With the recent stories out there regarding agents (OJ Mayo being the most recent, but also the Reggie Bush scandal of the last few years), as well as big stories regarding academics in college sports (the APR reports, and the loss of 8 scholarships by WSU, as well as our current situation with Derrick Jones that may cost us a scholarship), I wanted to take a few minutes to talk about these issues.
These issues may seem separate, but I think they are very interrelated, as they both poke holes in the idea that these kids are amateur student athletes. The new age limit by the NBA, creating a ton of new 'one and done' kids, not only reeks of academic problems (as players at quarter schools likely won't complete their last term), but also opens up to agent abuse, with little punishment going toward the player.
Now, much can be made of the argument that college athletes should be paid. Personally, I don't buy it. They're getting a college education and living VERY well (I've worked in the Cas Center, I see all the perks these guys get). You could make the argument that the football and basketball players bring in a ton of money, but the truth is that money is needed to subsidize every other sport on campus. Especially seeing as you can't pay some athletes and not others, every athletic department in the country goes bankrupt if we pay players.
Now, that's neither here nor there. The real questions are what can be done about these issues?
I've always thought that the academic issue should be a really easy one. School. certainly have a lot to lose as far as loss of scholarships. However, if a student athlete, with all the tutoring availiable to them, and people riding their asses to get things done, can't manage to pass their classes, that's on them, not the school. By the time you get to college and you're an adult, its time to face some responsibility for your decisions. Here is my solution: when you sign your LOI, you also sign a promissary note. If you don't graduate, you pay back all of your scholarship money. This won't stop the OJ Mayos of the world. But it may help stop a Derrick Jones or, even worse in my book, those guys who play all four years but then drop out a term or two before graduation. Or the guys who are fringe draft pick from leaving early. Its not enough of a punishment to wreck someone's life financially (hey, all of us normal people manage to pay back our student loans without going bankrupt), but does put the responsibility for academics even more on the student. It should also be noted that I don't think that this should replace what the NCAA is currently doing with APR and scholarships. I think that they should compliment each other.
Now, onto agent, or even booster money. At least boosters are punished. But athletes and agents get off scott free for this activity, while the schools incur all of the damages. Now, I'm not feeling bad for those schools (USC), because they know damn well what's going on. But it is a shame that OJ Mayo doesn't get punished, but his teammates that he's left behind do. The fact of the matter is that the NBA is dependent on college basketball, even moreso with the age limit. Although the Seattle situation proves that David Stern is just a little on the crazy side these days, I see no reason why he shouldn't support a proposal that says any player found to have taken money from an agent while an amateur is fined half a year's salary. Think OJ will still take a flat screen TV if its going to cost him $2 mill? Yeah, I don' t think so either. And if Stern really pushed it, you think the player's union is going to fight it? How is that going to look? Besided, I'm not sure that players who are alumni of the other Pac-10 schools are going to be too sympathetic to OJ. Even other SC alums are going to be upset that he got their school in trouble. This solution would make the barriers too high for athletes to cross.
Finally, the NBA should simply prohibit teams from negotiating with agents who partake in such activities. If they are going to cheat, take away their livelihood.
These steps wouldn't end cheating (someone is always going to try and break the rules), but I believe that they would significantly curttail it.
The ball's in your court, NCAA. You can continue to do what you've done in the past (nothing), or you can grow a pair and actually do something. The promissary note and pressuring the NBA would be a start.