Saban's comments should spark a backlash against the NCAA model

Earlier today, we took aim at Alabama coach Nick Saban for comparing agents who pay college football players to pimps.

As we asked, who’s closer to being a pimp?  The agent who gives a player some money now and keeps only a small chunk of it later, or the head coach who makes millions from players who get shillings in return, in the form of an education they don’t want, and food and lodging they’d otherwise get elsewhere?

So maybe the ongoing controversy regarding college players getting paid, which shouldn’t happen, should spark a closer look at a system that makes it easy for players who are generating all that money to justify getting a small taste of it, even if it happens indirectly.

Jason Whitlock of makes the case for attacking the root of the problem — a system of supposedly amateur athletics that funnels the money they generate to none of them.

That said, we’re confused by Whitlock’s position that he’s “infuriated” by the Reggie Bush story.  Bush, if the allegations of Lloyd Lake and Michael Michaels are true, not only took money but stole it, refusing to repay cash and benefits given to him under the assumption that Bush would hire Lake and Michaels to be his agents.  Then, once Lake and Michaels had the audacity to try to recover their money, Bush stonewalled and delayed and denied responsibility before finally settling the case under the threat of having to testify under oath, after maximum damage had been done to the interests of the USC program, and in turn to the interests of other football players who had hoped not only to play football for the Trojans but also to eventually, possibly, make it to the NFL. 

That path, thanks to Bush, has now gotten more convoluted for them.

Still, we fully agree with Whitlock’s basic premise.  To say that the system is broken implies that it ever worked properly.  With players expending their effort and risking their bodies and lining the pockets of everyone connected to the process but themselves, the fact that our institutions of higher learning would engage in the lowest forms of exploitation has escaped widespread scrutiny for far too long.

So we’re with you, Whitlock.  What do we do next?

31 responses to “Saban's comments should spark a backlash against the NCAA model

  1. Whatever. The NCAA is the most hypocritical piece of crap ever.
    “It’s immoral for amateur players to make money in college… but we can sell video games and jerseys in their likeliness and take the money.”

  2. They get a free college education which SHOULD open up doors to getting a better life than they already had even if they don’t make it to the NFL. Most of those players would not have gotten a college education had it not been for football.
    With state funding down, Football provides a valuable source of revenue for schools to attract the best teachers, facilities, and thus students, possible to further the establishment.

  3. I think you are underscoring the value of a good education. USC, for example, has many great educational departments that are not all that easy to get accepted into. The original idea was for sports to be extracurricular and school to come first.

  4. All good points! Maybe it sounds extreme, but the NCAA fueled by a legalized form of slavery. Players are expected to take nothing, while everyone else profits.
    If Bush has to give back the Heisman, and USC’s multiple sanctions/punishments are upheld – then it’s fair to say the NCAA should take all the revenue they made from USC games, Bush’s Jersey sales, and all other merchandising – and donate it to charity.
    But they won’t, because, you know… It’s the NCAA.

  5. Re: “As we asked, who’s closer to being a pimp? The agent who gives a player some money now and keeps only a small chunk of it later, or the head coach who makes millions from players who get shillings in return, in the form of an education they don’t want, and food and lodging they’d otherwise get elsewhere?”
    Worse! The obvious answers – Saban and Kiffen!

  6. Ask the players who got a degree, played 2 years in the NFL and went on to other things with the help of their degree.
    Ask Myron Rolle how nice his free education was.
    It’s a small minority that are there only for football and not school. Minor league football has always struggled, college is so popular because of tradition and the fanbase.
    Kids have a shot at a free education to help them when they hit 30 and can’t play, maybe we should look at why so many waste the education. For most of the uneducated you defend they are broke 3-4 years out of the league and no education, no workplace skills and bad knees.

  7. Stop supporting the NCAA. I stopped years ago. I saw a report about kids kicked off the team for exception groceries and I was done. The NCAA signs multi-billion dollars contracts based on those kids and those kids should be getting more than half-assed education that will most likely never benefit them. On top of that the pro leagues collude with the colleges with mandatory age requirements to keep funneling in new inventory. The whole thing is a joke and people need to stop supporting it. Including the over-priced useless degrees.

  8. The music industry has an approach to higher education that could serve as a model for football. There are two paths, one can major in music at a liberal arts college, or one can go to a conservatory. At a liberal arts college, the mix of music and other courses is similar to other majors. At a conservatory, it is all about the music. Over 75% of the time is training on how to be a professional musician. You know when you select the program what track you are on and the rules and requirements for progressing through the program are different. They are for different people.
    In football, this would translate to programs which model the current NCAA program (student athletes, majoring in time and space or whatever) similar to majoring in music. Other programs (think BCS powerhouses) would be similar to conservatories – they would prep students to be part of the football industry: how to play, how to prep your body, how to referee, how to coach with only 25% or so on other “academic” pursuits. But they could receive a stipend, the same way music students are paid for performing at conservatories, or graduate students are paid for doing whatever grad students do these days.
    Programs would have to declare which set of rules they would follow up front with everyone knowing up front the choices they make. There would be a limit on how many football factories there are, which, ideally would be set by market forces.

