Ok, not going to lie, I actually considered changing the blog’s name to “Lil Luke” for the foreseeable future, but decided against soiling the title and instead offer up a poem:
There was a Uni-ver-sity,
They called themselves the “U”;
Fans lined the streets with puffed out chests;
Like frontrunners often do.
But the entire time, lurking in the dark
One man caused quite the scene
With disregard for NCAA rules,
Lil Luke was this man’s name
He handed out cash --- and prostitutes
On his private yacht,
Was Christmas time throughout the year
Or so the players thought.
They did not know that one day soon
Lil Luke would go to jail
Abandon him, the players did
As though they did not care
Sitting in his cell with plenty of time,
Lil Luke decided to sing
The tales, the stories he told them all
It sounded like a dream.
And so it began, the tragic end
Of the program known as the “U”;
But don’t worry “fans” not all is lost
There is always FIU!
I’m sorry Canes fans but as an FSU alumnus I couldn’t help myself. You will be surprised however, to see my answer to the most asked about question this week, should the “U” receive the death penalty. I’ve gone back and forth on the issue for several days now and have reached the conclusion that despite it being appropriate in this situation (assuming the Yahoo! story is accurate), it should not be levied as the system is broken.
Let’s face the facts. NCAA football and basketball are not big business, they are HUGE business and everyone is getting paid except the players. The universities, coaches, television networks, clothing manufactures, board of governors, conference heads, video game manufacturers, sports drink makers, memorabilia sellers and anyone who can tie themselves to these kids is getting paid, except for those kids putting the money in everyone else’s pockets.
And I know what you’re going to tell me, these kids are getting a free college education! Spare me, if you were to poll NCAA football and basketball players, they’d gladly pay their own way into school in exchange for a much larger piece of the pie. How are you going to expect an 18 year old kid to say no to someone offering them the opportunity to party like a rock star along with a putting cash in their pockets? You’re lying to yourself if you’re sitting there saying, “I wouldn’t take the money.” These players aren’t stupid and they see the hypocrisy around them. As long as the system remains the same ---broken--- players will continue to take every “illegal” benefit that is placed in front of them.
Eventually, players around the country (or even better those from a much larger sample size of schools that are already making millions in the NFL) will decide its time to let the cat out of the bag and publicly voice what anyone around college athletics already knows, the majority of star players in college are getting benefits which the NCAA would determine are illegal. You think that steroid use in baseball during the 80s and 90s was the best kept secret in sports? Wrong, its illegal benefits in college football and basketball. I’d venture that more than half the players currently in the NFL received benefits the NCAA would deem to be illegal.
So what is the solution? Continue giving players scholarships. In addition, take 20% of all monies generated by the NCAA and the individual conferences and put it into a player pool which is then divided equally amongst all players in sports which are profitable. The other non profitable sports don’t need to receive money as others have suggested as they already receive the benefit of the scholarship and aren’t generating additional income. Allow star players to sign endorsement deals. This would apply to such a small minority of student athletes, but if Nike is willing to pay a Cam Newton or Tim Teebow money to be in a commercial, let them make that money. Finally, change the safeguards and punishments. Have each college athlete sign an agreement which acknowledges that the NCAA, conference and school will be able to recover the monies paid to the athlete in the event they are caught cheating. If a coach is found to have knowledge of the violation, ban him from coaching for several years. It will be amazing to see how time suddenly frees up to monitor 80 athletes if they have something at stake.
In the NFL and other major sports there are rules in place to ensure that owners don’t circumvent the salary cap by finding ways to pay players off the books. These safeguards and extremely strict penalties work because owners don’t want to get fined and potentially lose draft picks, while players don’t want to risk losing their salaries. Will paying players completely eliminate cheating? Of course not, but when you start giving these kids something that is equitable for what they bring to the table and then add the risk of them potentially losing those very things, the incentive to cheat is dramatically reduced. Right now, there is no incentive for student athletes to say no.
So while the “U” made “The Program” look like a children’s movie, I just don’t think giving them the death penalty will suddenly change the landscape of college football. It didn’t after SMU was shut down and it hasn’t as win after win has been vacated throughout the country. The only thing that should be given the death penalty is the NCAA’s current system.
As always you can follow me on Twitter at mmt0315 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.