Opinion

Don't blame the player, blame the NCAA system

Image By: Brandon Moe

Since details of the FBI investigation into the NCAA last week exposed some “shocking” revelations about the corruption within college sports, we have seen analysts, economists and professional players offering their opinions on how to fix what is clearly a broken system.

These ideas include paying players small stipends for their services, or eliminating the concept of amateurism, which would enable talented players to hire agents, sign endorsement deals and profit off their likenesses.

While it should be obvious by now that the multibillion-dollar corporation that does not pay its labor force needs a 21st century reevaluation, the appropriate treatment of the current NCAA players caught up in the probe has been more ambiguous.

Last week, as the Michigan State Spartans clinched the Big Ten title with a win over the Badgers, fans at the Kohl Center serenaded Spartans’ sophomore wing Miles Bridges with chants of “cheater.”

Bridges, a projected lottery pick this upcoming draft, saw his name surface in the recent investigation. His crime? An agent paid for a dinner with his family last year without Bridges’ knowledge.

Similarly, Florida fans threw $5 worth of money towards Auburn basketball players in the wake of a former assistant coach being named in the investigation, and two Auburn players losing eligibility.

For the sake of transparency, Auburn reported the incident so as to avoid any “controversy” from accepting cash payments. While the current Auburn players as well as Bridges avoided serious eligibility issues after minor contributions, this taunting from fans is evidently not an isolated event and requires more unpacking.

I will be the first to admit that heckling players in sports is a part of the atmosphere and generally should not be ridiculed if it is within the grounds of social appropriateness.

However, in these instances, it seems that the fans are either willfully ignorant to the circumstances surrounding these players, or have a sense of righteousness that supersedes reality. Take Bridges for instance, a 19-year-old NCAA superstar who passed on entering the NBA draft last year to further hone his skills at the college level.

Bridges hails from Flint, Michigan (which is still without drinkable water for those who have forgotten) and as a senior in high school organized water collection for his hometown. This was despite being at a prep school in West Virginia where the problems were not impacting his own way of life.

Considering that Bridges has opted to stay in school and has helped his hometown in the midst of a humanitarian crisis, it wouldn’t be far off to peg him as an ideal NCAA student-athlete.

Now, after seeing his name listed in an FBI probe due to his family committing the unspeakable crime of accepting a free dinner, his eligibility was all of the sudden in question, potentially affecting his upcoming draft stock.

The 19-year-old then travels to play here in Madison and is met with chants unequivocally proclaiming him a cheater. Something about that doesn’t ring as just.

The broken system of the NCAA enables corruption on the parts of programs and agents. As long as there is a large demand for student athletes to generate substantial revenue for schools, there are going to be people trying to subvert the rigid system.

Is it fair to lambast the coaches and crooked agents who try and scheme to acquire better players? Probably. After all, they are the ones getting paid legally.

However, with the only way of fixing this problem clearly in the form of compensating student athletes in some form or another, players (or their families) who acquire relatively miniscule gifts in the meantime should not be the subjects of fans’ anger.

Anger toward the overall situation should be channeled towards those who have created, upheld, and exploited the broken system, not those who provide the actual product.

Jake is a junior majoring in economics and history with a certificate in environmental studies? Do you think that college athletes should be paid? What are your thoughts on the NCAA? Does the organzation need to be reworked at all? Please send any and all comments and questions to us at opinion@dailycardinal.com.

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