Friday, September 17, 2010

When A Free Education Is Not Enough

Still the '05 Heisman winner in my eyes
Reggie bush gave back his Heisman trophy earlier this week and yesterday he spoke to the media about it. He said giving it back was "not an admission of guilt," and that he gave it back "out of respect for the Heisman trophy itself." I think the whole situation is senseless (I really wanted to use another adjective there).

I'll go ahead and say that I do think that Reggie accepted all those illegal benefits, however I don't think he was wrong in doing so. I know its against NCAA regulations for student-athletes to accept extra benefits but I also know that certain student-athletes are not properly compensated for their contributions and are taken advantage of. Most student-athletes get "rewarded" a full scholarship, a free education, to play sports for the particular school. The education has long been said to be fair compensation for the athlete, as it gives them a chance to earn an education that they most likely would not have been able to afford. In most cases the free ride is certainly a reward for the athlete's contribution to the program, but in a very few cases its not. There are regular student-athletes, where the free ride is fair compensation, and then there are the superstars, where its not. These superstars bring in so much money for their prospective programs and don't see a dime of it, but are expected to see the free ride as fair compensation. #Ridiculous

Its nearly impossible to imagine how much money USC made during the time that Reggie played there but I'll go out on a limb and say it was more than the 160,000-170,000 it cost them. The areas in which USC made money off of Bush include: ticket sales, merchandise, bowl games births and enrollment hikes. It can be argued that fans would have gone to the games anyway, bought merchandise anyway, USC would have gone to bowls anyway and that students will always want to go to USC regardless. I'll argue that there was higher demand for tickets because people wanted to see Bush (not Mario Danelo), Bush jerseys were probably the best seller (not Thomas Williams), Bush's play certainly helped ensure bowl births (lets not forget that Fresno St game) and that there are some students who now go to/want to go to USC because of Reggie Bush. 

Consider this, a BCS bowl game birth is worth 17 million, BCS bowls games USC went to during Bushes 3 seasons: 3. Granted he himself wasn't the only reason for that but as I mentioned earlier he was an instrumental force and in some cases the main reason (again check the Fresno St game).  

For people to not expect Bush, or any other superstar student-athlete for that matter, to not take/receive extra benefits is crazy. So many people make so much money off of them and they are expected to not take a lil something on the side?  What happens if they get injured or something else happens and they can no longer compete? Star athletes fall from grace real fast, especially in college football, and teams/programs will forget you and move on. Look how USC has handled everything surrounding this controversy: removed his jersey and the replica Heisman. They knew what was going on, but as long as they were winning and making absurd amounts of money it was cool. Now that this controversy presents a threat to the wins and future earnings they're done with him.

Some people say athletes should just wait until they go pro and get their benefits/proper compensation. Yea, that's true kinda, if it were guaranteed that they'd go pro. They could get hurt or face other obstacles to prevent them from making it. Additionally, if you do make it to the pro leagues all it means is that someone else will be taking advantage of you until you're not lining their pockets anymore, and they're much better at it in the pros too (See LT, Jets flaking on Revis, Seahawks cutting Housh and Eagles handling of player health).

I think its unfair to expect the free ride to be fair compensation for all student-athletes. Some are greater than others and bring in more money than others and risk their lives doing so. They shouldn't be punished, stigmatized, erased from history, for doing whatever than can to ensure some security for themselves and their families. I know its against the rules to receive benefits, but maybe the rules themselves need to be revisited as opposed to the athletes being demonized for breaking them.

This post was inspired by this article.

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