  9. Mike oriole cookie you are the biggest Reggie Bush hater on the planet. You are so jealous of him that you can’t take it. Fact: Reggie Bush is a Super Bowl winner. Reggie is also rich. Mike, you are NOT a Super Bowl winner and you are not rich and you will never become rich being such a hater. Reggie Bush was a Maverick in college. He was Rogue in college. He saw to it that his parents lived in a beautiful home. He saw to it that he drove a nicer car than yours. He knew that USC was lining its pockets off of his talents. He had the courage to handle it “His way”. To hell with USC and to hell with California. We got Reggie “The Man” and yall have squat…….ha ha….and we don’t care if the NCAA wants the stinkin trophy back either…..they know where they can put it….Geaux Saints!

  10. I know you said they don’t want the room, board and education, but that’s what they get in return. I met Terry Kirby and Chris Slade once right after they graduated from UVA at the UVA football camp. They made a POINT of telling everyone that if any of us went on to college ball the schools would USE us so we should use them back and get the education they would give us…so we could be succesful after college. Because only a small fraction made it to the pros. One of them even graduated in 3 years then was taking masters classes so they could “get all we could” out of the school who was using them to sell tickets. What the hell every happened to this???
    If these athletes would actually go to class and get their degrees they would get the benefit they were offered instead of snoozing through and being ill equiped to handle life after college.

  11. Saban knows about pimps and hookers. he got rolled in hawaii by a hooker when he was a young coach–TRUE STORY! Ask him to dent that one just like he denied leaving Dolphins for Alabama.

  12. Yes they are getting an education. The value of which can range upwards of $200,000 at some institutions. However, that’s a small percentage of the revenue they generate. Yeah, it was meant to be extracurricular, but its now a big-time business that funds entire academics departments in some instances.

  13. And also consider the cost of the education they are getting when you say they aren’t getting paid. Out of state for most State schools can be $20-30-40k per year (in the case of UVA). USC is $40k+ per year. The athlete stays in school for 5 years that would add up to hundreds of thousands of dollars they didn’t have to pay to get an education. If they don’t try to learn anything while in school then that’s THEIR fault and no one elses.

  14. College is nothing more than a different kind of business model. Another morally bankrupt corporate institution. Colleges also except far too many students who’s only qualification for higher education is a loan or a savings account. When corporations are polled, they consistently remark that universities aren’t preparing people for their needs. People that push education always say that in the US a person with a college degree earns 1 million more in their lifetime than a person that doesn’t have one. I would guarantee if you compare the two groups, the group without degrees would account for far more income than those that have one. Subtract all of the cost of the overpriced education(lodging, interest,etc). Move money from people with a degree to the other group if the money was made in a field different from their degree field. And subtract the people who got a degree in their field, but were already working in the industry before they completed their degrees. For example Oprah, she had a job at a station before she graduated because the station saw natural talent. Bill Gates dropped out. I believe Paul Allen did too. Steve Jobs. Those three represent a huge chunk of this countries income. College is a scam. We need apprenticeships.

  15. Leaving aside the whole joke of the idea of “student-athlete,” the NCAA is not the real problem here. It is the parents of these kids. The parents who don’t teach them right from wrong. The parents who have their hands out just as much as the kids. Maybe if parents did their jobs, the agents would find it useless to try to violate the rules that the NCAA doesn’t usually bother to enforce.

  16. Yeah, i agree that the NCAA is hypocritical institution that certainly doesn’t have the student-athlete’s well-being in mind (The student-athletes are basically hired mercenaries that will wear your school’s color as they go into ‘battle’).
    However, I agree with a couple comments on here. What percentage of college football players actually make it to the NFL? It is not a very high percentage. A lot of football players, and student-athletes in general, certainly couldn’t afford to obtain an education without their athletic scholarship, though. The majority of players don’t make it to the league, but they would come out after 4-5 years with a degree, and future earning power. If they don’t take advantage of their educational opportunity while in school (and have convoluted ideas they’re good enough for the NFL, but aren’t), that’s their problem.

  17. BDawk says:
    July 22, 2010 2:25 PM
    They get a free college education which SHOULD open up doors to getting a better life than they already had even if they don’t make it to the NFL. Most of those players would not have gotten a college education had it not been for football.
    With state funding down, Football provides a valuable source of revenue for schools to attract the best teachers, facilities, and thus students, possible to further the establishment.
    What you are implying is that it is morally OK to exploit people if it contributes to the “greater good.” That is, it makes money that is then used for good purposes.
    Sort of like the mafia hitman uses his fees to fund an orphanage.

