Would you want Jim Tressel or Lane Kiffin as your favorite team's head coach?
Of course not—especially considering recent developments concerning the topic of decision making and the NCAA—you would probably rather have your school's mascot coach the team.
As you may know, Ralph Nadar is the latest big brain to come forward, whose attention has been captured on certain levels by the ever mutating world of College Athletics. Nadar says that college sports has become so professionalized that the student athletes are being preyed upon by an industry that has developed around student athletes, such as club teams, agents and trainers.
In a nutshell, Nadar's plans include 'de-professionalizing' college athletes by eliminating athletic scholarships, or at the very least acknowledge the professionalism in college athletics by removing the tax-exempt status given to athletic departments, and forcing colleges to operate the athletic programs as a separate business.
The truth is no matter what rules you surround it with, or what department it's filed under, due to a nation of rabid fans, someone, somewhere is always going to make money off of NCAA student athletes, especially those who play college football.
The former head of the NCAA has made it known publicly that he is in favor of paying college athletes. Well, that's not exactly de-professionalizing student athletes, but if we went in that direction (maybe not to the point of paying), it would take the target off of college football and we wouldn't have this shooting gallery of sanctions every year.
Personally I believe this route can be taken while still maintaining the tradition, dignity and respect that college football has always had. In fact, it would probably improve the image of college football, as less sanctions will be handed out because the NCAA rules, and overall definition of a "student athlete" will change.
Don't get me wrong, I'm by no means taking up for Kiffin or Tressel. I strongly believe that once rules have been established, they aren't meant to be broken. Having said that, how difficult must it be for institutions to control not only the young men (with raging hormones and the common sense of well, an 18 year old) on scholarship, but also boosters that seem to come in all shapes and sizes.
Unfortunately, major scandal seems to be a part of the current system, which might mean a change like Nader advocates is in order.
If one remembers back to the year 1995, 'Bama had just received probation because Antonio Langham signed with an agent the morning after they beat Miami in the Sugar Bowl. A decade later in 2005, Oklahoma was hit hard because three students were receiving payments for work not performed at a car dealership in Norman, OK.
Now, we have Terell Pryor and crew in the present day NCAA student athlete mess. Fill in the gaps, and you have a lot of major violations occurring that didn't have to if student athletes were not only on scholarship, but were also able to take promotions/gifts from boosters, fans and outside companies as long as they were not tied to the school.
As long as nothing illegal, unethical or nothing that could potentially give a school an upper hand was taking place, the NCAA would have nothing relevant to investigate.
Let's be honest, would you want an agent or booster taking your 18-year-old angel to a strip club? No, but if they liked the way he blocks and just want to give him free Bar-B-Q every Sunday, I have no problem with that. Maybe the local dealer wants him driving around in one of his cars, how bad is that really if he is bringing in thousands for the college every Saturday and the NCAA makes coins from selling his jersey?
These guys can be on the cover of video games and their jerseys can sell in malls across the land, but if they traded an autograph for a Big-Mac, they literally become the center of a long NCAA investigation that usually doesn't end well for the student athlete or the university.
Throw in the fact that a lot of student athletes come from rural neighborhoods or generational poverty. I have no problem with a kid getting a few free tacos, a laptop and some car keys so his mom doesn't have to take the bus to work anymore if boosters want to offer it.
If you consider how few of them go pro, the fact that they can get hurt at any time, and weigh this against how much money he will eventually bring into the college, this doesn't seem so unethical.
So maybe Nadar is leaning in the right direction with this, but he's just not looking at it from the right point of view. Let's not de-professionalize, or even professionalize college football, or do away with scholarships. Remember the student athlete comes in all shapes and sizes, from the superstar to the third string backup, and everything in between.
All of them are needed, especially in college football, so let's not do away with scholarships. Let's simply put the rules under a microscope and hack away with a scalpel, leaving behind the new definition of a "student athlete". One that can take advantage of legal, legitimate, ethical opportunities while they have the chance.