The Sideline Observer

Sports and Culture Commentary

The NCAA is a Joke

On December 30th, Miami Hurricanes head coach Mark Richt retired after two seasons on the job. That same day, it was announced that Hurricanes defensive coordinator Manny Diaz would take over as the next head coach. All fairly standard — except for the fact that Manny Diaz was also hired to be Temple’s next coach just a couple weeks prior.

In his short tenure as Temple head coach Diaz managed to sign seventeen recruits on national signing day, all of whom signed up expecting to play for him and his program. Those recruits are now fully locked in to play for Temple, and cannot reconsider other programs. Meanwhile, somehow, the man they counted on getting coached by gets to bail for a better job even after committing to coaching at Temple.

The situation is beyond ridiculous for a number of reasons. First of all: What kind of contract did Diaz sign that allowed him to leave after a couple weeks on the job? Furthermore, what kind of message does this send to the recruits at both Temple and Miami? Clearly,  you can’t trust this man’s word or integrity and is looking to advance his career by any means necessary.

Unfortunately, this situation is a mere symptom of the greater issues at hand within the NCAA. Once again, this organization has held its “student athletes” to a higher standard than its coaches: Manny Diaz can accept a job, sign players to binding, unpaid contracts, and then throw the students under the bus for a fatter paycheck. It’s time we start calling out the NCAA for what it really is: an exploitative, corrupt and hypocritical organization.

They profit billions showcasing athleticism that’s not theirs to a national audience that they don’t attract, while  the stars of the show go penniless. Even the term “student athlete” was coined by Walter Byers in 1964 to establish a system in which they could exploit these players.

The NCAA has always been willing to go to the most atrocious, immoral lengths to get away with a little extra cash. In the 70’s, when Former TCU running back Kent Waldrep suffered a heartbreaking neck injury, he too fell victim to the NCAA’s ruthless policies: “Waldrep was paralyzed: he had lost all movement and feeling below his neck. After nine months of paying his medical bills, Texas Christian refused to pay any more, so the Waldrep family coped for years on dwindling charity.”

Waldrep went on to sue TCU for workers compensation but was eventually denied by a court of appeals — based on the fact that he wasn’t a university employee.

Truly sick stuff. This man gave his all to a university and their team, suffered a catastrophic injury, and a year later the school refuses to pay his medical bills based  on a made-up term.

Waldrep had exhausted his profitability to them, so he was discarded like a used tissue. These malicious policies have governed the NCAA for far too many years.

As much as I love college football Saturdays and watching endless amounts of irrelevant bowl games over the holiday season, I cannot help but feel uncomfortable watching these athletes putting their bodies on the line without compensation.

I’m not suggesting I have the magic formula for compensating players. But I do know that I’m not watching these games because of the coaches, sponsors or institutions. I’m watching because of incredible on-field talents like Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence and Alabama DL Raekwon Davis.

One positive trend that we’ve seen throughout bowl season is players sitting out their bowl games in order to prepare and stay healthy for the NFL draft. When Christian McCaffrey and Leonard Fournette were some of the first to do this, they were met criticism and doubts of their love for the game and their teammates.

I have a question for the critics. Is it really in a top NFL prospects best interests to risk serious injury just to play in the “Big Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl”? I sincerely hope that this trend continues, because I think boycotts are the best chance college football players have at getting paid.

It’s a radical idea, and an unlikely one at that, because as of right now there aren’t many viable alternatives to playing college football. Basketball recruits at least have the g league where the salaries are over six figures. Minor league football in America doesn’t exist.

But as the years go on, and the billions of dollars in college sports continue to flow straight past the players and into the bankrollers’ pockets, something has to change.

-Jackson Parker

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