The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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September 17, 2013

True student-athletes no longer exist

Here’s what I found shocking about recent investigative reports from Yahoo! Sports about five SEC players receiving illegal benefits and Sports Illustrated’s exhaustive look at Oklahoma State’s rise to football prominence: Nothing.

Were the pieces troubling? Certainly. Did they expose the unseemly side of college athletes? Surely. Did they point out the corruption we know is present? Definitely.

Admit it: The notion of a true student-athlete is dead. Today’s players, especially those who play major college football and basketball, live in a world of big business, where everyone except those who actually play the game is rewarded handsomely.

Noted historian Taylor Branch said big-time college sports have become an extension of the plantation system. Even Walter Byers, who headed the NCAA for 37 years, had similar views about a system where great amounts of money end up in the hands of a few.

David Zirin, the first sports writer at The Nation magazine, shared this telling nugget with Bill Moyers on Moyers and Company last Friday. He endorsed the idea of college athletes getting paid. “I mean, think about it like this. Woody Hayes, he’s the coach over at Ohio State (from 1951 to 1978). His last year coaching there, he made $43,000 a year. Today the coach at Ohio State, Urban Meyer, makes $4 million a year as a base salary, $4 million a year.”

This is the same Ohio State University where some of the football team’s best athletes were suspended for several games because they sold the gifts they received at a bowl game to pay for tattoos. Players sell merchandise and get penalized, while a coach gets a raise equal to about 100 times the salary of his legendary predecessor, and there’s hardly a peep. Somebody, thanks to the NCAA, got a raw deal in Columbus.

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