Players Don’t Respect the NCAA; It’s Time for Change

I am a West Coast homer and hopefully will bring some much needed PAC-12 (Conference of Champions) love to the site. Born and raised in Los Angeles. Both parents went to UCLA.  Dad grew up in the Bay Area and Mom in LA. My parents have had season tickets to UCLA football games since the late 70s and I went to every game as a kid, even in 2000 when UCLA beat ‘Bama 35-7. I attended Oregon (04-07), where I played on the football team at right tackle. We would have won the 2007 national title if Dennis Dixon hadn’t torn his ACL. My brother currently goes to University of California, Berkeley (Cal for short). I root for the SF Giants, LA Lakers and grew up a 49ers fan. I was drafted by the Carolina Panthers in the 7th round of the 2008 draft. Started 3 games in ‘09 and all 16 last season. Hope you will enjoy my point of view and insight on college and professional football.

This has been one of the most interesting and scandal filled few years in college football. Everyone seems to have a way to fix it, from a random Joe to the SEC Commish. Well, I’m here to share my thoughts on the scandals. I’ve talked to some former teammates, and some of my current teammates, to gather how they feel.  They confirm my views . . . that most of these scandals happen because, honestly, people in college athletics — coaches and players — don’t respect the NCAA authority. 

I’ll give you some reasons why.
 

Lack of quick and direct punishment for the student-athletes.

The student athletes just don’t think they will ever get punished. I would imagine no less then 50% of the kids go to college because they have aspirations of going to the NFL. After leaving school, they have little allegiance to the school other than rooting for the football team. Kids have seen that they don’t get directly punished while still in school for offenses.  They think, “If I cheat now, no one will find out for awhile, and I’ll go to the NFL . . . or will be out of school . . . before anyone finds out.” 

Here are two examples.
 

1)  Before I get going on this bullet point, I’ll tell you that I grew up hating USC (Southern Cal). I was happy when they got punished because a) I didn’t know the facts and b) screw USC. The more I find out information about the USC situation, the more I think it’s bullshit what the NCAA did to them. It took the NCAA 4-5 years to finally decide on an action. Everyone playing on that 2005 team was long gone, so nothing happened to them.  Kids who were in high school in 2005 are the ones who got punished. So the NCAA took away SC’s National Championship.  So what? The players still have the rings and they know who won the games. In 2005, we were Pac-10 runner-ups. We lost to USC by 20+, and I’ll tell you what, Bush wasn’t the main reason we lost. I don’t consider us to be the Pac-10 champs for that season. USC won that year. In the end, kids that had nothing to do with any of the scandal got punished and are suffering now.
 

2)  Ohio State (tOSU). During bowl season the NCAA and the school knew enough information at the time to suspend five players for two regular season games the following year. . . but allowed them to play in the Sugar Bowl. There is virtually zero accountability for their actions.  Of course an athlete would take a punishment that banished them from the first two non-conference games against ‘Little Sisters of the Poor’ rather than a nationally televised BCS Bowl game.

It gets even better. As I write this, the NCAA says that tOSU’s self sanctions are good enough for them. WOW! Really? Vacating some games? Again, NO ONE in the program cares about changing the outcome of a game on paper. Taking away scholarships and losing the right to be on TV are the worst punishments from a player perspective. So here comes the greatest example of why no one respects the NCAA…
 

I think we can agree that when you were 18-21 years old, you might have broken a rule or two. I think it’s understandable that a few kids here and there are going to break rules . . . whether purposely or out of ignorance of the rules. However, there is no excuse for coaches. They know better. They are adults. They are expected to be role models for the student-athlete. At tOSU, the Head Coach knew early on what was going on and didn’t stop it, then lied to the NCAA about his knowledge. Plus multiple players were involved. On the other hand, at USC, it was one player, whose parents got money from an “agent”, who wasn’t even a booster. It can’t even be proven that any of the coaches knew what was going on.
 
As we know, the NCAA destroyed the program for 5 years with their sanctions. Taking away 10 scholarships per season over three years is a big deal. Teams get roughly 25 a year. That is enough to replace a full offense and defense. It allows the coaching staff the luxury of stockpiling talent. With 15 scholarships annually, can’t do that anymore. That is why losing scholarships is one of the worst punishments a program can receive. This is why no one respects the NCAA authority. The punishment never fits the crime.
 

Now on to the adults, the coaches, who should know better. Punishment never follows them.

College football is a business now and winning equals money. If a coach can bend the rules for two years, rack up the wins and huge contracts, then bail when things go wrong, they haven’t lost at all. I bet Tressel will get another job, no problem. Coaching is one of the few professions where cheating, incompetence, doing a poor job doesn’t matter.  Like a cat with nine lives, coaches somehow find another job.  People might think a coach who leaves a program on probation is a cheater. And maybe he is.  But he’s laughing all the way to the bank.
 
