his playing days at USC.
His coach, Pete Carroll, didn’t face any type of discipline and walked away unscathed to a five-year deal that is worth more than $6 million annually, to coach the Seattle Seahawks. Meanwhile, Bush was left publicly disgraced and has had his name virtually erased from USC’s campus.
There’s something terribly wrong when 17, 18, 19-year-old kids are punished as if they’re common criminals while coaches who operate their programs as company presidents, usually usually get a slap on the back for their backdoor transgressions.
There’s something terribly wrong when coaches like Texas football coach Mack Brown ($5 million a year) and Alabama’s Nick Saban ($4 million annually) make all of this money and college athletes on scholarship have to no money to pay for plane trip to go back home.
There’s something terribly wrong when the NCAA can strike a 14-year, $10.8 billion deal in television revenue from the men’s Division I basketball tournament (2011-2024), while the players, mostly African American, receive only a couple of meals, some sweats, room and board and a basketball to play with.
Ironically, the yearly $771 million dollar payout from the Division I men’s basketball tournament o the NCAA will go to support 23 other sports. In short, other sports are the beneficiaries of Div. I men’s basketball and football, largely comprised of African Americans athletes.
There’s something un-American about all of this. There should be some type of Congressional hearings on all this corruption that is going on in college sports.
If Congress can use their subpoena powers to bring major league baseball players in before them to find out who was injecting the needle up someone’s fanny, they can surely hold hearings about why scholarship athletes are being denied the right to work as other students and U. S. citizens have the right and privilege of doing.
And let’s stop this nonsense about the players are getting a free scholarship. Those scholarships have to be renewed every year, so they are not guaranteed. Besides those schools should be held to a standard that everyone of its players leave campus with a diploma.
But that’s not going to happen, because the truth of the matter is that athletes like Pryor, Bryant and Bush are defacto employees of the universities they play for.