With all of the news this past week about the major violations at Ohio State and the subsequent resignation of head football coach Jim Tressel, I felt like sharing some first-hand knowledge about what these kids go through while playing big-time Division I football. It’s been a long time since I felt the pressures of being a student-athlete and a lot has changed in terms of the overall exposure that kids face today on a daily basis, but I understand how tough things can be. Every success or failure is analyzed, magnified, scrutinized, and publicized up to the point that you really don’t want to hear about the topic anymore.
Kids have the 24-hour sports cycle to deal with not only during their sports seasons, but on a year round basis. The athletes of today must constantly ask themselves if I make this decision, how will it effect not only myself, but the rest of my teammates and my university.
The landscape of the playing field has definitely changed over the last 20 or 25 years, but the problems are basically the same: kids are constantly faced with the decisions of right and wrong, or need versus greed. Sometimes need and right or wrong gets very hard to separate and is often difficult to distinguish. Student-athletes have much more pressure today to make the right decisions on an everyday basis than the student-athletes of yesterday.
The pitfalls and traps are everywhere in college athletics. You can’t take “this” because it’s considered a extra benefit, or if someone wants to buy you lunch, it might be considered a violation. Those seem frivolous compared to the cars, houses and cold hard cash that some are offered but it’s still an issue that the student-athlete must deal with. Just look at what trading or selling memorabilia for tattoos did for the Buckeyes and former head coach Jim Tressell! Some might say that the items that these players in question traded for art was their property, but they had to know it was wrong because of the constant reminders and team meetings on what you can and can’t do as a student-athlete. Those decisions led to the resignation of a coach and could lead to sanctions very similar to the USC football program.
I know that the big argument or the mantra has always been the student-athlete gets a free education. Why should they be entitled to anything else? My argument is that the system has always been broken and kids have been living in the “grey” area for a long time. If the NCAA would allow student-athletes some type of stipend, these kids wouldn’t blur the line and jeopardize their futures and the futures of the coaching staffs and administrations that they represent.
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