Clearly not all players and coaches feel and/or act this way. It’s the exception rather than the rule.  Most do respect the rules that the NCAA has laid out even though most players really don’t know the full extent of what they are. The NCAA rulebook is extremely long and complicated. The players just know the basics – don’t take money, no extra benefits. But what exactly is an extra benefit? That in itself is complicated and makes no sense. A coach driving an athlete from practice to school is an extra benefit? Come on.
 
How to solve the problem? Honestly, there is no way to completely solve the issue. Cheating is going to happen. Unfortunately it happens throughout society. Just look at the Madoff debacle.   There are always going to be some bad apples and temptations around campus.

The NCAA must either better define ‘extra benefits’, loosen up their stance on extra benefits and/or find time so that the players can earn some legitimate cash.

This is a hot topic right now. The NCAA legally allows but practically not, full time jobs — if they did there wouldn’t be time anyway due to year around football obligations — and doesn’t allow a kid to collect royalty for using/ selling his jersey or likeness. That in itself is another argument. Here are ways to give/allow for more money:
 

Ø  Give more on scholarship checks
 

Ø  Allow players to earn royalties on their likenesses
 

Ø  Allow small jobs (set a cap on earnings)
 

Ø  Allow student-athletes to sign autographs for money (set a cap on what they can earn)
           
Paying players only in football and basketball because they bring in the money to fund the entire athletic department won’t solve the problem completely, but it would lessen the need to go out and find ways to get extra money. Most scholarship checks are around $1000. If you live in a big city or an expensive city like LA, Berkeley, Atlanta, Miami, Dallas, etc, those checks don’t go as far as someone living in Eugene, Lincoln, etc. A kid in a big city might need to pay 75-85% of that money towards rent, which doesn’t leave much more for anything else. And in the summer, you get half that money, and get zero training table and the NCAA doesn’t allow for jobs, so how else are they supposed to get extra spending money?
 
Some athletes come from low income families and send home money each month to help their parents. Other families are the opposite and can afford to give their kids extra spending money in college. I was fortunate enough to be in the latter group. My freshman year in college, I lived in a dorm, was fed and received $100 a month. That’s not much to live on. My parents gave me some extra money on the side. My roommate my final two years was in the first group. He sent money home, and had little left over. So basically the money goes quickly. If scholarships are increased or some “extra benefits” allowed, then the urge to break the rules has seriously been reduced. 

I think people would be surprised by how little money a college kid would need to avoid the temptation to take extra benefits. 
 

Here are some suggestions that could follow if the rules were modified.

 
1)  The NCAA must have uniform discipline rules and those have to be strict. If a student-athlete takes money or an extra benefit that isn’t allowed, they are suspended for a year and lose their scholarship. Plain and simple. Pro sports teams have signs all over the locker-room telling us we can’t gamble on our game. They are everywhere. It’s well known it’s illegal. You can do the same in a college locker room.
 

2)  Coaches-If a coach knowingly breaks the rules, they are automatically fired. No severance package, just gone. No working for a set period of time. Pretty simple. Taking away a couple years of salary will change how the coaches operate. 
 
 
NCAA and the “Middleman”
 
We all know the name Willie Lyles by now. He has been linked to several elite programs. I can’t speak for LSU or Cal or whoever, but I know some of the information relating to Oregon. I don’t know if Oregon broke rules. They may have bent some along the way. They might have paid too much for the services of a “middleman”, depending on who you talk to, but coaches like Les Miles have admitted to needing these services to gather recruit video. The practice of paying middleman has been going on for years and for some reason it’s coming to light now. Maybe lack of NFL storylines has caused media outlets to try to dig and look for stories. Recruiting in certain states can be like trying to get into the hottest new club in Las Vegas. You need to know someone in order to get in the door. Schools that aren’t considered perennial national powers are going to have trouble recruiting in states like Texas, and some in the south. Well, how do you get in the door? You need to pay a door man, or middleman/recruiting coordinator, to help you out.
 

I will use Oregon as an example but you can plug most schools in instead. Oregon has no trouble recruiting in California.  Lots of their coaches have coached in CA or grew up there. They know where the talent is located and what buttons to push when talking to recruits. Texas is a different story. It has lots of storied programs in-state, and most of them recruit within Texas for their talent. If you are a high school coach and Texas calls regarding a kid at your school, you’re more likely to give them the information then helping out a school like Oregon. Trust me, I know this is the case in Texas.  Friends helping friends.  Happens all the time in the non-football world.  Why not in recruiting? So how does Oregon get in the club? They need to pay a guide/recruiting service who knows the kids. Paying for a recruiting service does not mean that the service is influencing kids towards schools because it’s clear they get money from multiple schools. It’s just a way to get into the area. Nothing more or less.

Looking forward to writing here and look forward to hearing from you guys too. Let me know what kind of perspective you’d be interested in hearing about.
 
You can follow me on Twitter @GeoffSchwartz74 and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/GeoffSchwartz74

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