  18. First, it did work once upon a time. In the old days of Harvard vs. Yale, it worked just fine kind of like… well, the new days of Harvard vs. Yale. But for the money schools, yes it is a bad system. Minor leagues is the easiest answer as hockey and baseball are not a problem. But that is easier for basketball than football, so there is a long way to go. It would be nice if youths could join tech school like programs to prepare for the NFL, but that won’t happen outside my dreams. Good question. I do what I can, which is to boycott the whole stupid system. They won’t be earning a nickel’s revenue off of me, unlike the pro game.

  19. I have a fix. No more scholarships. If an athlete wants to play sports at the college level in hopes of getting a job at the pro level, he/she is welcome to do so at any university or community college they can get into.
    What?….you mean a large % of student athletes couldn’t either afford to go to college or couldn’t get in on their own merit or they play a sport with no financial significance and the University has to eat their losses to comply with national laws?
    I guess things aren’t so bad after all.

  20. Speak with your wallet. It is easy for me to say because I hate college football, but if you don’t like it don’t watch it. You are paying them for a product you are claiming to not like. Well then don’t pay for it. I feel this same way about the Redskins. They are my favorite team in all of sports, and I will never do anything that financially benefits them.

  21. Of the 100,000 college athletes that graduate every year, perhaps an extremely generous 2.5% go on to become pros in their given field.
    College sports are really about getting a good education and doing what you love to do for just a few more years before you have to knock it off and get a real job.
    So, before we consider anything else, why should anyone reform a system and attempt to cater to a tiny minority when it is generally working for the other 97%?

  22. Pottsville: Very good point made about the number of athletes coming out of a college program that either make it professionally, or actually can generate income at his/her school. There’s only a small percentage of athletes that are good enough to draw people into the stands, or have them watch on TV, but there are a large number of athletes that get free scholarships. There’s no need to demean that, Mike, because many (most?) appreciate the oppotunity. You also have to remember that most football programs are the moneymakers (and yes, there are many exceptions) for the institution, but we shouldn’t forget that there most athletic teams at any given college that are money losers. Do you think volleyball, gymnastics, swimming, softball, etc., pay their own way? Yet football subsidizes them all. Remember, I admit that there are some exceptions at a few schools.
    And there are several football conferences (MAC, MWC, WAC, CUSA, Sun Belt) that you could hardly say generate “millions” of dollars. Ask Gregg Rosenthal how many millions of dollars his Tulane football team generates for the athletic department at Tulane.
    I’m not defending the NCAA by any means. What they probably should do is create a few super-conferences, and have a different set of rules for the athletes, as far as a stipend. All of the BCS conferences and perhaps a few other mid-major teams might work.
    JJ Jones: College football is hardly a “farm system” for the NFL. The NFL teams have no control over the players, the offensive and defensive schemes, etc., etc. It’s not like Major League Baseball. If it was really a farm system, do you think we would have been talking about how unprepared Tim Tebow was for an NFL offense? No NFL teams were allowed to coach him at UF, or decide what kind of offense Urban Meyer should run. Fully funded? Yes. Farm system? No.

  23. The education they tend to get is a joke in the overwhelming majority of cases. They should just pay them, it wouldn’t be the end of the world and it’s about the only truly fair way to treat them anyway.

  24. There is no rule in the NFL that says you have to go to college, only that you have to have been out of high school for three years. So any player is free to go out and get a job for those three years or try some semi-pro league (like Eric Swann). But if you want to go to college and advertise your skills to the NFL, you have to play by the NCAA’s rules. It’s as simple as that. A coach gets paid for winning. Winning brings in the talent, not the other way around.

  25. College football is like being an unpaid intern. Most other professions do it.. why shouldn’t Football players..

  26. “What you are implying is that it is morally OK to exploit people if it contributes to the “greater good.” That is, it makes money that is then used for good purposes.
    Sort of like the mafia hitman uses his fees to fund an orphanage”
    Thanks for clarifying “the greater good” and making a “relevant” argument. You don’t think the players love the attention? This isn’t sex trafficking, it’s football. Fans, students, & alumni have made this popular, and are willing to pay to watch their team, so I guess you would call them enablers. We’re not talking life and death here, it’s a game.

  27. Lots of dishonesty going on around these boards…
    Does anyone really think you can be a great college student when your football coaches are prodding these kids into working out and training for football close to 40 hours a week?
    The NCAA needs to cut back on the hours students spend on football and make sure their students graduate.

  28. The bottom line is, the NFL should take a stand against agents who are committing crimes (crimes in the eyes of the NCAA that is…) in college football
    If an agent gives money to a college kid before he leaves the school, ban him from being an official agent

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