College Football: Instead of Blaming Ohio State, Blame a Corrupt System

Blair ChopinContributor IIIJune 1, 2011

NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 04:  Quarterback Terrelle Pryor #2 of the Ohio State Buckeyes looks to pass against the Arkansas Razorbacks during the Allstate Sugar Bowl at the Louisiana Superdome on January 4, 2011 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

Think of your average college football player at a big university.  This player still has dreams of going pro but they will likely never see the field even in college.  This player knows he needs to be the breadwinner for his family but will not see any money besides the small jobs he has to work his entire life.

While he stares at the more talented players on the field, stares at a coach who refuses to play him and stares at the shabby clothes his mother is wearing in the stands, he has to almost wonder, "What was the point of the hard work?  "What am I doing this for?" 

This player thought football would help him escape his past life.  He thought that he could become a rich pro football player because that is what all of the recruiters has promised him.  He thought that all of the injuries he suffered almost daily were for future gain.  He thought all of the enemies he made on and off the field would be gone once he cashed his first big check. 

Now, the once big time player is right back where he started after the Saturday night lights are off.  Doing anything he can to pay the bills: selling drugs, beating up the right people and working two to three jobs.  Whatever he does though, he still cannot get past the feeling like he has been screwed over and like his life could have been so much more than what it has become.

He feels like he was a slave to a broken system.  He knows that the NCAA and his school made millions upon millions of dollars on him, and he did not see one cent of that money.  He knows that video game companies made even more by using everything but his name. 

But this player feels powerless as he works just to get by while the NCAA and his university work even harder to get more money out of him and future prospects.  He knows that just about every athlete at a big time school will be in a similar situation to him.  He feels powerless because the injuries might have just taken the power out of him. 

He feels like he cannot get a decent job because of the multiple concussions he came back from for "the good of the team."  He feels like he is a disappointment to everyone because when people read the stories about him being broke and in jail, they blame him and not what led him to being there.  All of this happens while the pockets of the presidents become deeper and deeper.

It was a celebration throughout most of the Southeast region when college football fans heard of all the "trouble" that was happening at Ohio State.  They felt like one of the main competitors was being taken away, and it was all because the players on the team were complete cheaters.  It was all because Jim Tressel did not memorize the hypocritical NCAA rulebook. 

It was all because they did not do things the right way, the way that all schools in the south do things.  It was just Ohio State.   Ohio State was the one sinner in what many believe the utopia of college athletics.  Ohio State was the one disgrace to such a well put together and articulated system.  Ohio State got what they deserved.

That is how most people in general probably viewed the situation going on in Columbus, but they probably did not realize who the real bad guys in this situation are: the NCAA.  It may be tough to fathom over 20 players have to exchange valuable merchandise to get tattoos, but logically it is just as hard to fathom how these players could not afford tattoos without the trading of merchandise. 

While these players probably helped make Ohio State one of the richest schools in America, they had to exchange merchandise to get tattoos!  Some of these players may end up playing pro football, some of them may end up having high paying jobs, but sadly, most of them may end up like the person I described in the example above.

These players will end up without compensation for all the hard work and turmoil they put themselves through just to make a few very rich people a lot richer.  These players will end up probably wondering why they did all this, why they gave away all of these prized possessions, why they just ended up with nice cars, when they probably should have a lifetime's worth of wealth for how much they earned their university. 

I guess it is hard to notice the hypocrisy of the NCAA sometimes, but this year it has never been so clear.  We have heard the stories of so many schools players talking to agents, we have heard the stories of so many athletes receiving illegal benefits, we have heard the stories of so many schools not having good enough grades, in fact we have heard just about everything that every school is doing wrong. 

But we never really hear about the fundamental, hypocritical, money-making machine that is college athletics.  We never hear the reason why it is wrong for a player to meet with an agent (breaking news: college athletes might actually be concerned with their futures!), we have never really had it explained to us why the NCAA allowed these players to play if their grades were so offensive (the answer is simply that they were talented and they earned them a lot of money), and we are just under the assumption that all of this wrong doing and investigation started about Jan. 1, 2011. 

We are supposed to assume that after the Ohio State case the NCAA will correct all that is supposedly "wrong" with college sports, that every school will follow every rule, and that every player will somehow be a Rhodes Scholar. 

The NCAA will come down hard on Ohio State and let what they hypocritically define as corruption continue at every other one of the division one football programs.  They will essentially be the cop that only arrests one person for a sling of mass murders when their were about 117 other co-conspirators.

They will turn a blind eye to the corruption that happens at every other school because it is inconvenient to their own personal wealth and stature.  They will turn a blind eye to the corruption because if the best players are not on the field the games might actually get lower ratings. 

After they give Ohio State the modern day death penalty they will claim that all of college footballs many problems are fixed and that we should all go to the park together and sing Amazing Grace. They will lie right to the faces of the public and the public might actually be stupid enough to believe their lies. 

But if the NCAA really wants to really be effective under their current system, then they honestly have to evaluate just about every single Division 1 school.  They need to see if every single one of these schools is living up to every single standard that they have decided to enforce. 

They need to have people on these campuses for just about every practice, just about every recruiting visit, and they might as well just sit in every class as well.  While this may sound like justice on paper, it would result in the injustice of just about every single college football program being placed on probation.  It would result in the NCAA actually deciding to care about its athletes for once which may just be impossible.  It would result in the end of college football as we know it. 

What we have learned from the Ohio State scandal is that it is time for the NCAA and its schools to stop treating their athletes like slaves.  It is time for these athletes to actually get some compensation for all of the money that they earn every single one of these schools.  If we actually gave these players the money that they deserved, they would not have to exchange merchandise for tattoos, they would not have to get a discounted rate on the nicest cars, and they might actually be able to look the members of the family in the eye 10 years down the road. 

The paying of players could actually have many unexpected benefits.  If the NCAA decided to pay the players on the condition that they had over 90 percent attendance in their classes and kept over a certain GPA, then the academic situations at these schools would improve dramatically. 

This improvement in academics would also greatly help with the future of these players, a future that they might not really have under the current system.  Players would be less tempted to speak with agents since they already have a solid salary.  Players might actually stay in school longer.  Players would not participate in criminal activities that they would have participated in before to earn money.  Basically the entire state of college athletics would be drastically improved.

This probably comes down to how much the NCAA actually cares about the lives of its players.  They can be  content with the current system that allows the presidents to have deep pockets but only allows for a future where the players have to fight everyday just to get by. 

They can settle for a system where corruption is as common of practice as the summer two-a-days that the players are forced to participate in.  The NCAA can settle for this system, or they can be unselfish for once in their history and allow the players to earn some actual compensation for the millions that they earn the university. 

They can see the positive effect that this system would have on academics and watch these "student athletes" actually go on to have bright futures.  This really comes down to how much the NCAA actually cares.  Apathy is really the only enemy of corruption in this case.


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