Recent developments have not been good to Big College Football, except to the extent that the 52 largest football schools have been able to proclaim their quasi-independence from those pesky NCAA restrictions of how little to reimburse players. If players are allowed to form unions, can collect royalties on their images used in videogames, and are given the right to leave the program they signed up to join a different college’s team without penalty, what’s next? The right to sue for damages if training staff misdiagnose an injury, or if coaches force playing time and compound the injury? The right to keep a scholarship even after a career-ending injury? The NCAA’s legal loophole of “student-athlete” will not stand forever, nor will the legal releases/waivers of rights players are forced to sign.
Research on the devastating results of multiple concussions forced the NFL to settle the lawsuit of former players for $765 million. Experts say $765 million will be not nearly enough money, and some of the plaintiffs are demanding far more from the NFL. So what is the potential liability of all the NCAA schools?
When even Notre Dame’s football team has to suffer the ignominy of an academic fraud scandal, and football is at the heart of scandals at moneymaking powerhouses like North Carolina, Miami, and Penn State, maybe it is finally time to admit that football corrupts the educational mission? The faculty-based Drake Group has been banging the academic integrity drum since 1999, and has provided a haven for some embattled whistle-blowers. But the economic forces behind keeping well over 100 football players academically eligible and the quasi-religious fervor of each school’s fan base make it too likely that football-friendly faculty provide “help.”
Pulitzer Prize-winning civil-rights historian Taylor Branch summed it best in his must-read 2011 Atlantic article, “The Shame of College Sports.” The numerous parallels to slavery Branch raises cannot be easily ignored. Tellingly, Branch’s money quote cites the memoir of Walter Byers, the founder of the NCAA:
The college player cannot sell his own feet (the coach does that) nor can he sell his own name (the college will do that). This is the plantation mentality resurrected and blessed by today’s campus executives.The recent death from heatstroke at practice of Morgan State’s Marquese Meadow is just one more sad data point. How many more cases of paralysis like Rutgers’ Eric LeGrand do we need before we call a halt? Collegiate boxing was once a big NCAA sport until Wisconsin’s Charlie Mohr died of a brain hemorrhage after a bout in 1960. Will it take a death live on TV at the College Football Playoff Championship?
It’s time to say “No mas!” to college football.
-- Old Fart Prof