by Jack Bechta
April 02, 02014
There are sweeping changes coming down the pike for college sports, specifically for football and basketball. This movement has been turbo charged by the actions of the Northwestern current and former players and will accelerate in the near future. The right attorneys are lining up to pressure the NCAA and universities to make sweeping changes.
I believe the average college football fan will initially be appalled by tampering with one of the great last pure amateur sports. However, if the traditionalist/purist will listen to the facts I believe they will stand behind the student athletes in the quest for adjusting the current system.
I know from the outside looking in you think college athletes have it made with free tuition, books, room/board, popularity, playing on TV and a chance to go to the pros. Well that’s what the NCAA and conferences want you to see. However, there is so much you don’t see outside of Saturdays in the fall and winter months.
This is what you don’t see and needs to be addressed:
Medical issues and treatment: I suffered three concussions in college, one so bad I didn’t know any of my teammates’ names for 24 hours or even what state I was in. I never saw a specialist and was back at practice three days later with a splitting headache. This is very typical of how college football players get treated. While many universities and their coaches have just recently progressed, the medical treatment for student athletes is subpar throughout most programs.
Most university protocol relies on student-athletes to use their own insurance if insured and will supplement with university insurance on a need basis. You would be surprised to learn how rarely a student athlete will NOT be given an MRI because of the time and high cost involved with the test. The superstar QB or RB may get one but the rank and file players rarely ever do. Most NFL Combine attendees for example are damaged goods. After four seasons, the many injuries and the year round pounding they sustained get uncovered only after they declare for the draft.
NFL players have rights to a second opinion and are able to choose their own surgeon for care. College players have very little control as to who they can choose for their care (this does vary from college to college now with Alabama for example getting a top specialist on call).
Many football players will leave college football with battered bodies from the toll of camp, the season, spring ball and year-round strength and conditioning programs, but will have little recourse for ongoing medical care once they leave the university. I have NFL clients whose careers were cut short by injuries they sustained in college that finally caught up to them. Every college player I know from my generation until today has some kind of ailment they are living with and have to manage on their own. Football is a brutal sport and does leave a lifelong scar on the body.
Full-time year round employees: That is what college football players really are. Here’s the facts: During the season a college football player puts in about 32 to 40 hours a week dedicated to football activities during the season and camp. During the spring it may be about twenty hours a week on average. This does not count any classroom, studying or tutorial time. In contrast, a student who is awarded an academic scholarship is just required to go to class and maintain a certain grade point average.
In the summer, college players aren’t required to go to summer school or workout but guess what; they all do because it is expected of them. I’ve never met a player who didn’t attend summer school and spend just about four to five days every summer week working out on the field and in the weight room. If a player bucks the system he will most likely lose his starting job or scholarship as the coaches keep an unofficial record of who is there and who is not. College football players don’t get to visit Europe in the summer like most college students. Spring ball usually starts right after spring break just to deter players from going and letting loose for a week like every other student in America.
Billions of dollars are filling the coffers of college football and basketball. That money usually trickles down to support other non-income producing sports, facilities, alumni/donor boxes, coaches and administration salaries. Why shouldn’t players get a little more of the money they are producing? A few extra dollars a week, better training tables, premium medical care during and after playing, rights to partial jersey sales and/or endorsement income, free masters program cost, and other benefits typical employees of the university may receive.
This formula of trading a scholarship for play is outdated, insufficient and even unfair to the athlete. If the big conferences, their universities and the NCAA doesn't get proactive on these matters the dam will break on them. College football players need a seat at the table which they never had. If the powers that be aren't careful the courts are not only going to give players a seat but may force them to give players all the seats.
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