College athletics today have become strikingly similar to the Olympics — each one created over a century ago as a means to bring pride to a respective nation or institution in an amateur setting, have instead become multi-billion dollar enterprises easily susceptible to corruption. Three incidents this past week could change college sports forever and call in to question whether athletes should be compensated for their heroics on the field.
Early last week, the Fresno Bee uncovered a scandal accusing the Fresno State basketball team of academic fraud. A former team statistician told the paper that he wrote 17 pieces of coursework for three players, including current Hornets player Courtney Alexander. Concurrently, the Bee reported that college sports carcinogen Nate Cebrun funneled money from a Las Vegas based agent to the players and the statistician in order to guarantee that the coursework was completed.
Paying players is not a novelty. Ed Martin, who recently admitted to giving $616,000 to four Michigan players — most notably Chris Webber in the ’90s — passed away on Saturday. The transgression forced Michigan to forfeit its two Final Four appearances in the early ’90s, virtually erasing all the accomplishments of the famed Fab Five. Ironically, the Kings forward who once complained that he couldn’t afford to purchase his own jersey, received nearly a hundred grand from Martin.
Meanwhile, legislators in Nebraska introduced a bill that would pay Nebraska football players if three other states in their conference adopted similar legislation. Nebraska governor Mike Johanns said he would sign the bill into law if it were accepted by the state legislature. The ramifications of this bill could revolutionize college sports. Teams in the Big 12 would dominate the rest of the nation as the best blue-chippers in the land would flock to their schools in order to get paid. A domino effect will certainly take place, where eventually every football player throughout the country receives compensation. Soon after, other sports will follow and college athletics will lose its amateur label.
That is not necessarily a bad thing. Paying college athletes will remove people like Martin from college arenas. If a player like Alexander is receiving thousands of dollars legitimately, he has no incentive to turn to agents for more money. While some players still might have an inclination to let others write their papers for them, academic fraud will be less prevalent if players are not receiving money from agents to cheat. With all the contributions players make to the overall well-being of our nation’s schools it is time to give them something back.
Rybaltowski can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.