As confetti rained down on the turf at AT&T Stadium in Texas Monday night, the Ohio State football players weren’t the only ones celebrating.
Also raising their arms in victory were Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer, NCAA president Mark Emmert, the hierarchy at ESPN and Nike and the heads of the five college football power conferences.
But they weren’t celebrating Ohio State’s win over Oregon in the first ever College Football Playoff Championship.
They were celebrating the most lopsided deal in all of sports, where their organizations leave with more than $1 billion in revenue and the ‘student-athletes’ – the ones actually playing the game – get nothing but a fluky promise of a “free education.”
In theory, it sounds wonderful; in exchange for their dedication and sweat, the athletes get an education that will last them a lifetime. While everyone else is in student debt up to their eyeballs, the lucky few who got a chance to play big-time collegiate sports are successful accountants, psychologists and government officials.
That’s simply not the case, especially at the top football and basketball schools in the country. When Northwestern University football players attempted to unionize in 2014, they said that during some weeks, they devoted more than 50 hours to football, even though the NCAA has a rule that says athletes can’t spend more than 20 hours a week on their sport.
In other words, is it even possible to expect athletes to go to class in pursuit of an education if their coaches want them in practice for 50 hours?
It isn’t possible, and it isn’t even expected. There have been several cases of schools pushing athletes through the system, cutting corners to get them a diploma, and more importantly, keep them eligible for the big game.
No one has made an attempt to fix this broken system because at the end of the day, those who are making money want to keep making money. It’s easy to say that the solution is to pay the athletes, but instituting a pay system would be far too complicated and would ultimately take away from what is supposed to be the true meaning of college athletics.
It’s time to emphasize the word ‘student’ in ‘student-athlete,’ and to do this, schools must hold athletes accountable in the classroom, encourage them to succeed academically, stop cutting corners and abide by NCAA student-athlete regulations.
Here’s a message to the NCAA: The only way to justify making hundreds of millions of dollars off student-athletes is to give those athletes what they were promised.