Where’s my money, man?

IUS Horizon

The NFL and NCAA are currently discussing the possibility that players who are found to have received improper benefits from agents during their college careers could face  suspensions and fines upon entering the NFL Draft.

The talks come just weeks after a controversial Sports Illustrated article chronicling the 20-year career of agent Josh Luchs, who claims to have paid more than 30 former college football players in the 1990s.

Luchs names names and offers receipts and corroborating accounts to back-up his claims, and I believe him.

There’s no reason not to believe him. Some of the players in question actually admitted to the transgressions, while others caught a sudden case of amnesia and could not quite put a face to the Luchs’ name.

What makes Luchs’ story even more believable is the players he names who refused to take money.

Luchs said former Kansas defensive tackle Dana Stubblefield refused to take money even when $10,000 in cash was placed in front of him.

How many of you would refuse $10,000 in cash right now? I wouldn’t.

The issue here is that while a college scholarship is a nice incentive for an athlete, it does not necessarily provide everything that athlete needs to live.

A football player at a big-time college program cannot be expected to have a job as well, when you consider the hours spent in class, studying, practicing, working out and traveling for games.

On top of that, these universities are making a fortune on the abilities of the players on the field.

According to the Sports Business Journal, in 2007-08 the University of Texas brought in nearly $73 million in football revenue.  The University of Georgia ranked second with more than $67 million.

That’s just football revenue. Texas had more than $120 million in total athletics revenue, though universities aren’t the only ones making money off these players.

Video game maker EA Sports sold nearly 700,000 copies of its NCAA Football 11 in just the first month of its release — at $60 a pop. I’ll let you do the math.

EA Sports does not use the names of the players, but any college football fan can choose their favorite team and find that the players’ numbers, positions and talents all match up.

Many of these football players come from impoverished backgrounds but play for coaches who make millions of dollars.  Mack Brown, Texas head football coach, is currently making $5 million per year with an additional $2 million bonus for each year he remains in his position.

These athletes deserve to be paid something.  They certainly receive some compensation, but it’s not enough when you consider what they do for the university.

I’m not claiming I have the answer for how it should be done or how you would organize and decide who got what, but I do have a suggestion as to where to start.

I think a weekly or monthly stipend for everyday expenses, such as food, would be good.

One of the players named in the SI article said he took the money because his scholarship did not provide enough for rent and food.

The majority of these athletes weigh between 200 and 300 pounds and work out regularly. Something tells me food is pretty high on their list of priorities.

A few hundred dollars each week would do negligible damage to the universities bottom lines and could prevent a lot of the influence agents have over players who have to feel under appreciated.

This could pay off in the long run because the sanctions the NCAA imposes on universities when transgressions have been found can be

severe.

The University of Southern California recently lost 30 scholarships and was banned from playing in any bowl games for the next two years.  The sanctions stemmed from an investigation of former USC running back Reggie Bush who was found to have received money and a free home for his family.

The loss of those scholarships means a lesser product on the field for the university, and its absence from the bowl games will potentially cost the university tens of millions of dollars.

Luchs said the paying of players is still common practice among agents, and we’ve recently seen players from schools such as the University of North Carolina and the University of Alabama.

Many of these players have been suspended, and, if the new NFL rules go into effect, they could see their draft positions drop due to teams’ hesitance to draft a player who may be suspended.

So, if I had one piece of advice for the universities that are making millions while their biggest asset, the athletes, are resorting to asking strangers for money so they can eat, it’s this — do the right thing.

Pay them or someone else will.

By DERRICK
HOLDRIDGE

Sports Editor

dvholdri@umail.iu.edu