The beloved Dick Vitale has famously stated on many occasions: "I would love to see a rule where once a college basketball player steps on campus, he can't leave until after his third year."
Apparently, many agree with this notion as David Stern mulls over the possibly of adding another year to how long a player has to remain in college.
As I watched the NBA draft (congratulations to all the draftees especially Syracuse University sensations Dion Waiters going No. 4 to the Cleveland Cavaliers, Fab Melo and Kris Joseph going No. 22 and No 51 to the Boston Celtics) and heard all of the announcers talk about how terrible it is that so many college kids are leaving early, it occurred to me that people actually think the colleges are there for the best interests of the “student-athletes”.
This couldn’t be further from the truth. College athletics is nothing more than a corrupt system focused on exploitation and greed.
I was introduced to the hypocrisy very quickly at Syracuse University by observing my future wife but then girlfriend Nichole. She played for the women’s team, but before landing at Syracuse University, she was into doing commercials, TV shows, print ads, etcetera. She shot a commercial with Frosted Flakes where she was playing basketball with Tony The Tiger.
Well, the commercial grossed over $100,000, but she was not allowed to keep the money because that would have made her ineligible to play at Syracuse. The irony in this is that she could have played for her own education, but instead had to donate it to charity and be a broke “student-athlete”.
Then, before her senior year, after her third knee surgery, the Syracuse specialist Dr. Raphael told her that if she wanted to be able to walk without a cane and play with her kids in the future that she needed to stop playing basketball. Nichole was devastated because as athletes we are programmed to run through walls and ignore pain and never quit, but after much convincing from the people who actually cared about her – mostly her mother – Nichole made the right decision.
However, this was to the displeasure of the coaching staff. Then head coach Mariana Freeman, Felisha Legette and the rest of the staff of Syracuse women’s basketball program began a crusade to take Nichole’s scholarship away because after all, if you can no longer play what good are you to them.
Nichole actually had to get a lawyer and threaten to sue then Athletic Director Jake Crouthamel and the entire University in order to keep her scholarship for her senior year.
The reason why this happened is because they do not care. The bottom line is your are not a student-athlete as they love to profess to the world, you are an athlete-student, and you are there for one reason and one reason only. You can keep your grades up enough to remain eligible, but then again, that's only so you can be able to play.
Fast forward to a more recent example, when I look at what happened with Kansas State center Jamar Samuels during this past NCAA tournament I am again reminded of the hypocrisy of college athletics. Samuels, the team’s second leading scorer and a senior, was declared ineligible and nationally humiliated by the NCAA just 20 minutes before the Wildcats’ second-round game against Syracuse. What was Samuels’s crime? He’s accused of taking $200 from his AAU coach, Curtis Malone.
His suspension led to the following headline that simply says it all: "Jamar Samuels Ruled Ineligible For Trying To Feed His Family."
is former coach, Curtis Malone, admitted after the suspension that he had given him $200 so Samuels could buy groceries for his mother.
"Yeah, I did,” he said. "It’s the same way when he played [for me] on road trips. When he didn’t have money to eat, he ate. The kid’s family doesn’t have anything and he called me for money to eat."
Malone had known Samuels’s mother for years and they live in a situation where they do not know if they would be able to eat every night.
$200 in comparison to $10.8 billion that the NCAA brings in through television funds from the March Madness tournament alone. These types of figures make it possible for the lavish salaries of everyone we don’t pay to watch. Mark Emmert, the president of the NCAA, which is strangely considered a “non-profit”, keeps his salary as leader of the NCAA a secret, but it’s thought to be near $2 million a year. He has 14 vice presidents, each of whom make at least $400,000 annually.
Does that seem fair?
They acquire lucrative endorsements like Nike. While playing at Kansas State, Jamar had no choice but to wear Nikes and the famous swoosh adorns his shoes and uniform. This is not personal brand preference. Nike is in the last year of a six-year, $12.3 million contract with Kansas State. Jamar has spent the last four years as a running, jumping human billboard advertisement for Nike, with not a dime for his services.
His coach, Frank Martin, on the other hand, makes $1.5 million a year, how can anyone think that is a fair system? When the Fab Five started wearing plain blue shirts and realized how they were being used, you can understand why. Especially when considering the numbers Michigan was bringing in at that time were astronomical.
To quote political sportswriter Dave Zirin: "It’s practically a criminal conspiracy: turning our colleges into an emporium of free labor and no-cost free minor leagues. Every country in the world looks at our system of amateur athletics and shakes their head in shame. It’s like in health care: the pursuit of profit has blinded us to the fact that the way we do "business" is not only amoral and inefficient, it’s an international laughingstock."
Pulitzer prize winner Taylor Branch, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s biographer, looked at the state of affairs and could come to only one conclusion: "For all the outrage, the real scandal is not that students are getting illegally paid or recruited, it’s that two of the noble principles on which the NCAA justifies its existence– ‘amateurism’ and the ‘student-athlete’ – are cynical hoaxes, legalistic confections propagated by the universities so they can exploit the skills and fame of young athletes. The tragedy at the heart of college sports is not that some college athletes are getting paid, but that more of them are not…"
Dick Vitale in a special column to the USA Today wrote: "Wow, it hurts to admit that a game I love, college basketball, has been really hurt big time with players leaving early. Let's face it: The real beneficiary of the one-and-done rule is the NBA. Hey, baby, you don't have to go to Harvard to figure that out!"
I have to respectfully disagree. I didn’t go to Harvard but I do have a degree from Syracuse, and the real beneficiaries from this system are the Universities.
They act as if they’re doing you a favor
As precious as the gift of an education is
The true key to success
What our people were denied for centuries
Outlawed to even teach us how to read
Currently is the embodiment of institutionalized greed
A legalized money making scheme
They dangle dreams of turning pro in front of our faces
So we will race to exhaustion
Push our bodies to the limits for their monetary consumptions
Misjudging our chances
They enhance our brain to maintain our train of thought
Our one track mind
Seasoned with a salt of a prearranged marriage to the sign of the times
The lie of a rights of passage
We attempt to climb to heights of unreachable plights
Just to line their pockets with riches and wealth
The perfect business
Where you don’t have to pay your employees
Trade off for the opportunity to obtain your degree
We’ll educate you for free if you make millions for the university
The shame of a nation
Sharecroppers working the field
We’ll call you a student athlete while you enjoy the savory taste of exploitation
We’ll house you in facilities to heighten your comfortability
And feed you so you have strength for the day’s task
We’ll give you work clothes to mask your depleted body
Coddling hopes and dreams
You can whistle while you work if it suits your needs
As long as you’re eligible we’ll forget about your class routine
A nussiance as it seems to be
Doing nothing but getting in the way of productivity
Don’t forget why you’re really here
Don’t steer away from the issue at hand
A band of thieves
Reeking with the stench of corporate greed