Author: Alex Zeldin
The year 2011 proved to be a trying time for the NCAA in regard to Division I Football. Nevin Shapiro, a University of Miami booster, told Yahoo! Sports that he provided thousands of impermissible benefits to at least 72 athletes from 2002 through 2010.
The NCAA charged Jim Tressel, the former head football coach of Ohio State University, with permitting football student-athletes to participate in intercollegiate athletics while ineligible and failing to comport himself with honesty and integrity.
Both of these charges forced him to resign as head coach and similar sanctions have been dealt to other programs. Most of these relate to either players or prospective players, who are unable to be compensated while enrolled in college or receive money, gifts, or other forms of incentives by either the schools or boosters.
Because the NFL requires a player to be three years out of high school before being eligible for the NFL draft, a prospective NFL athlete has no choice but to enroll in college and forgo earning a living for three years if they want the best chance of making it in. Athletes like former Ohio State running back Maurice Clarett, who unsuccessfully sued the NFL over this rule, feels this is unfair to poorer athletes who need money and can play at an NFL caliber. He feels that one of three things should happen. Either the NFL should allow top-tier athletes out of high school the chance to play, a different professional league should compete with the NCAA for young players or the NCAA should pay its athletes.
The reason the NCAA does not pay players or allow players to be compensated from third-parties is two-fold. One is that these athletes are student-athletes and thus are enrolled to receive an education first and play football second. The second is that even if academics came first, financial compensation voids student’s amateur statuses and makes the NCAA a professional league rather than an amateur one, and thus it would have to pay taxes.
While the NCAA makes millions of dollars per year, they are technically recognized by the government as a non-profit organization. This raises the question of what the connection is between large-market football programs and higher education.
Many individuals wonder what it is about spending millions of dollars on a football team that makes an institution more academic, in light of the fact that many student-athletes on scholarship are not academically qualified for admittance. What is clear is that football teams can be a huge source of revenue. Certain Division I schools make millions. The student-athletes who are responsible for this revenue receive a bachelor’s degree and players like Clarett do not feel this is a fair trade.
However, the notion that the NFL should adapt its policies because of the NCAA’s lack of payment is dis-jaunt. What was found in the Clarett lawsuit was that players who are below the age of 21 are far more susceptible to become injured than if they play against players their own age.
The NCAA cannot pay players and exist in its current form. If there are enough players who would bypass receiving a college education in order to be compensated financially and there is enough demand to sustain another football league, it appears a window exists for a developmental professional league to step in. The United Football League (UFL), a second-tier pro-league that Clarett currently plays in, has the same policy as the NFL when it comes to players fresh out of high school. But given that the UFL has lost $100 million over its first two seasons, it needs to make some changes to stay afloat.
With the NCAA serving as a monopoly over high-quality young players and the current scandals that have unfolded, the NCAA is facing pressure to address the matters of compensation for athletes or face the threat of more allegations, more scandals and another league taking away its players.
However with the UFL on the verge of collapse and the NFL not showing any signs of a change in policy, the NCAA is not expected to face any immediate threat of losing athletes to any developmental professional football league.
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