"Improper benefits" is be the biggest buzz phrase in college sports right now.
Blame it on Terrell Pryor, Johnny Manziel or the existence of NCAA rules concerning what players can be compensated for, but college athletes are under fire for their off-the-field activities now more than ever before.
SMU wide receiver Deion Sanders Jr.—son of the former Dallas Cowboys and Atlanta Falcons star defensive back of which he shares his name—is the latest college football player subject to an investigation.
EJ Holland of The Dallas Morning News reported on Thursday that SMU's compliance office was investigating Sanders Jr. for a recent backstage visit with hip-hop icon Lil Wayne during the rapper's concert in Dallas.
According to the report, the investigation is centered around how Sanders Jr. was able to get into the concert and find his way backstage. If it was simply because he was an SMU football player, there would be cause for concern.
Sanders Jr. tweeted a photo of himself, "Weezie" and three other men in what appears to be a backstage dressing room at Gexa Energy Pavilion in Dallas.
Adam Lawson of The Valley Morning Star was one of the first to announce that Sanders Jr. was being investigated:
Deion Sanders said his son Deion Jr, an SMU player - is being investigated for being invited backstage at a Lil Wayne concert.— Adam Lawson (@AdamLawson_VMS) August 23, 2013
"They're trying to say (he) got into the concert because (he's) an SMU player."— Adam Lawson (@AdamLawson_VMS) August 23, 2013
Lawson was in attendance as the elder Sanders spoke prior to a Prime Prep Academy—Sanders' taxpayer-funded charter school in Dallas—scrimmage in Harlingen with two other schools:
Sanders is in Harlingen as Prime Prep scrimmages against the Cardinals and Sharyland tomorrow night.— Adam Lawson (@AdamLawson_VMS) August 23, 2013
A video soon circulated that captured Sanders Jr. calling his dad to share his misfortune.
"Prime Time" Sanders can be heard in the video saying that his son is being investigated by the NCAA, but that information turned out to be faulty.
Per Holland's report, SMU Sports Information Director Brad Sutton made sure to enforce that it was SMU's compliance department who is doing their "due diligence" on the case. "We don’t expect to find anything amiss, but it’s our responsibility to check stuff like this out," Sutton said.
There has not yet been word if the compliance office has—or will—find anything worthy of discipline from the Sanders Jr.-Lil Wayne star-studded meet and greet.
With less than a week before the Mustangs begin their 2013 season at Ford Stadium against Texas Tech, it would be fortuitous for all parties involved to make sure this "scandal" is short-lived in the news.
Collegiate officials everywhere are on high alert for suspicious activities related to improper benefits after the events of the past few months.
With the Johnny Manziel autograph scandal taking center stage, interested parties have wasted no time speaking out on the current Heisman trophy winners immaturity, college coaches are doing more to protect their players and the entire NCAA profit margin has come into question from individuals like former Duke basketball star Jay Bilas.
Needless to say, it's hard to fault SMU for ensuring they don't face the wrath of the NCAA in the event that Sanders Jr. did in fact break any rules.
That being said, this short-lived melodrama should serve as the latest example that we're either headed for a dark period of nitpicking and wasting resources investigating college athletes or a full-scale change in NCAA philosophy.
Should Sanders Jr. be reprimanded if he attended the Lil Wayne concert improperly?
Either way, Sanders Jr. should not face anything more than a slap on the wrist for bumping shoulders with Lil Wayne if he did so in a way the university deems "improper."
His father considers the rapper to be a friend, and for the sake of comparison, I'm not sure anyone was worrying about how Manziel was making appearance at the NBA Finals.
Hopefully SMU will put this matter to bed so focus in the program can re-shift to the game plan for Texas Tech.
It wasn't worthy of any controversy to begin with.
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