Sports

Nonstudent athletes just independent contractors

This is part two of Couch Slouch’s two-part series on the folly of college football. Today’s focus is on the sport’s “student-athletes,” whom I prefer calling “nonstudent-athletes,” because, well, they are.

Yes, there are some Division I student-athletes who balance academics and athletics, and, yes, it’s an arduous task.

But that’s a small percentage of the Alabama offensive line or, in college basketball, for instance, the Kentucky starting five.

And when I say “small percentage,” I’m being kind: In some cases, the percent is zero.

When I went to the University of Maryland, there was an unwritten rule – if you were in a class with a football player, it was a “gut course,” a.k.a. A Sleeping Llama With a Bag Over His Head Could Pass This Baby Just By Showing Up in Cargo Shorts. Alas, you didn’t always know if you were in a course with football players, because most of them would not attend a day of class.

The fact of the matter is – and people hate admitting this:

1. College is not for everyone.

2. Even if college is for you, that might mean DeVry University.

At most big-time Division I college football programs, the players have no interest in a college education. So let’s kill two feathered frauds with one stone:

Just pay the players to represent the schools on the field and don’t pretend they’re students anymore. If they want to enroll, great. Otherwise, they’re independent contractors, like the fellow who owns the vending machines in the dorm halls; I mean, he’s not a “student-vendor,” is he?

Besides, the amount of illicit activity to lure these nonstudent-athletes to campus could choke a Trojan horse, and once they’re there, it morphs into a hurry-up offense of illicit activity to keep them there.

Which brings us, briefly, to Johnny Manziel, the nation’s first throw-it-one-day- and-sign-it-the-next Heisman-winning quarterback.

Lost in the sublime hilarity of Manziel’s opening-week, half-game sit-down was the fact that Texas A&M already had suspended four players for violating athletic-department rules and three other players – one of them, believe it or not, also for a single half – for offseason arrests. You’ve got to admire A&M’s creative discipline; I assume a special-teams player, for a minor misdeed, might be suspended for, say, three punts and an onside kick.

Which brings us, briefly, to the ongoing, two-years-plus investigation of the Miami/Nevin Shapiro debacle – they’re currently reviewing the Zapruder film – in which the NCAA is investigating its own investigation for unethical practices.

I have visions of NCAA president Mark Emmert hunched over in an Indianapolis office with a magnifying glass, some microfilm, a diorama and an “NSA for Dummies” handbook.

Which brings us, briefly, to Oregon, which, for major rules violations in recruiting, lost one scholarship player for each of the next three years and received no postseason bowl ban. Now, if the Ducks had committed ITAL really, really major END ITAL rules violations, I’ve got to figure the NCAA would’ve thrown the book at them.

Which brings us, briefly, to the Southeastern Conference, the American mecca of the student-athlete myth. Yahoo! Sports reported last week that five SEC players, including former Alabama All-America tackle D.J. Fluker, allegedly received “impermissible benefits” – uh, cash – while in school.

I am shocked – shocked – that impermissible benefits are going on in Tuscaloosa; everyone out at once! Kickoff Saturday at 3:30 p.m.

Here’s the thing – nobody wants to upset this rotten apple cart.

I am reminded of a home poker game I once went to in which one of the players was cheating blatantly and repeatedly. At night’s end, I mentioned this to the host; he told me they all knew about it, but the culprit was good for the game because he brought a lot of money and always lost.

That’s college football, folks. We know it’s an absolute stink tank, but we like the joy of the games – and the smell of money – too much.

Ask The Slouch

Q. Some of your colleagues, like SI’s Peter King and USA Today’s Christine Brennan, no longer will use the name “Washington Redskins.” What say you, Slouch? (Bill Cornwell; Frederick, Md.)

A. From here on in – and I know it’s a bit clunky – I will call them the Washington We Were Already Native To This Land When Christopher Columbus Discovered America Skins.

Q. Are you an “Olbermann” acolyte? My guess is both of you wade in the same shallow, faux-libertarian pool. (Matt Cooper; Chicago)

A. You know, I hadn’t even noticed Keith Olbermann is back, with all the media hype over Arsenio Hall’s return.

Q. With Franco Harris crossing over into opera via “Aida,” will Tim Tebow be up for “Nixon in China”? (Frank LaPosta Visco; Troy, N.Y.)

A. He won’t play unless he gets the lead role.

Q. Now that the city of Chicago has banned concealed weapons at establishments that serve liquor, where are NBA players expected to imbibe? (Jim O’Brien; Racine, Wis.)

A. Pay the man, Shirley.

Norman Chad is a syndicated columnist. You, too, can enter his $1.25 Ask The Slouch Cash Giveaway. Just email asktheslouch@aol.com and, if your question is used, you win $1.25 in cash!



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