First, I think most people will agree that a system that allows for institutions of higher learning across the country to reap billions of dollars while expecting the athletes whose performances are responsible for the making all of that money to have to “get by” is unfair. The fair thing would be to create a system that allow these athletes to share in the bounty with the rich fat cats who just line their pockets year in and year out. Let’s be honest here, many of these athletes are from urban or rural settings where their families struggle to make ends meet. It’s no small wonder that the first thing many of these young men and women want to do is make better lives for their families. This, along with the behavior of a few overzealous boosters, usually manifests itself as a new car or home.
Second, many of these “student athletes” who spend most of their time practicing their sport or studying for classes feel a slow burn inside as they watch the NCAA, their universities, and athletic apparel companies make ungodly sums of cash off of their sweat, name (or number), and fame. This was evident in ESPN’s documentary on the University of Michigan’s Fab Five. In it, Detroit Free Press columnist Mitch Albom talked about walking across the University Of Michigan campus with star forward Chris Webber. The pair passed a store that had Webber’s jersey in the window. Albom said that Webber appeared to be upset that the college was making money off of his name while he had to borrow money from Albom to get a pizza. These kids aren’t dumb. They see what’s going on and they want themselves and their families to “wet their beak” at the trough like seemingly everyone else.
Third, in the case of Reggie Bush, what was the real crime? I would like to see the hands of those of you, who as 18 to 22 year olds would not have accepted what many of these athletes are offered. They broke no laws. No one was harmed. No drugs or weapons were involved. And contrary to Manfred’s belief, Reggie Bush and his family never acted as if they were above the law. If you want to discuss someone acting above the law then let’s investigate the boosters that hand out these perks year after year. Bush, and his family have had their names dragged through the mud for half a decade. But what happened to the officials involved in the Fiesta Bowl scandal who were caught red handed breaking rules concerning bribes, graft and improper behavior. That made headlines for what, the better part of a week?
Reggie Bush may have his name erased from the record books and his former school will forfeit their championships, but I’ll always believe that he, and others like him, are and will continue to be pawns of an unfair system. Besides, his off the field issues had nothing to do with his performance on the field. For one year he was the best college football player in the land. He should keep the trophy if for that reason alone.