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Week Two of College Football: A Prime Showcase for the NCAA's Evils

It's okay to love college football, but as a fan, it's responsible to see the bad, too.
September 12, 2016, 12:32am
Mark Emmert reaching out a hand to rake in all the piles of money. Photo by Tommy Gilligan—USA Today Sports

Week two had arguably the worst slate of games in this college football season, with zero meetings between two ranked teams. But more than anything, week two provided an ironic backdrop for the mockery that is "amateur" athletics.

Remember how the National Collegiate Athletic Association—and those who run universities—claim that college football is merely an extracurricular activity for players, ignoring the big business it has exploded into, particularly in the past 20 years?

Well, here's what happened this weekend in a sport that college administrators compare more closely to intramurals than professional sports:

  • Tennessee and Virginia Tech played a game at Bristol Motor Speedway, setting a sport-wide attendance record with nearly 157,000 in attendance. Each team got roughly $4 million from the game, but players, by NCAA rules, could not get any of the cut.
  • Only five ranked teams played another team in a power conference. The rest payed their overmatched opponents hundreds of thousands of dollars — in some cases over a million—to show up and lose. Take Louisiana-Monroe. The Warhawks received $1.2 million to lose to Oklahoma on Saturday. They showed up, turned it over on downs, then punted six straight times to go down 42-0 at halftime. Sounds like a rewarding experience for the ULM student-athletes, huh? Well, that doesn't matter. According to the Department of Education, that $1.2 million makes up over a quarter of ULM's annual football revenue. The price is always right in amateur sports.
  • Charleston Southern was forced to suspend 14 players for a game against Florida State (and 32 overall) because those players complied with instructions from the campus bookstore staff and used the scholarship money they earned to buy non-required educational items in the bookstore. Florida State players, meanwhile, are given access to facilities and resources more than any CSU player could ever dream. But that discrepancy is allowed under NCAA rules.
  • SportsCenter devoted some of a montage today to the biggest helmet-to-helmet hits in today's college football action. The hits were glorified, with the sound of cracking helmets turned up. The athletic departments that run some of those teams make over $100 million per year, but those hits are hard to watch, considering that none of those players are guaranteed medical care for the adverse effects from those hits.

This week was about everything the NCAA doesn't want you to see when it comes to college sports. The association wants Americans to have an idyllic view of college football—of unpaid amateurs playing football in their free time away from studying. They don't want you to know how much money is in this sport. They don't want you to know that in any given week, schools get paid for their players to be punching bags. And they don't want you to know just how unprotected those players are from risk.

It's okay to love college football, but as a fan, it's responsible to see the bad, too. A lot of the bad was on display in week two.