It’s time the system changes
This is my column — the safe space my employers provide me each week to share my opinions on the world of sports.
In every, single other piece I create for this newspaper, I shield my biases and my prejudices about teams, players or situations and report just a sequence of facts, opting to let readers form their own judgments based on the tidbits presented.
But in my column, I let loose and I tell you how I really feel, and I think you all have grown to appreciate that honesty I give every, single week.
This week, almost all of my anger in the world of sports stems around the NCAA investigation, the FBI wiretaps and the whole hoopla going on at LSU — my alma mater and a place near and dear to my heart.
Before I dive in, please know that these are the biased rumblings of an angry alum — not fair and balanced reporting.
If I come off as being petty, I probably am.
If you think I’m too passionate about the subject, write it off as the byproduct as the life of being an LSU fan, I just can’t help it.
So with all of that said, the angry alum in me thinks that this entire situation is a black eye and indictment on the entire sport of college basketball and on college athletics as a whole.
OK, let’s get the elephant in the room out of the way.
Do I think Will Wade has followed the NCAA rulebook 100 percent during the entirety of his time at LSU?
No, I don’t.
Do I think he’s a cheater? Well, it gets a little more complicated because no, I don’t.
Look, I know college athletics. I’ve covered them for a decade and I’ve followed them my entire life.
Every, single team in the country is looking for an edge — literally every, single last one.
Was Wade talking about Javonta Smart on that wiretap?
Context clues would say he very likely was, but I don’t know that for sure.
The NCAA has investigated Smart all throughout the past week and has found no evidence of wrongdoing.
So why wasn’t Wade allowed to Coach last week at the SEC Tournament?
The answer from Athletics Director Joe Alleva has been that it’s because Wade hasn’t publicly or privately indicated that he’s not broken any rules.
I’m sorry, Mr. Alleva. I missed the part where Baton Rouge became part of Communist Cuba. I thought in a democracy, a person was always innocent until someone has proven otherwise.
Wade is not under NCAA investigation at this time.
All we have is his voice on an FBI wiretap that’s part of a criminal investigation (which Wade is not being charged in).
So why does he have to apologize for something he’s not even formally being accused of doing?
That’s poor leadership on Alleva’s end to let this get this far — especially considering that the school has known since the fall that Wade was wiretapped and heard saying these things.
But a list of Mr. Alleva’s ineptitudes and shortcomings would take an entire column on its own — if not an entire newspaper. We could talk about the time he introduced a softball coach who wasn’t yet hired and who went back to his former school or the time he fumbled the Johnny Jones hire. Or my personal favorite — the time he leaked Les Miles’ firing, but then didn’t have the guts to actually fire him.
Let’s get to the bigger message at play here.
Let’s say Wade was trying to pay Smart and others.
Why is that even such a big deal anyway — now, in the year 2019?
College athletics are a sham — borderline criminal.
It is the only business model in the world where literally billions of dollars flow, but the talent gets next to nothing.
Spare me the free education stuff. That’s pennies on the dollar of what some of these young men and women are worth.
Imagine if your company profited $100 million and it was all because of your work and talent as an employee.
In this same example, imagine if instead of paying you a proportionate piece of that $100 million pie, your boss only, instead, paid for you to go to training courses for free, but no salary otherwise.
How is this different than college athletics where players risk their careers — literally — only to make everyone around them rich, but not themselves?
The LSU athletics department and other athletic departments in the country have coaches, assistant coaches, trainers, athletic administration and others who all make 6 and 7-figure salaries based on the growth of college athletics in our country.
Hell, LSU’s defensive coordinator right now makes $2 million a season.
He has the amazing talents of the great players before him on campus to thank for that.
I say, if a player has a market and a school has the resources, let the transaction take place.
Why can’t a young man market his talents if there are people willing to pay for the service?
Why can’t a young man help his family — especially while the coaches and staff around him get rich off his/her talents?
It’s 2019. Dozens around the country are being investigated around the NCAA.
It’s time we change the formula.
It’s time we give these guys what the market says they’re worth.
If the NCAA doesn’t do it, someone else will and in 50 years, college athletics as we know it, will be dead and gone.
And no one wants that.
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