If you are a regular here at Bull Run you know two things about me. First, I need to spend a bit more time proof reading before I hit publish. That's on my to-do list, I promise!
Second, I find the common narrative of the poor, abused college athlete to be nothing but tripe. I do believe that many of the people who regurgitate it are sincere in their belief that being a college athlete is harder than working two minimum wage jobs and taking loans to pay for school. They are incorrect, but sincere, and I can deal with that.
Also parroting this nonsense are sports commentators trying to look edgy. One of my longer rants last year was spent taking Rick Mease to task for calling college athletes "indentured servants."
An indentured servant is one who signs and is bound to work for another for a specified time in return for payment of travel expenses and maintenance. While it's true that players sign a letter of intent to attend a school, that letter only binds them to that school for the following year. They can wait a year to enroll in college or transfer to another school.
A player can walk away from their scholarship and school at any time. Many do leave school before they complete their degrees, many leave for other schools, and some drop out.
Calling players indentured servants is hyperbole of the highest degree! We live in a world where some suffer real life slavery and underground indentured servitude. Lets compare the life of a point guard at UConn to a real indentured servant living in the underground economy somewhere in a major urban area.
As a college kid I worked 20 hours a week, 50 in the summer, and kept my food rationed mainly to the out-of-the-can kind. I did laundry at a friend's house and still managed to rack up about $20,000 in debt. So I don't think I will ever buy into pay-for-play.
While I disagree with many, there are some issues where I am more than happy to take up their cause. Last Friday one of those things went to a vote among the NCAA's Division I schools.
The issue was the lifting of the single-year scholarship restriction on Division I universities.
Multiyear scholarship legislation, one of several measures the Division I Board of Directors adopted in the wake of an August 2011 presidential retreat, was upheld in a membership override vote that concluded last friday. - NCAA.org
This is spectacular news!
Call me a dreamer, but I when I see the words "college athletics," I still think "college" should come first. The vast majority of NCAA scholarship athletes will never make a dime playing professional sports. Their scholarships are a way to pay for school, like my job paid for me.
But as with any job there need to be an understanding at the outset.
For years the understanding for high school athletes has been, "Come play for us and we will pay for your school ... for one year at a time." That's wrong and it should stop. Transferring to another school often requires not just adjusting your personal life but rebooting your academic progress. Take a senior in Engineering and send them from Buffalo to RIT and you have added at least a semester, maybe two, to their education.
Dropping a player's scholarship because they went from signing a letter with some coach looking to move up and ended up with a coach who thinks the player might not be the right fit is hardly fair. To have a sophomore suffer a career-ending injury and wonder how he will pay for school is equally unjust. Both of those situations can be resolved if they are given multi-year scholarships.
When a kid signs a piece of paper committing to a school, then the school, and not just the coach taking the paper, needs to commit to the kid. So long as the student makes grades, stays out of trouble, and does his best to stay on the team, that signature should give them four years to get a degree. If a new coach does not think he's the right kind of quarterback, then feel free to bench him, hand him a clip board, or release him from the team.
But his scholarship should not be revoked unless the decision to leave the team was his or her own choice.
The sad fact is that UB voted against this!
Many smaller, low budget departments voted in favor, however. Kudos to Ohio, Akron, NIU, Western Michigan and Miami for deciding differently. They voted perhaps against their best financial interest and instead voted from the ethical position.
Does this help the big boys? I suppose it does a little. Let's face it, nobody is going to hire Nick Saban away from Alabama. There is little cause to worry about having a roster full of players who were not hand-picked by Alabama's new coach. Oddly Alabama voted against multi-year scholarships, as did Texas, Tennessee, LSU, and Oklahoma. But six of the 10 most wealthy programs in the NCAA voted for it.
But you have to bite the bullet and do what's right. Even if it stings you when there is a coaching change. Besides the proposal was not even a mandate, but merely to give programs an option.
Of 330 institutions voting on an override, 62.12 percent voted to override the legislation. A 62.5% majority of those voting was required to override legislation. More than 90 percent of Division I institutions voted. I wish Buffalo had been among the schools fighting for the student athlete, but thankfully their vote was not needed.
The $2,000 stipend **COUGH** PAYMENT FOR PLAYING **COUGH** is up for consideration in April. On that I hope most schools consider the education they provide, not to mention housing and food, payment enough.