Members of Charleston Southern's football team are claiming on social media that as many as 40 players—including the entire offensive line—have been suspended from the team's game against Florida State on Saturday due to NCAA violations. ESPN's Brett McMurphy, via an unnamed source, also reports that "an undetermined number" of players will face suspension.
The crime? Buying too much stuff in the campus bookstore because they were told to by bookstore officials.
A synopsis: Multiple players say they went to the campus bookstore to buy books at the beginning of the semester with money from the school, as is allowed under their scholarships. However, the players had money left over after they bought their required books, so naturally, the bookstore employees advised them to buy more things—electronics, apparel, etc.—because they wouldn't be able to use that money again. However, NCAA rules prohibit buying non-required materials. The players didn't know this, because who the hell thinks a campus bookstore would be off-limits, and so they bought the items. Now they're told they have to repay the cost of those items AND will be suspended for a game.
From the players:
Even those who run the NCAA will admit that policing the types of items athletes can use money on in campus bookstores is patently insane. However, the reason this rule exists, they will say, is that while it may seem tedious, it ensures no program gets a competitive advantage over the other—if Charleston Southern can afford to let players buy non-required materials from the campus bookstores and other programs can't, all the athletes will go to Charleston Southern.
This is ridiculous for two reasons. First, some programs already have major advantages over others that the NCAA just conveniently chooses to ignore. In the NCAA's fantasy world, no program has built-in, non-academic recruiting advantages, but there's a reason no top recruit has ever chosen Georgia State over Alabama. Alabama can give players iPads, exposure, top-notch equipment, hot tubs in locker rooms, and other gold-plated items that Georgia State can't, because the Crimson Tide have to spend that money somewhere.
Even within Charleston Southern's own conference, there are discrepancies. How come, as CSU receiver Colton Korn pointed out, it isn't considered an unfair advantage for other Big South programs to hand out "cost-of-attendance" scholarships—money in addition to tuition, room and board—when Charleston Southern doesn't? The NCAA has never answered for this discrepancy because there is no logical explanation.
But even if all teams truly were on a level playing field, it is unconscionable for the NCAA to say that players shouldn't be able to spend money that they earned for playing a sport. Clearly the money is there, even at tiny Charleston Southern, which gave its players enough money to buy more than the required books.
Ultimately, this—like any other NCAA rule—is about control. The association has a vested interest in keeping its athletes as poor as possible, so administrators and coaches can continue to raise their own salaries through the roof. The NCAA is a vehicle for that exploitation, and it requires ruling with an iron fist so that no money is unnecessarily transferred from the (mostly white) administrators to the (mostly black) athletes. That even means policing campus bookstores.