Every year in college football there is the headline “NCAA INVESTIGATION” surrounding some sort of athlete that has stepped over the invisible line by profiting off of their own hard work and success. Recently in the news, Todd Gurley, a running back at the University of Georgia, has just returned to playing after sitting out the last four games of the college football season while being suspended for profiting on his own name. After learning that Gurley made $3000 for signing autographs and other memorabilia over the last couple years, the NCAA slapped him with the suspension that locked the student athlete off the field and kept him out of the lime light.
I say lime light because this was supposed to be Gurley’s year. After an outstanding 2013 campaign where Gurley rushed for 989 yards and 10 touchdowns, Gurley had already surpassed his amazing season from the year before after only participating in 5 games into an 11 or 12 game season (depending on the success of his team). A Heisman candidate and sure NFL first round pick, Gurley was a superstar because of his hard work on and off the field.
But how does playing the sport you love amount to “hard work”? How does anyone deserve the celebrity status that comes with being an NCAA football superstar? As a former university football player myself, I understand the dedication it takes just to keep up with the team. Being a superstar on Gurley’s level on the other hand takes dedication to a whole other level. Think hours of practicing, watching game film, sweating in the gym, physiotherapy, walkthroughs, long bus rides, oh and on top of that the whole university thing too. To be great at football at the university and collegiate level, one has to immerse themselves in the lifestyle of their craft and dedicate their very being to pushing themselves to be better every day. The sacrifices that student athletes must endure are immense, but it’s all worth it for the glory of the school, right?
Well there’s just a few things to consider that might change your perspective on the matter. Gurley was suspended for 4 games because of $3000 dollars he received over 2 years for signing memorabilia. Simple math says that Gurley only made $1500 a year off his own name. Now compare that to what the NCAA makes of his name and the names of his peers. The University of Georgia made $74,989,418 off of it’s’ college football program in 2013 and that’s not even an anomaly. The University of Georgia was actually the 4th highest in revenue generated by their football program, falling behind the University of Alabama, Texas and Michigan who all earned greater than 80 million dollars with Texas leading the way at 103 million dollars.
I beg the question: how is it morally acceptable for the universities to be making such an incredible some of money off their players while preventing them from even signing their own name for money under fear of possible sanctions they might receive? The NCAA will argue that it keeps the spirit of the game pure at the collegiate level by allowing athletes to maintain their amateur status. After all, the athletes that participate are supposed to be there for their education and anything other than purest form of amateur sport would be wrong.
However, what I think is completely wrong is how these student athletes are viewed as anything but employees of the school. The average college football player spends 43.3 hours a week dedicated to improving himself as a “student athlete”. These “student athletes” works 3.3 hours more than the average worker and these “student athlete” contributes towards the $11 billion dollars that the NCAA makes on collegiate sports. Not only are they obligated to look at their sport as a full time job, but college football players are expected to make their academics fit their athletic schedule and not the other way around. Athletes constantly are forced to miss classes because of athletic obligations that in the end only profit the school. Athlete/student or student/athlete? You tell me.
To me it only makes sense that the athletes who help to drive in such a large sum of money for the school off their performance and dedication to their sport receive some sort of benefit. Nowhere else will you find a situation where someone’s name is branded, marketed and sold to the general public and the athlete receive absolutely nothing in return. Such is the madness of playing in the NCAA. It’s easy to say that the stars of the NCAA will eventually make their place in professional sports and earn what they deserve, but the truth is that’s simply not the case. Of the 9000 players that play NCAA football on 315 even get invited to participate in the NFL scouting combine with absolutely no guarantee of being selected.
So in a league that generates 11 billion dollars, and while playing on a team that earned 74 million dollars off of his success as a running back, Gurley was tried and convicted by the NCAA for the measly sum of $1500 a year. This wasn’t money that he stole or gambled, this was money Gurley received for signing his own name as an autograph, a token to an adoring fan that values Gurley enough to part with money in return his the spelling of his name.
But why would anyone with such NFL potential jeopardize the year he was supposed to make it in the big leagues? Well as life can show, nothing should be taken for granted. Certainly not the hard work of the student athletes that play NCAA football.
Gurley returned after his 4 game suspension on November 15th and with 4 minutes to go in the final quarter, blew out his ACl, ending his season and possibly his dream of going pro.
Here is some further reading about the legal problems with the NCAA business model: http://www.forbes.com/sites/daviddavenport/2014/08/11/legal-cases-are-blowing-up-the-ncaa-big-business-model-why-it-matters/
I could not figure out why I couldn’t insert pictures, so I included the links to the photo and video I wanted to include
TRACY, MARC. “Georgia Running Back Todd Gurley Suspended Until Nov. 15.” Georgia Running Back Todd Gurley Suspended Until Nov. 15. The New York Times, 29th Oct. 2014. Web. 17 Nov. 2014
Services, ESPN.com News. “Todd Gurley Suffers Torn ACL.” ESPN. ESPN Internet Ventures, 16 Nov. 2014. Web. 16 Nov. 2014.
Jessop, Alicia. “The Economics of College Football: A Look At The Top-25 Teams’ Revenues And Expenses.” Forbes. Sportsmoney, 31 Aug. 2013. Web. 16 Nov. 2014.
Mitchel, Horace. “Students Are Not Professional Athletes.” US News. U.S.News & World Report, 6 Jan. 2014. Web. 17 Nov. 2014.