• Taisha McBride

Is the NCAA setting student-athletes up to fail with their strict rules?

Imagine your son, daughter, brother, sister, niece, or nephew has been working extremely hard as a college student-athlete and is now receiving the recognition he or she deserves, but everything they have worked for is taken away due to lack of knowledge of accepting something as minor as a gift.

Many times, we hear about star student-athletes losing their eligibility because they decided to accept something monetary or too expensive from an outside source. The question we must ask is; should the student-athlete be punished when they most likely were not familiar with the rules? The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) has a lot of rules for student-athletes, but do they go above and beyond to make sure these student-athletes know what is at stake? Or if they even understand what they can and cannot accept as an active collegiate athlete?

Unfortunately, the NCAA has rules against accepting pay or even making a promise to accept payment or any other benefits; which sucks for that student-athlete who does not have time to work to make money to support themselves or their family. The NCAA implements an amateurism rule that is meant to keep college student-athletes focused on their education. This rule requires for athletes not to have contracts with professional teams, salary for participating in athletics, prize money above actual and necessary expenses, play with professionals, tryout, practice or compete with a professional team, accept benefits from an agent or prospective agent, or agree to be represented by an agent, and delayed initial full-time collegiate enrollment to participate in organized sports competitions.

Not every student athlete’s situation is the same. Some student-athletes need more than a full ride scholarship in order to survive. It is reasonable for the NCAA to want college athletes to remain in amateur athlete status, but in order for that to occur, the NCAA has to make sure they are informing the collegiate athletes on what is acceptable and what is not. How can the NCAA punish a student-athlete for accepting benefits or monetary gifts when for one, the NCAA failed to educate all student-athletes on the specifics of the rule and two, when that may be that athletes only way of making a living or providing for their family.

There have been many incidents where student-athletes were punished for accepting benefits; most times it was due to lack of knowledge. Father of Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton admitted to trying to sell his son’s items to the highest bidder for hundreds and thousands of dollars. As a result, Newton was suspended for one game. Former player of Texas Agricultural and Mechanical University, Johnny Manziel was suspended for half a game even though there was no evidence he accepted money. In 2011, eight Miami hurricane football players were suspended by the NCAA and required to repay the benefits in order to become eligible again.

Heisman trophy candidate of the University of Georgia, Todd Gurley was “indefinitely suspended” for accepting more than $3000 in exchange for signing autographs. He became eligible to play November 15, 2014 against Auburn University. He was required to pay the money back and complete 40 hours of community service.

College athletes already have a hard time juggling academics, athletics, and personal lives; they should be able to accept incentives on their behalf without being punished or losing their amateur status. If the NCAA will not allow student-athletes to accept benefits, something should be done about how they inform the athletes on their rules. Maybe require them to take a test or course once they have signed their scholarship offer. It may not stop all student-athletes from accepting benefits, but it will decrease the number in athletes accepting benefits because they were ignorant of the NCAA’s rules. contributing writer Taisha McBride

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