Thursday, May 5, 2011

Ohio State merchandise auction smacks of NCAA hypocrisy

The line between what you can do, and what will get your program put on probabtion in NCAA athletics is just plain weird.  Or confusing.  Or unfair.  But one thing it isn't is clear.

I got an email today from Ohio State asking me to bid on some game worn Ohio State merchandise. 

Yes, now YOU can officially bid on great merchandise including a game-worn Cameron Heyward jersey, a game worn Dallas Lauderdale jersey, or some Fiesta Bowl warmups!  (Not sure they got the rights to use the Steelers logo--or how they think that can possibly increase interest...)

Why does this sound familiar?  Because these auction items are very similar to items that were sold by Ohio State football players that have led to the Tressel coverup scandal, and have put the 2010 season results in jeopardy.

I completely understand that there are differences in the situations, but still, it raises so many questions. 

Did nobody at The Ohio State University question the timing of selling merchandise at the exact moment that an NCAA investigation into selling merchandise is going on?

Yes, all merchandise being auctioned here is from athletes who have no eligibility remaining, as opposed to the Pryor-Herron-Tressel scandal.  A huge difference by the letter of the law. But will these athletes--who are now allowed to make a profit--see any money from the sale?

Similarly, Ohio Stadium is full of #2 (and in the past of #13 and #45) jerseys with no names on the back, directly taking advantage of current players, while not giving them a dime.  Sure most of those players will someday draw a professional football paycheck, but what about the rest of the team? Shouldn't they be rewarded?

I realize "a free education" is worth a lot, but there is a ton of money being made from players and they don't get a cut, especially NOW--that is something that can not happen in any other part of society.  The universities use the players, but the players can't use the university in the same way.

Then again, game-used cleats from a Buckeye softball player are not worth anything, compared to a football player's jerseys, let alone a star like Terrelle Pryor's shoes.  Is that fair?  Should all collegiate athletes share the wealth equally?  Or should the prominent sports get more out of it?

Or is that argument just silly, given the lavish treatment that football players at large football schools get already?

On the auction website, it clearly states that the sales will "directly" benefit student athletes.  Pretty sure what the football players did also directly benefited them, no?

I'm not excusing the Ohio State players' actions in selling or bartering their personal items (like jerseys which were not going to be used any more, or championship rings given to the players), but let's not treat them like criminals.  Certainly the potential for abuse is high when you allow athletes to even hold a job, let alone sell merchandise.

But where is the line drawn?  Can a sophomore linebacker sell his television if he wants some money for a necklace for his girlfriend?  But he can't sell his old jersey to pay for a tattoo he wants?  He can't hold a job at Wendy's to earn a few bucks, with the valid danger that some superfan superbooster franchisee will pay him $250 per hour. But he can practice 25 hours a week for no direct pay.

The only solution, in my mind, is for the NCAA or the University to pay student-athletes for their time spent on sports.  Those sports that make millions of dollar for the schools, and those that don't.  Not a huge sum mind you, but enough so that players who spend countless hours in meetings, practice, and games can also buy something nice for themselves once in a while.  Without having to break the rules to do it.  That will still be somewhat unfair, when a quarterback who fills stadium gets paid equally to a softball player, but such is life.

It will be less unfair than it is now.