Fringe Benefits: Attitude Overhaul After OJ Mayo Case Could Improve NCAA Culture

Peter BukowskiSenior Analyst IMay 13, 2008

Let us not pretend O.J. Mayo's case was an isolated incident in college sports.In fact, USC alone has had a history of improprieties with student athletes including a certain Bush not int he white house.

Blame for these transgressions often fall equally on the athlete who allowed him or herself to be manipulated, the people essentially pimping out these students, and the universities who turn a blind eye. If Mayo's case does not fall under the "aberration" category to be swept away and ignored, then what are we to make of this?

The answer must not be clear to college administrators or student athletes because these incident simply will not go away. College basketball presents unique problems because of the NBA imposed 19 age limit which I wrote about earlier this week. But I just wrote about how this system is helping both college and the pro game, and now I am calling it part of the problem?

Well, problem is the rule does not go far enough. These players come in knowing they're going to make the jump after a year. They do enough work first semester to be eligible to play ball in the spring, then don't even bother to go to class second semester. Rather than going to class, they get ready for the NBA pre-draft camps and workouts. 

Students come to school and just freeload, take all the free gear, the food and the love from the fans. The athletes really never focus on  education in any way.

The NBA institute the age rule it to make these players better people, they did it to get a better idea of just how good the players are. The players do not learn how to be men. They fail to grasp any sense of decorum or pride in the way they are perceived.

On a college campus, stud basketball players are gods among mere mortals, walking head and shoulders above their classmates. This only further ingrains  a sense of entitlement. This perpetuates the primadonna culture of the NBA and pro sports.

That becomes the central issue in which all of these scandals can be included. Players feel as though their talent entitles them to certain benefits others without that talent should not receive. This allows them to justify breaking the rules because the rules simply do not apply to them.

Every week, another athlete is involved in an altercation at a nightclub, wrecking a car or was getting in other types of trouble. This sort of mentality begins in college where the players are constantly surrounded by the fans who support and admire them.

Spending more than a year in school would allow players to come to terms with this kind of hero worship, to deal with it an a meaningful way without being defined by it. The maturation process is what helped a player like former UNC great and Naismith Award winner Antawn Jamison to become a successful NBA player deal with injury issues and become a successful player. 

Another UNC stud, Joe Forte,  left after just two seasons and floundered because he never learned mental toughness.

Finally, the issue of whether or not student athletes ought to be paid has once again become a topic of discussion. This has been a contentious debate for quite some time as universities continue to rake in money while student athletes receive little.

To me, this seems silly and I will not spend too much time addressing it, however I feel it has significant relevance and needs to be addressed for my last point. Student athletes, or at least ones bound for professional leagues, go to schools for free. If you go to Syracuse or Georgetown (or any major basketball program) that is over $150,000 over four years, and that is only if you can pay cash upfront without loans. Most students would spend over $200,000 to pay for four years.

The athletes eat for free, work out in the highest quality facilities on the planet, utilize tutors, miss classes for road games, and receive a ton of free clothes to be worn for "athletic use." Not to mention live for free and get stipends for their road trips. 

Isn't that what all of this is about? I keep hearing that these kids should be able to jump right to the NBA to provide for their families.


That is an enormous myth about college basketball players, and a racist one at that. Not all black basketball players could from single parents house holds in the ghetto and have to support six brothers and sisters by landing a monster deal.

The best of the best go to prep schools and are pampered from 15 on. Guys like Keven Durant, who played their way into the lottery only strengthen the call for the these limits, because he got to Texas and now the Rookie of the Year award the old fashioned way, by earning it. We are not keeping black families in the ghetto by not allowing their sons to make the jump the NBA straight out of high school. We want to help their sons prepared themselves so they don't get swindled out of all their money because they weren't mature enough to deal with the pressures of the NBA on their own.

The 19 and up rule just does not go far enough. Make it 20 and have kids spend at least a full academic year in college learning from guys like Coach K, who care so much about creating quality men, not just quality basketball players. Paying these athletes only reinforces their sense of entitlement, particularly when this money would only go to frivolous excess. Their meals, housing, and clothes are paid for, what else could they spend the money on?

If you believe the majority of that money would go to parents, you are simply not in touch with the mindset of the average college male, particularly those who have been told their entire life they are going to change the NBA.

O.J. Mayo admitted his mindset changed after people told him he was "The best thing since sliced bread" and that is the attitude we have to change. If athletes get paid, they have to be held accountable. This means they have to be able to be fired.These kids do not need that kind of pressure because they are still learning.

Let them learn, but make sure they have the time to learn. The NBA is a privilege not a right, earning it through hard work and maturation will only make the next generation want to work harder and be better. That sounds like a better college game, pro game, but most importantly a better group of men.