Revelations surfaced last week that a booster entertained University of Miami football players with lavish yacht parties, nights out at strip clubs and gifts of cash and jewelry. This comes not long after Ohio State coach Jim Tressel was forced out after it emerged that he covered up for some of his players who had traded jerseys and other swag for tattoos. These scandals have renewed the perennial argument over whether college athletes should be paid.
"You have coaches making millions and players who gotta wonder what they're going to eat toward the end of the month because we're not getting paid," Tennessee defensive tackle Malik Jackson told ESPN.com. I guess the logic there is if you give a 20-year-old kid some meal money, he'll no longer be tempted by stripper parties or free ink.
A scholarship is a good trade for all but the biggest stars, whose likenesses are unjustly marketed and sold for money they'll never taste. But after practices, weight training, meetings, film study and game travel, there's little time to take real advantage of a free education. Yes, players can go to school for free, but they'd better not major in anything that gets in the way of sports.
My proposal: Let players earn a degree in football, just like cellists major in music and dancers major in dance. Require classes in personal finance, leadership, kinesiology and education. Then hold athletes and their coaches more accountable for making steady progress toward degrees. It won't eliminate the influence of shady boosters, but it might make football feel more like going to college and less like unpaid work to the athletes.