NCAA Violations Grow with Miami Hurricanes Scandal: The Only Solution

Michael McMasterContributor IIIAugust 18, 2011

MIAMI - NOVEMBER 20: Jamal Reid #15 of the Miami Hurricanes runs out of the tunnel during a game against the Virginia Tech Hokies at Sun Life Stadium on November 20, 2010 in Miami, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

The latest revelations from Miami which were reported by Yahoo! Sports on Wednesday were appalling, disappointing and shocking, but unfortunately not surprising.

While Miami's alleged violations were particularly heinous, if would be foolish to believe that the indiscretions at The U were unique. Instead, Miami has joined a long train of NCAA schools with serious and repeated violations. Ohio State, Memphis, USC, UNC and others have demonstrated that Miami is not the problem, but just another putrid symptom. And it would be naive to assume there aren't others with problems just as severe and widespread.  

The NCAA has a huge problem.

Not all of their student athletes are Rhodes scholars or rocket scientists, but they're at least smart enough to realize that they are being taken advantage of at the expense of universities which make millions of dollars from their athletic prowess.

Age restrictions on entering professional sports have increasingly transformed intercollegiate athletics into an effective minor league farm system, with a disturbing number of athletes failing to earn four-year degrees and more leaving early to pursue professional careers.

Athletes understand that coaches and universities make millions off of their hard work and although all are fully aware of the rules and restrictions imposed by the NCAA, some justify accepting gifts or favors to justify the obvious inequity in intercollegiate athletics. 

So long as college athletics, and college football in particular, is governed by the almighty dollar, corruption cannot be entirely eradicated. Money controls the NCAA to such an extent that college football players are not only robbed of fair compensation, but they are even robbed of a playoff system which almost all are in favor of. 

But the money isn't going anywhere. Despite all the ugliness, we all still love college football and we are all still going to watch it. That means ticket sales will persist, television contracts will get bigger and corporate sponsorships will become more prominent. Despite repeated embarrassing scandals, the NCAA and college football will only get bigger. 

Not one change can fix all this. A couple of rule changes will not restore the honesty to the term "student-athlete." It's broken like an Ipod or a cell phone. Pushing buttons won't fix it, you need a whole new damned thing.

But here's one idea. If you can't get the money out of the league, let's take it out of the of the individual teams and make college football about college football again. 

My proposed (admittedly radical) rule change: The head coach of an NCAA intercollegiate athletics program may not make more money annually than the highest paid professor at their respective institution.

The athletes are supposedly "amateurs," so why is it fair that the coaches are treated as professionals? Aren't they coaching an amateur sport? And isn't a "student-athlete" entitled to an education as good as their athletic experience? Isn't that what the term implies? Put "college" back in "intercollegiate." I guarantee that overnight there would be more Joe Paternos and fewer Nick Sabans in college football. 

To give you a rough idea of how wide the disparity is between top paid coaches and professors, consider these numbers: in 2010, the university with the highest average salary for professor was Harvard University ($191,200). In the same year, Nick Saban was the highest paid coach in the NCAA, earning $5.17 million at the University of Alabama. The average professor at the University of Alabama makes $97,800 (and that's the highest average salary of any university in the state). 

Of the 10 NCAA schools with the highest paid head coaches, all are state schools and not a single one reappears on the list of state schools with the highest average pay for professors. Where the pay is the best, the disparity in value between education and athletics is the worst.

A final exercise: Imagine you are an athlete at the University of Texas or Alabama. You come from a poor family and your devotion to your sport leaves you very little time for serious academic pursuits. You're a good athlete, but it's unlikely that you could make a career out of it. Every summer and every holiday, you retreat home to the same poverty in which you grew up. You know that your coach is making more than $5 million a year off of your blood and sweat, but if you hung out at the locker room after practice, you know he wouldn't be allowed to buy you a Gatorade or a slice of pizza because of NCAA rules. But there's a booster waiting for you in the parking lot. What happens next? 

If we want to call it intercollegiate athletics, let's have college athletes and college coaches. If not, let's just call it what it is: minor league, professional athletics.