Lies, Liars, and Pimps: NCAA Green-Lights Exploitation

Posted: February 20, 2011 in Justice, Pop Culture, Race, Sports

            If asked, most Americans would say they dislike lies, liars, and pimps.  But, when  it comes to major college football most people condone, support, and even demand lying and pimping if it might help them win a conference championship.    There is no time where lying lies, liars, and pimps more celebrated than college football recruiting and the treatment of student-athletes by the NCAA. Everyone knows that, all things being equal (Conference, TV time, facilities, etc.), those with the best “mouthpiece” usually get the recruit to sign on the dotted line.  Whether it is the daily phone calls, mountains of letters, or in-home visits, college recruiters will tell top recruits just about anything to get them to sign.   However, I doubt that anytime during their recruitment are top athletes told that their “free four-year ride” to pay for their college education:  

  • Is NOT  really free;
  • Is NOT guaranteed for four (4) years; and
  • Is NOT  actually for a college education.

       First, the four-year scholarship every high school football player dreams about getting is actually a one (1)-year, renewable at the institution’s discretion, financial aid package.   Regardless of all the talk about “we are going to treat your son like he is my own” and “we stress education and getting your degree to all of our players” that coaches spew during recruiting,   once on campus, if the athlete does not perform to the desired level that the coach anticipated, the athlete runs the real risk of having his “full ride scholarship” cancelled after his subpar season.  Take the case of Joseph Agnew formerly of Rice University, hardly the bastion of athletic dominance, who is suing Rice after his scholarship was not renewed between his sophomore and junior years due to several injuries.  Like most D-1 scholarship athletes, Agnew had multiple scholarship offers out of high school.  However, when he got injured and couldn’t help the school and coaches win games (i.e., earn money, prestige, and recognition), he had no protection from losing his “full-ride” scholarship.

               Second, according to a recent ground breaking research study, the average “full scholarship” Division I athlete actually pays about $3000.00 annually in school-related expenses.   It’s just wrong that while head coaches enjoy guaranteed multi-million-dollar-a-year contracts and six-figure bonuses for  championships, and the NCAA and member universities bathe in multi-billion dollar TV deals, so-called student-athletes are not compensated for their labor (I thought this sort of practice was generally outlawed by the 13th Amendment!?!) that generates the billions enjoyed by the coaches and the NCAA. This is truly outright shameful in and of itself.  Yet, for these same athletes to actually have to pay thousands of dollars each year to the same institutions that  profit off them is absurd and a moral outrage, especially when you consider that 80% the athletes at these institutions are Black kids from poor inner-city communities whose family oftentimes can’t even afford to even attend one home game, let alone subsidize their son’s alleged “full ride.”

          Third, while coaches receive six-figure bonuses for wins, bowl games, and championships, I am not aware of one coach in America who has that  type of bonus clause tied to the graduation rate of his athletes (although I would not be surprised if long-time coach of Penn State Joe Pa did).  Therefore, it is easy to understand why the top schools athletically oftentimes have the worse graduation rates for their athletes.   For example, 2010 National Champion Auburn only ranks 85/120 in graduation rate for its football players.  It’s even more egregious when you take a look at the graduation rates of African-American athletes.  For example, of the 70 football teams that played in a bowl this year, the African-American football athlete’s graduation rate was only 60 percent.     That’s why I’m in full agreement with U.S. Education Secretary Arnie Duncan  who recommends that the NCAA penalize coaches and universities that don’t graduate their players the same way the NCAA allows those same coaches and universities to benefit when the programs have on-the-field success.    

                In closing, too many student-athletes will complete their college eligibility without a degree from their school, no pro career, and in debt to the school for which they just made millions. Therefore, I call on the NCAA to immediately stop Green-lighting lies (letting recruiters tell kids they are offering them  “full-ride” four-year scholarships), liars (coaches who stress education and personal development, but continue to have dismal graduation rates), and pimping (earning billions of dollars from student-athletes’ labor and likenesses, without allowing the student-athlete to receive any benefit).

  1. Pat says:

    Wow. I was aware of some of this because two of my children attended college on athletic scholarships. We were very fortunate that they were able to complete their degrees without any major injuries. But neither of them was a major NCAA campus.

    I agree with you that with millions of dollars at stake, the players should enjoy some type of profit sharing when things are going well, since they are the first to pay when things are not.

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