I've been around college football for nearly 20 years, as a player, broadcaster and now an analyst. I believe college football players at revenue-generating institutions are being exploited. They're a worker pool that generates billions of dollars in big-business revenues and get relatively little, by comparison, for their efforts.
|Cornhusker football is a big business. (US Presswire)|
We do, however, need a frank understanding of the gross imbalance in what football players at major college institutions give in comparison to what they really get in return.
The common view is for a showdown every Saturday college players are given a scholarship, three squares, some glitzy digs in a fashionable setting and you have happy campers working for the cause. Don't get me wrong. The value of a college education is tens of thousands of dollars each year. College football teaches young men important lessons. For a lot of these kids, especially minorities, it's the only ticket they have to an education.
Even so, college football players at major football programs fall into a special category.
Student athletes are in effect holding down two jobs, while getting hammered on the practice field and gameday. Trust me, the chance of injury is 100 percent. You can be scarred for life.
Then there's the classroom. Athletes take a full load. Add in class attendance and studying, and you're talking about at least 40 hours per week. And, the idea that the majority are taking watered-down courses in order to maintain minimum eligibility standards is a myth. This isn't any cakewalk, folks.
Some of you work in factories and offices under tough physical and emotional conditions and still go to night school for a better education. So you know what I'm talking about.
Fan and media treatment of football players also is a double standard.
Don McPherson was an All American track and football star at Syracuse. Today he heads the Institute of Sports in Society at Adelphi University. For the past 18 years he has worked in communities to help young men and women overcome behavior that leads to broken homes and even prison. He spends much of his time working with student athletes and says the public tends to associate bad behavior with student athletes.
"Why people think college athletes are immune to the same temptations and other pressures I have no idea," McPherson said. "When a journalism student writes some scurrilous piece, the journalism department and professors aren't called on the carpet. If chemistry students cook up an exploding toilet, a la Animal House, or some other off-the-wall prank, does the department get a hit? You have got to be kidding.
"But if a student-athlete is involved in some incident, no matter how serious or trivial, the media is full of indictments of athletes, athletics and coaches. Suddenly the head coach is accused of 'not controlling' his program. The cure is to punish the entire squad as well as the individual players, as if we're talking about a platoon in the Marine Corps, Army boot camp or a herd of buffalo," McPherson said.
The issue here is what are the benefits created by major revenue-producing college programs? Think about the Nike Swoosh or even Gatorade being dumped on the heads of winning coaches. Think about the hundreds of millions of dollars (billions collectively) the media pays for television rights. Then there is a treasure trove of money for academics and communities.