The NCAA has many rules as to why college athletes cannot work; because, it is always assumed that school boosters are using such illegal payments to influence players–for instance, to come to the school or, perhaps, to throw a game. But, think about it: free tuition, room and board is fine; but, what about the incidentals. If you come from a poor family, as many athletes do, how do you: take your girlfriend out on the weekend; go for a fast-food meal; OR, go home for a Family Emergency? Coaches and Players have been fined and suspended for such kindness.

There is an often repeated story about Chris Webber, one of the “Fab Five” basketball players at Michigan during the early 90s. Mr. Webber saw a Michigan jersey, with his name and number, in the window of the Campus Book Store, selling at an outrageous price. At that time, he couldn’t even afford to go to McDonald’s. Luckily for Mr. Webber, he made up for it, earning Millions in the NBA. But, most athletes don’t make the pros. So, what about them? Does the NCAA care?

Perhaps one of the saddest and bravest stories is that of Kevin Ross who, after playing four years of varsity basketball at Creighton University, enrolled in Chicago’s Westside Preparatory School, which had a good track record of educating disadvantaged youth, When Mr. Ross enrolled at Westside (in an Eighth Grade Class), he read at a second grade level. Within eight months, his reading and writing skills were those of a high school senior. But, that’s after four years of college…?

Mr. Ross had sued Creighton, a Jesuit University in Omaha, Nebraska, His ACT (standard college admissions test) Scores were in the bottom quintile at his senior year at an inner-city Omaha high school. The average scores for in-coming Creighton freshmen, however, were in the top 27%. He felt that Creighton knew that he wouldn’t be able to cut it from the beginning, and it didn’t even give him the necessary tutoring.

He was also lacking approximately one year of academic credit (which is common for big-time sports programs) at the end of four years of athletic eligibility. Also, a number of the courses that he was enrolled in, such as Archery and the Psychology of Basketball, did not even count toward a degree program. Where was the guidance?

Kevin Ross never really got his life together. He gave inspirational talks, attesting to his “success”, developed a very close relationship with the Principal and Founder of Westside, and also stopped by occasionally to help out. But, he never really got his life together. He wondered what his future would be like?

In 1987, Kevin Ross barricaded himself in a Chicago hotel room, still blaming Creighton for his inability to get his career established, And, perhaps he was right. Maybe the Student-Athlete Concept is broken.

Has the NCAA and Universities formed a Cabal, which derives considerable revenues, denies the so-called Student-Athletes any of the financial wealth involved and makes the rules in order to back the nonsensical Student-Athlete Concept to keep the money from the athletes. Kind of like having your cake and eating it too.

The Student-Athlete Concept may make sense for many students, especially those who are truly prepared for college. There are, however, many, many more students who are lost in the shuffle. Why not share, at least, a portion of the considerable wealth with the students whose lives can be devastated–or incur career-ending injuries? The Players are the ones who really earn the money. STAY TUNED FOR MORE ALONG THOSE LINES.




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