NCAA: Don't Cut Slack to Those Not Deserving

Shaun AhmadSenior Analyst IJune 30, 2008

I had two choices Sunday afternoon.  Either I could go out and do some yard work in 95-degree heat, probably get thorns from a rose bush lodged in my finger, and get bit by a couple of mosquitoes a couple hundred times.

Or I could sit inside the air conditioned house and catch up on some old ESPN Magazines that had piled up. 

I chose the latter.

After reading tons of articles, I stumbled upon everyone’s favorite guy: Stephen A. Smith.  The title of the article was, “Don’t Pretend to Care if O.J. Mayo Got Paid.  You’ll Just Encourage the NCAA (and the media).”

First thought that came to mind?

I can hear him screaming that out as he typed it on his laptop. 

Second thought?

Longest.  Title.  Ever. 

Third thought? 

What a moronic and utterly stupid read this is going to be.  I should have just trusted my gut, turned the page, and continued on my boring Sunday afternoon rather than reading the article. 

I would have kept myself a step further away from needing anger management classes, and also saved my dog from hearing me throw out random obscenities while reading.  But I got what I deserved for going against my gut. 

I’ll summarize for those of you who didn’t read Smith’s masterpiece (you can read the full article here, but I don’t recommend it). 

Basically, he says that we shouldn’t judge or care about college athletes who take money from sleazy agents and other clingers while they are still coming up.

We shouldn’t care if a college athlete receives sums that total into the six figures, drives a Benz, and has more expensive technology in his dorm room than most have in their entire house. 


Because schools, television networks, agents, and media all get paid.  Why shouldn’t the actual collegiate athlete, the one who is bringing in all the money?  Or as Stephen A. put it:

"College basketball, like college football, is a billion-dollar business.  Money pours into athletic departments, coaches' pockets, sneaker companies, hotels, airlines, restaurants, souvenir merchants, networks, newspapers, and, yes, magazine columnists.  Meanwhile, the laborers who are most in need are expected to watch everyone else pad their wallets?"

(Deep breath Shaun.  Deep breath.)

Here’s why they shouldn’t get paid.  Last I checked, the average cost of going to a public university in the United States is approx $12,000 a year, which means $48,000 for four years according to CNN Money. 

Of all college students, 65 percent graduate with debt that often takes years to pay off due to interest accumulations.  A full scholarship athlete, the target of agents and other sleazy folks, has all of his college costs paid for. 

You play basketball, or whatever sport, for these four years and win a free college education.  Keep in mind that this is a college education that the majority of players would not have otherwise received.  Most would have been high school graduates at best, fluttering around the inner cities. 

So in return for playing 25 games or so a year (basketball players), you get a free education which is as much of a lock as any to a promising future.  If things don’t work out in the league, you have a Bachelor's Degree from the University of Your Choice to fall back on. 

A free education is like someone giving you a $50,000 interest free loan.  Think about that.

But no—according to Stephen A., the players aren’t getting a good deal: 

"You may think a college scholarship is compensation enough.  And in a perfect world, it might be.  But a scholarship is not a guarantee of anything…"

Really?  The average college graduate with a bachelor’s degree earns $52,200 a year, while the average high school graduate earns $30,400 a year.  According to the U.S. Census Bureau, “A person with a Bachelor’s degree will earn, on average, almost twice as much as workers with a high school diploma over a lifetime ($2.1 million compared to $1.2 million)."

So please, spare me the “scholarship is not a guarantee of anything” speech. 

A lot of us have seen the treatment players also receive on campus in addition to their free ride.  I had class with Marcus Vick among other football players (Jimmy Williams, Vince Hall, etc).  Whereas I had to go to class to make sure I didn’t miss the numerous pop quizzes, those players never came. 

Yet the following semester, I saw them in the next level of the course.  Was I shocked?  Absolutely not.  Even the most naïve of us know that college players who are well known get a free pass from teachers. 

So let’s catch up here.  Athlete plays sport, gets free education with biased grades that work in his favor, all of which translates to a secure future.  I’m supposed to feel sorry for that guy?  I’m supposed to not care if he’s getting extra Benjamins on the side?  I must be missing something.

Smith also fails to mention that everything he’s saying we should not care about is against the rules.

I say, we should absolutely care.  In fact, we should be infuriated. 

If you’re a USC guy, ask yourself this: Was one year of having O.J. Mayo worth it if the NCAA comes down with penalties that hinder your team’s success for the next five years?  I certainly don’t think it is. 

The reason we should care is because these college athletes already have it made.  We shouldn’t allow them and their growing greed to affect our Universities in a negative way.

Sure, they bring in a lot of attention and press, but they are also compensated for it if they choose to accept the gift—that being a full ride education, with “benefits.”

Is it fair that thousands of bright kids don’t get to attend college because their parents are broke and working three jobs? 

No.  But life isn’t fair. 

That doesn’t mean we start feeling sorry for those who have already been blessed with a good deal.  They are the last people we should feel sorry for, contrary to what any writer says.

I understand that there will always be opportunities for guys to get benefits on the side, without the university even knowing.  That has always happened.  It will continue that way. 

However, it is irresponsible to write an article excusing this behavior just to come off as the “cool reporter” who’s down with the youth of today.

You, me, and the guy in your class or office has to go by certain rules—rules that if we break, we face consequences for.  College athletes should be no different just because they can drop 22 a game or throw for 30 touchdowns.   

Smith closes his article with the following:

"As long as today's kids know they're working for a multibillion-dollar industry for free, they're not about to fail to ask, 'Where's mine?'"

Free?  Where’s mine?  It’s right there on the document you signed.  See it?  Below the words FULL SCHOLARSHIP, a.k.a. Fifty G’s, a.k.a. lifetime free of poverty.  That’s where.    


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